Guterres makes case for strengthening multilateralism at UNGA 75
He said the dangerous mix of high geo-political tensions and complex threats to peace has now been complicated by COVID-19.
United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, on Thursday, made a strong case for effective mechanisms of multilateral governance and building trust among countries of the world in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, which he said has exposed gaps in the multilateral system.
Speaking during a briefing to the UN Security Council on global governance post-COVID-19, Guterres said the pandemic illustrates a clear failure of international cooperation. The UN chief spoke to the Security Council via video link as part of activities during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 75), which is holding virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Guterres said the dangerous mix of high geo-political tensions and complex threats to peace has now been complicated by COVID-19. The virus has killed nearly one million people around the world and infected over 32 million people. It still remains largely out of control in many parts of the world.
"This was the result of a lack of global preparedness, cooperation, unity and solidarity,” said Guterres. "COVID-19 is casting a dark shadow across the world. But it is also a warning that must spur us to action."
These challenges, including the climate crisis, demand innovative thinking on global governance and multilateralism, said the UN top diplomat, warning that if the challenges were met with the same disunity and disarray the world has seen this year, he feared the worst.
The meeting was chaired by Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the Republic of the Niger, whose nation holds the presidency of the Council for the month of September. The summit-level event discussed reforms to global governance in the context of peace and security, against the backdrop of the pandemic.
With the 15 Council members also joining remotely, Guterres called for “networked multilateralism” based on strong links and cooperation between global and regional organisations, international financial institutions, and other global alliances and bodies.
"Networked multilateralism must extend beyond peace and security, encompassing the Bretton Woods institutions, development banks, trade alliances and more," the UN chief said. "Many of the countries in the Global South have been left hanging, without financial and practical resources. Some middle-income countries face a crushing debt burden as they try to respond to the (COVID-19) crisis."
He argued that the world urgently needs global governance that is resolute, coordinated, flexible, and ready to react to the full range of challenges it is faced with. While the UN has a responsibility to improve the effectiveness of global governance, Guterres said member states also have an equally important role in forging collective action to common challenges.
"In a world of interconnected threats, solidarity is self-interest," remarked Guterres, adding that "Either we come together in global institutions that are fit for purpose, or we will be crushed by divisiveness and chaos."
Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC), Moussa Faki Mahamat, also briefed the Security Council, voicing concerns over the inadequate response to the pandemic. He said the pandemic has, thus far, taken attention away from several peacekeeping missions in Africa, thereby entrenching conflicts. He said armed groups and violent elements are exploiting the situation for their vested interests and intensifying criminal activities. Mahamat called on the Security Council to exercise its responsibilities under the UN Charter.
“The pandemic has made it abundantly and painfully clear that humankind is one indivisible family … we need to show our determination and to pull together our intelligence and response to ensure a renaissance of multilateralism, build stands on our common values,” urged the AU Commission head.
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