‘Dramatically’ evolving conflict highlights importance of multilateralism, Security Council hears
Inter-State wars, terrorism, divided collective security, and peacekeeping limitations remain the same challenges facing multilateralism as when the UN was founded 76 years ago, Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council on Wednesday.
Pointing to the Our Common Agenda report – a blueprint for global cooperation and reinvigorated multilateralism – he attested that strengthening multilateralism has been his “highest priority”.
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“During the darkest periods of the Cold War, collective decision-making and continuous dialogue in the Security Council maintained a functioning, if imperfect, system of collective security” that has prevented military conflict between the major powers, even today, he said.
‘Dramatically’ evolving conflict
However, the top UN official continued, “conflict has evolved dramatically”.
He pointed to fundamental changes in how wars are fought, by whom, and where, as well as cheaper and more sophisticated lethal weapons, warning that “humankind has the capacity to annihilate itself entirely”.
Also contributing are the climate crisis and digital technologies that disseminate misinformation and hate speech.
“Cyberspace, supply chains, migration, information, trade and financial services, and investments” are being weaponized, Mr. Guterres continued.
“Frameworks for global cooperation have not kept pace with this evolution. Our toolbox, norms, and approaches need upgrading”.
Pointing to the UN75 Declaration, he made recommendations to address this, beginning with a New Agenda for Peace, which he will submit to Member States next year.
According to the Secretary-General, the Agenda will “take a long view and a wide lens”; speak about local, national, regional, and international security challenges; and provide an opportunity to take stock and change course because “business as usual does not mean things will stay the same”.
“In a world where the only certainty is uncertainty, it means things will almost certainly get far worse”.
Moreover, the Agenda will articulate the Organization’s work in peace and security; set out a comprehensive approach to prevention; link peace, sustainable development, climate action, and food security; and consider how the UN adapts to cyberthreats, information warfare and other forms of conflict.
It will also look to Member States to reinforce multilateral solutions and manage geopolitical competition; call for new norms, regulations, and accountability mechanisms; and consider how to engage with non-State actors.
“The Black Sea Grain Initiative shows that the United Nations still has a unique and important role in brokering solutions to global challenges”, said the UN chief, urging Member States to “build on and expand such innovative approaches”.
He noted that this year, the General Assembly had passed many important resolutions, including those on the war in Ukraine, the right to a healthy environment, and the use of the Council’s veto.
And in the context of multilateralism, the UN chief drew attention to the proposed Biennial Summit between the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), G20 Heads of State and Government, himself, and international financial institutions, as “an important step towards better coordination of global governance, and the creation of a global financial system that is fit for today’s world”.
“The challenge ahead is clear…to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…with a revitalized multilateralism that is effective, representative and inclusive,” he added.
UN General Assembly President Csaba Kőrösi told the ambassadors that the world was at an “historic crossroads” in which international rules, norms, instruments, and institutions that have guided relations for over 75 years are facing deep, existential, questions of relevance “at a time when the world needs them most”.
Emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic, and grappling with the climate crisis, protracted debt, and food and energy emergencies, he said that one thing is clear: “These global challenges are far too great for any one nation to handle alone”.
“Our only hope, is always to find a multilateral solution”.
Taking Council to task
However, inaction and sharp geopolitical divides have prevented responses and progress in the Security Council.
Reminding that the Council is expected “to act for the good of all [and] to uphold the UN Charter”, he asked, “will these rifts continue to upstage your collective ability to maintain international peace and security?”.
He mentioned the war in Ukraine as one example of “failed collective action”, flagging that “not a single Council resolution has been adopted to mitigate the exact type of crisis the UN was created to prevent”.
For the UN to prove its relevance, it must deliver solutions, continued the Assembly President.
“The people we serve do not neatly organize their lives into boxes labelled ‘human rights’, ‘development’ and ‘peace’”, he argued. “It is our responsibility…to respond to that…across bodies, organs and processes – and build on efforts already underway”.
He said that the Security Council veto has opened a door for a new form of collaboration and accountability as the General Assembly has been obliged to step up when decisions are blocked.
“I will convene a formal debate on the use of the veto in the General Assembly in 2023…and how to bring our two organs working closer together, discharging their function, in support of both peace and prosperity”, Mr. Kőrösi informed the Council.
‘Step beyond power’
He underscored the importance that the Security Council and the General Assembly work together to ensure safety and wellbeing, guarantee humanitarian aid delivery, bolster inclusive peace processes, and ensure conflict-related sexual violence protection.
“Deadlock translates to a dead end for the millions of children, women, men and families who are all suffering the consequences”, underscored the senior UN official. “They are putting their trust in us to step beyond power dynamics”.
In closing, he implored the ambassadors to prioritize dialogue and diplomacy; trade political differences for political will to find solutions; and focus on what unites us.