Volkan Bozkir, president of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, opens the General Debate at the UN headquarters in New York on Sept 22. (PHOTO / XINHUA)
Multilateralism is a catchword at a series of top-level meetings of the United Nations this week, which lay out the main challenges that humans face.
“Multilateralism is not just an act of faith, it is an operational necessity,” said French President Emmanuel Macron who joined Chinese President Xi Jinping and other world leaders in video remarks at the United Nations General Assembly.
Volkan Bozkir, president of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly who presided over the opening of the General Debate featuring speeches from more than 100 heads of state, stressed: “Today, we must renew our collective commitment to multilateralism.”
The General Debate of the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly, which opened on Sept 22, carries the theme of “The Future We Want, the United Nations We Need: Reaffirming Our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism — Confronting COVID-19 Through Effective Multilateral Action.”
In their video recordings at a variety of scenes in their home country from behind desks to behind podiums, many heads of state, as well as leaders of international organizations, have used the week of high-level events to urge efforts to champion multilateralism and strengthen international cooperation to tackle global challenges. Though this year marks the 75th anniversary of the UN’s founding, they speak “virtually” because of COVID-19.
Multilateralism is essential to fulfilling the core mandates of the United Nations prescribed in its Charter, said Bozkir. “To do that, we must continue to seek ways, in order to establish and consolidate trust and cohesion, among members, groups of countries and other stakeholders.”
Bozkir named multilateralism, the humanitarian agenda of the United Nations, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and gender equality as his priority in his one-year tenure, and called for support from member states.
He warned that the world is seeing rising levels of mistrust and rivalry between major powers.
International institutions succeed when they manage to mediate such tensions. The UN was born with this in mind, he said.
As this General Assembly session marks the 75th anniversary of the founding of the UN, Bozkir called on member states to draw strength from the founders of the world organization, who demonstrated fortitude at a time of crisis.
“They chose to trust one another and unite in pursuit of a better world. Together, we have overcome adversity and challenges. Let us draw strength from those who have persevered in the past. When we have worked together, humanity has prevailed,” he said.
This year, world leaders are unable to travel to New York for the high-level week due to COVID-19. Instead, their pre-recorded statements are played in the General Assembly Hall. While the hall can hold some 2,500 people, only about 200 delegates are allowed to be physically present.
In his videoconference address, Macron said the reconstruction of the foundations of the international order requires the establishment of functional international cooperation based on clear rules, defined and respected by all.
“We must together lay the foundations for a fairer, more balanced, more equitable, more sustainable globalization,” he said.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, in his centerpiece address to the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly on Sept 22: “In an interconnected world, it is high time to recognize a simple truth: solidarity is self-interest. If we fail to grasp that fact, everyone loses.”
Guterres underscored the need for solidarity at this moment, particularly as countries least capable to address COVID-19 have received far too little assistance, and urged the UN’s 193 member states to move forward in humility and unity in the face of the disease.
“We are confronted with a triple challenge: recovering from COVID-19, realizing the SDGs and avoiding the looming climate catastrophe,” said Munir Akram, president of the UN Economic and Social Council.
The response to these challenges must be collective, Akram, who also serves as permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN, said on Sept 21 at a high-level meeting to commemorate the UN’s 75th anniversary.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo called on all nations to unite and always promote a win-win approach in building mutually beneficial relations on efforts to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At a time when we ought to unite and work together to tackle the pandemic ... what we see, instead, is one of deep divisions ... and growing rivalries,” the Indonesian president said at the virtual General Debate of the 75th Session of the United Nations General Assembly on Sept 23 morning local time.
“The UN is not a mere building in the city of New York ... rather it represents an ideal and shared commitment of all nations to realize world peace and prosperity for our future generations,” he added.
He pointed out that Indonesia has an unwavering faith in the UN and multilateralism, which is the only way that could guarantee equality.
Calling for the removal of barriers to medical cooperation, Russian President Vladimir Putin said “as to healthcare, just like in the economy, we now need to remove, as many as possible, obstacles to partner relations”.
“We believe that the UN’s prestige could strengthen and enhance the role of the humanitarian or human component in multilateral and bilateral relations, namely in people-to-people and youth exchanges, cultural ties, social and educational programs, as well as cooperation in sports, science, technology, environment and health protection,” Putin said at the General Debate.
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi said in his address that the various hotspot issues that weigh on regional peace and stability should be solved via political means, based on relevant UN Security Council resolutions.
Political settlement of such issues under the auspices of the UN is of particular importance, as it coincides with the 75th anniversary of the establishment of the UN and the outbreak of the novel coronavirus pandemic that has caused huge human losses and profound economic and social impacts, said Al-Sisi.
As the first state speaker in the UN General Assembly’s General Debate, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro defended his administration’s record on protecting the Amazon rainforest, telling the UN’s virtual meeting of global leaders that his country has been wrongly portrayed as an environmental villain.
“We are victims of one of the most brutal disinformation campaigns about the Amazon and the Pantanal wetlands,” Bolsonaro said.
Chilean President Sebastian Pinera said the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need to strengthen international cooperation and governance, and laid bare the sheer degree of interdependence within the international community, as the virus shows no respect for borders, nationalities or ethnicities.
“Only collaborative and multilateral solutions will allow us to overcome this crisis and to emerge from it with new strength, standing on our feet once again,” Pinera said in a statement at the General Debate.
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel condemned Washington’s intensified economic blockade against the island nation. In his video address to the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly, Diaz-Canel also said that the current US administration tries to discredit the Caribbean island’s medical assistance as part of the global response to stem the spread of COVID-19.
“Saving lives and sharing what we are and have, no matter what sacrifice it takes, that is what we are offering to the United Nations, to which we only request to be attuned with the gravity of the present time,” he said. “Let us strive together to promote peace, solidarity, and development.”
Cuba has sent more than 3,700 health professionals to 39 countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, and for the first time to Europe where two Cuban medical teams are still providing health assistance in Italy and Andorra.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in proposed a sub-regional public health initiative that would involve the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.
“Hoping that the international community views the issues surrounding the Korean Peninsula through the lens of more inclusive international cooperation, I propose today launching a Northeast Asia Cooperation Initiative for Infectious Disease Control and Public Health, whereby North Korea participates as a member along with China, Japan, Mongolia and the Republic of Korea.”
“A cooperative architecture that guarantees collective protection of life and safety will lay the ground for North Korea to have its security guaranteed by engaging with the international community,” Moon told the General Debate of the UN General Assembly via a pre-recorded speech.
Moon also asked for the support of the UN and the international community for an end-of-war declaration on the Korean Peninsula. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War.
The war must end, completely and for good, said Moon.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the United States has waged an economic war against Iran, the official IRNA news agency reported.
“We’re in an economic war” through US sanctions on Iranian financial, economic and business institutions, Rouhani was quoted as saying.
Iran is grappling with “the harshest sanctions in history, imposed in blatant and gross violation of the Charter of the United Nations and international agreements,” Rouhani said during his address to the 75th Session of the UN General Assembly.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed a regional conference over the maritime dispute in the Eastern Mediterranean.
“I would like to repeat here our call for establishing dialogue and cooperation between coastal countries of the Eastern Mediterranean,” Erdogan said in his video remarks to the General Debate of the 75th Session.
HONG KONG NEWS