Upholding Multilateralism and UN-Centred International System - Security Council VTC Briefing

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07-May-2021 02:26:40
Ministers in Security Council stress need to adapt, reform ancient United Nations structures, as multilateralism erodes under weight of multiple challenges.

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Multilateralism — the cornerstone of international relations for 75 years — is eroding under the weight of multiple challenges, from climate change and migration to ideological confrontation, terrorism and above all, the COVID-19 crisis, delegates said in the Security Council today.

They were discussing ideas for filling gaps in the credibility of multilateralism and for adapting structures created at the Organization’s founding to current realities, first and foremost at the United Nations itself.

“As imperfect as the multilateral system may be, we must acknowledge that we are at the helm,” said Volkan Bozkir (Turkey), President of the General Assembly, opening the Council’s high-level meeting on the subject. “The failures are our own,” he added. Noting that great enterprises should evolve “in sync” with the realities in which they operate, he said it is “incumbent on us to refine and update the system”, emphasizing that such efforts are indispensable.

To be sure, there are many examples of success, he continued, noting that from the Charter of the United Nations, a “web” of treaties and norms have developed to promote cooperation in areas as diverse as civil aviation, hazardous waste, health security and human rights. But the coronavirus pandemic has forced the world into the largest loss of income since 1870 and pushed 115 million people to the brink of extreme poverty, while millions are displaced due to conflict, persecution, hunger or climate change, he pointed out.

“Right or wrong, for millions of people around the world, the Security Council is the face and embodiment of the United Nations,” he said. Yet, on many occasions, it has been unable to rise to the challenge, due to differences among its members, he added, stressing that reform is needed in the core interest of the United Nations itself, since the Council’s paralysis goes to the heart of the Organization’s legitimacy. “We need a more representative, accountable, transparent Council,” he stressed.

He went on to list myriad issues on the agendas of both the Council and the Assembly, including the Israel-Palestine conflict, and humanitarian emergencies in Syria, Yemen, Libya and Myanmar. He pressed Council members to formulate rules and processes that expedite justice for human rights abusers and those who violate international humanitarian law. “These actions should be the baseline for the rules-based international order,” he said, adding that the lack of accountability amounts to collective failure.

Calling for COVID recovery plans built around human rights and the protection of civilians, he praised recent steps to waive intellectual property protections for vaccines, saying once approved by the World Trade Organization (WTO), they will enable the international community to save lives. With a mere 0.3 per cent of all vaccines given to low-income countries, however, “we must do better,” he said.

Cautioning that conventional approaches will not bring peace or shape a more resilient, equal or sustainable world, he called for reinforcing United Nations reforms that support an integrated approach to challenges. “This is the moment of reckoning to fulfil our commitments to our generation — to future generations — and to our planet,” he declared.

In the ensuing debate, foreign ministers and other senior officials offered their views on the state of global governance structures in place since the end of the Second World War, with several reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in confronting current threats. Its stature and credibility, however, have been tarnished by a failure to evolve, said others, a serious error that requires urgent correction, especially within the Security Council.

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