‘World faces a surplus of multilateral challenges’

António Guterres  

Speaking at the UN’s 75th anniversary commemoration, Secretary-General António Guterres said the world had a surplus of multilateral challenges but not enough multilateral answers to these.

“Never in modern history have we gone so many years without a military confrontation between the major powers, this is a great achievement of which member states can be proud and which we must always strive to preserve,” Mr. Guterres said.

Greatest challenge

He added that much remained to be done, however. He called gender inequality the “greatest single challenge for human rights” globally. Biodiversity “collapsing”, hatred that was engendering geopolitical tensions and increasing the threat from nuclear weapons, were among the challenges the Secretary-General listed.

“And the COVID-19 pandemic as laid bare the world's fragilities. We can only address them together today. We have a surplus of multilateral challenges and the deficit of multilateral solutions,” Mr. Gutteres said.

On Monday morning, the 193 members of the UN adopted a commemorative declaration, marking 75 years since the victors of the Second World War met in San Francisco to bring the organisation into being. The UN charter was signed on June 26, 1945 . The UN itself was established later that year, in October when enough signatory countries had ratified it.

The UN75 Declaration resolves to take action on a range of subjects from digital cooperation to reform of the UN.

Through the first half of this year, Qatar and Sweden, co-facilitated the crafting of Monday’s declaration –which involved disagreements and protracted negotiationson wording and substance.

At one point, India and the Five Eyes (the U.K., New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the U.S.) had together objected to a phrase on the grounds that it was influenced by Chinese Communist Party language.

Real action

In a televised message, Chinese president Xi Jinping used phrases that have been problematic before for other member states — such as those around common objectives and the down-ranking of human rights in the scheme of global challenges.

“The UN must focus on real action. It should aim at problem solving as it advances, security, development and human rights in parallel. The issue of development should be highlighted in the global macro framework,” Mr. Xi said.

U.S. President Donald Trump was expected to deliver a video message on Monday morning but instead the U.S.’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN, Cherith Norman Chalet, delivered remarks on the country’s behalf.

‘Resistant to reform’

Ms. Chalet praised the UN for its achievements but also said the U.N had been resistant to reform and vulnerable to autocratic regimes – presumably a reference to China.

“The United Nations has for too long been resistant to meaningful reform, too often lacking in transparency, and too vulnerable to the agenda of autocratic regimes and dictatorships. New threats also require new agility from the UN, threats that include theft of intellectual property and efforts to undermine internet freedom,” Ms. Chalet said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to deliver a recorded video message later in the day.