For decades, multilateralism, based on a common overarching vision, has anchored the longest period of peace and stability in Europe. This alone should qualify the European Union as a model for the renewal of the United Nations.
BERLIN / WASHINGTON, DC – Last September, the General Assembly passed a to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations groundbreaking declaration Reaffirm the commitment to “mobilize resources” and “show unparalleled political will and leadership” to “secure the future we want”. The so-called UN75 declaration was an inspiring statement. But will it lead to significant changes?
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History suggests it could be easy. After all, past anniversaries of the founding of the United Nations have brought about significant structural reforms. For example, on the 60th anniversary of the United Nations, the heads of state and government of the world established A peacebuilding commission to help countries make the transition from war to peace has expanded the human rights commission into a stronger human rights council and adopted the “Responsibility to Protect” doctrine to protect civilians in conflict areas.
The prospects of the UN75 declaration are further enhanced by the fact that it reflects the will of civil society. Before last year’s General Assembly, the United Nations launched a global survey to see what ordinary people care about. Of more than 1.3 million respondents, 87% said that international cooperation is critical to addressing today’s challenges.
The UN also supported more than 3,000 dialogues in 120 countries on “the future we want, the UN we need”. The results of these dialogues, which took place in “classrooms, meeting rooms, parliaments and community groups”, helped shape the declaration.
At the same time, national governments have worked to revive multilateral cooperation. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced the Alliance for Multilateralism Promote global cooperation in a time of resurgent nationalism. The alliance is now supported by more than 50 countries.
Similarly, last February, G7 leaders, including US President Joe Biden, proclaimed that they would work together to “make 2021 a turning point for multilateralism”. Working together to recover from the pandemic and “better rebuilding” were seen as a top priority.
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In particular, the countries also support the UN75 declaration. Two months after its unanimous approval, ten heads of state or government convened by Spain and Sweden published one Joint announcement Reaffirms its commitment to the Declaration and the ambition it embodies, and calls for reforms to the three main organs of the United Nations to create a “more agile, effective and accountable organization” capable of delivering “better” results.
All of these bode well for the future of multilateralism. However, turning words into actions is seldom easy, especially when it comes to so many actors with competing visions and interests. Given the nationalist and populist forces that are powerful in many parts of the world, the challenge ahead is all the greater. To do this, we should look to Europe.
The European Union has been a staunch advocate of multilateralism. In February, for example, the European Commission and the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell, issued a common communication to strengthen the EU’s contribution to rules-based multilateralism.
Likewise the Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron, President of the European Council Charles Micheland President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen joined the Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres and Senegalese President Macky sal in demand for one more inclusive multilateralism.
Europe’s leadership in this area makes sense. Although the EU is often classified as slow, risk averse and inflexible, it is characterized by its success in forging effective supranational policies and pooling resources to meet common challenges. The Europeans also particularly support international cooperation. In the UN survey, more than 90% of Europeans – a few percentage points above the global average – described international cooperation as “very important” or “essential”.
Building on Europe’s example of active multilateralism, our organizations, Robert Bosch Stiftung GmbH and the Stimson Center, along with other partners, recently brought together leading policy makers and experts from Europe and around the world to discuss how the UN75 Declaration will become a reality can. We identified several Key requirements.
For example, to ease pressure on the UN Security Council and the global humanitarian system, world leaders must take action to address the root causes of conflict. This means, for example, ensuring that basic social needs are met; Improving representation in politics; and strengthening national and regional government institutions.
Additionally, we need to address the “knowledge crisis” – including growing skepticism about science – that is undermining COVID-19 vaccination programs and climate mitigation efforts. This can be achieved through international and national campaigns that promote trust and combat disinformation.
A third need is to change the architecture and approach of global and regional financial institutions to fill gaps in digital participation, strengthen education, and make progress towards gender equality. Reforms of the legal and normative framework conditions are just as critical – in order to meet the challenges of today’s online and offline world.
Multilateral solutions can be difficult to develop, agree on and implement. This can make them appear inefficient and inefficient, with actors assuming they are better off doing it on their own. And yet, as Europe has shown time and again, the solutions forged from multilateral processes tend to be more inclusive, more effective and more lasting. Europe owes its longest period of peace and stability to these processes.
That alone should enable the EU to draw some valuable lessons for the renewal of the United Nations. An inclusive, adaptable and empowered UN, taking into account the EU’s experience, can provide a solid foundation for a rules-based international order that promotes global peace and stability while facilitating action to address common challenges. Such an institution could not be more worthy of our unwavering commitment and care.