Rules-based multilateralism is not a simple or appealing phrase, a top European Union (EU) official told the Security Council on Thursday, “but our job is to bring it alive”.
Josep Borrell, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said that without “global cooperation based on agreed rules” we risk “the law of the jungle, where problems don’t get solved”.
“Every day we see the cost of the absence of multilateral action: reduced access to vaccines, insufficient climate action, peace and security crises that fester”, he said.
Every day we see the cost of the absence of multilateral action -- EU High Representative
Prevention, peace building
According to the EU envoy, the world’s “biggest changes” stem from new technologies, which can be both disruptive and empowering.
Emerging technologies must reflect the values of the Declaration of Human Rights or a “nightmarish scenario” will follow, he warned.
“We all know that conflict prevention and peace building are key”, said Mr. Borrell, urging States to work with countries at risk “before conflict erupts”.
Now, in the second year of the COVID pandemic, the world must learn how human health and security are linked with that of the planet, said the High Representative.
“Where politics gave us stalemates and divisions, science and cooperation gave us the exit strategy: vaccines. The EU is a staunch promoter of vaccine multilateralism”, with the UN-led equitable vaccine distribution initiative COVAX at its centre, he said.
Beyond the pandemic
Climate change and biodiversity loss have reached existential levels, the EU envoy pointed out.
He called UN Summits in Kunming and Glasgow, later this year, “a real test of the multilateral system”, underscoring the need that they produce “real outcomes, in line with the scale and urgency of the problem”.
To give impetus to the success of the Summits, he hoped the Council would pass a resolution on the increasingly evident link between climate change and growing insecurity.
‘Paralysed by vetoes’
The Security Council continues to be “paralysed by vetoes and political infighting”, said Mr. Borrell, reminding the Ambassadors that theirs is “a serious responsibility, politically, even morally”.
On matters of peace and security, there is no other organization the EU can turn to, he said, calling for it “to match its belated but unanimous support for…a global ceasefire with a full commitment to its implementation”.
Working with Iran
Turning to the Iranian nuclear agreement, Mr. Borrell said the EU was working “on a non-stop basis” to revive the deal “in all its aspects”.
While making progress, he acknowledged that discussions are “intense and slow”, saying that there is still “a lot of work to be done”.
The High Representative painted a grim picture of subjugation in Belarus, from “massive repression of peaceful protestors” to the “scandalous” forced landing of a civilian plane traveling between two European capitals to arrest a journalist.
Meeting the “major attack” with a “firm and principled” response, he said, the EU has closed its air space to Belarus airlines and is adopting a new package of sanctions, while also devising a three billion euros package of economic support for “a democratic Belarus”.
Council instrumentalizes Ukraine
Mr. Borrell said that Ukraine was being “instrumentalized” by the Security Council for political purposes.
Noting that while unanimously supporting the Minsk Agreement to end the war in the eastern Ukraine, he said, very little implementation has been done, and urged the Ambassadors to step up their responsibility to deconflict the region.
“The European Union will not rest until all countries of the region will be inside of the European Union”, the EU representative said.
To this end, the EU is supporting reconciliation and reforms as “the best antidote to nationalist rhetoric”.
Multilateralism, said Mr. Borrell, is “the most effective tool for tackling the most serious and complex global challenges”.
“My plea is for pragmatism, solidarity and humanity. The multilateral system must deliver common goods as defined by international law, norms and agreements”, he said.