Multilateral Cooperation ‘Beating Heart’ of United Nations, Secretary-General Tells Security Council, Urging All Member States to Recommit to Charter

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Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Security Council Meeting on “Effective Multilateralism Through the Defence of the Principles of the United Nations Charter and the 1970 Declaration on Principles of International Law”, in New York today:

April 24, 2023

Allow me to start my remarks with a few words on Sudan, where the situation continues to worsen.  Since the start of fighting on 15 April, hundreds of people have been killed and thousands injured.

The violence must stop.  It risks a catastrophic conflagration within Sudan that could engulf the whole region and beyond.  I strongly condemn the indiscriminate bombardment of civilian areas, including health-care facilities.  I call on the parties to stop combat operations in densely populated areas and to allow unhindered humanitarian aid operations.  Civilians must be able to access food, water and other essential supplies, and evacuate from combat zones.

I am in constant contact with the parties to the conflict and have called on them to de-escalate tensions and to return to the negotiating table.  We will continue our efforts with our partners to secure a permanent halt to the fighting as soon as possible.  Working with humanitarian organizations on the ground, we are reconfiguring our presence in Sudan to enable us to continue supporting the Sudanese people.

Let me be clear:  the United Nations is not leaving Sudan.  Our commitment is to the Sudanese people, in support of their wishes for a peaceful and secure future.  We stand with them at this terrible time.  I have authorized the temporary relocation both inside and outside Sudan of some United Nations personnel, and of families.

I call on all Council members to exert maximum leverage with the parties to end the violence, restore order and return to the path of the democratic transition.  We must all do everything within our power to pull Sudan back from the edge of the abyss.

Thank you for convening the Security Council today around the important issue of effective multilateralism. Multilateral cooperation is the beating heart of the United Nations, its raison d’être and guiding vision.  The establishment of the United Nations in 1945 represented humanity’s best attempt to prevent any repetition of the horrors of two world wars and the Holocaust.  Over the past 78 years, the multilateral system has held together and delivered some notable successes.

The tools and mechanisms established by the Charter [of the United Nations] have played their part in averting a third world war.  Peacemaking and preventive diplomacy by the United Nations have helped end conflicts around the world.  United Nations peacekeeping operations have helped societies move away from conflict, saving perhaps millions of lives.

Our disarmament and non-proliferation efforts have helped to confine nuclear weapons to a handful of States.  The United Nations was central to the decolonization process and the independence of 80 former colonies — today, Members of the United Nations.  We have helped to advance economic and social progress, and contributed to reducing poverty and hunger, eradicating diseases and building recognition and respect for fundamental human rights.

The global humanitarian system coordinated by the United Nations saves millions of lives each year.  Multilateral solutions to global problems, from the ozone layer to the eradication of polio, are tried, tested and proven to work.  None of this progress would have been possible without countries standing together, as a multilateral human family.

Which makes today’s situation all the more dangerous. We face unprecedented and interlocking crises.  But, the multilateral system is under greater strain than at any time since the creation of the United Nations.  Tensions between major Powers are at a historic high.  So are the risks of conflict, through misadventure or miscalculation.

The Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, in violation of the United Nations Charter and international law, is causing massive suffering and devastation to the country and its people and adding to the global economic dislocation triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elsewhere, conflicts grind on, from Myanmar to the Sahel, from Somalia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and beyond.  The situation in Sudan now threatens to destabilize the entire region.  While there are some promising developments in Yemen and Libya, more than 100 million people have fled their homes to escape violence, conflict and persecution around the world.

Effective multilateral responses are urgently needed to prevent and resolve conflicts, manage economic uncertainty, rescue the Sustainable Development Goals, and address challenges to the global norms against the use and possession of nuclear weapons.

We are witnessing a deepening climate crisis, soaring inequalities, a rising threat from terrorism, a global pushback against human rights and gender equality, and the unregulated development of dangerous technologies.  All these global challenges can only be solved through respect for international law, adherence to global commitments, and the adoption of appropriate frameworks of multilateral governance.

As difficult as the past year has been, I am heartened that Members States have made progress in several crucial areas.  A binding treaty on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity was finalized.  COP27 [twenty-seventh Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change] in Sharm el-Sheikh achieved a breakthrough in addressing loss and damage caused by climate change.  The General Assembly recognized the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment.  These developments are important, and their effects could be far-reaching.

The Black Sea Grain Initiative and the memorandum of understanding to facilitate the export of Russian food and fertilizers are compelling examples of the significance of multilateral cooperation facilitated by the United Nations.  They clearly demonstrate that such cooperation is essential to creating greater security and prosperity for all, and I urge their continued implementation.  But, we need to do better, go further and work faster.

That must start with countries recommitting to their obligations under the United Nations Charter, putting human rights and dignity first, and prioritizing the prevention of conflict and crises.  The principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter and reinforced in the Declaration on Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States — respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of all States, non-interference in the affairs of other States, the elimination of all forms of discrimination, and the peaceful settlement of disputes — are bulwarks against uncertainty and fragmentation.  They are the foundation of all international cooperation to end conflicts, save lives, protect human rights and promote social and economic progress.

Second, I urge Member States to use the full range of diplomatic tools that the UN Charter provides for the peaceful resolution of conflicts.  These include the use of my good offices to help resolve disputes and secure peace.  Third, effective multilateralism must include a commitment to tackling new and emerging challenges and filling gaps in global governance to achieve the promise of the Charter in the twenty-first century.

This is the driving force behind my report on Our Common Agenda, including the proposed New Agenda for Peace.  The New Agenda for Peace will offer a unifying vision anchored in trust, universality and solidarity.  It will address all forms and domains of threats, taking a holistic view of the peace continuum, from prevention, peacemaking and peacekeeping, to peacebuilding and sustainable development.  It will underline preventive action as a priority at all levels.

Our Common Agenda envisions a multilateralism that is more inclusive, with space for the contributions of all countries and communities, and more networked, with strong links between the United Nations family, international financial institutions, regional organizations, trading blocs and others.

Member States are in the lead on adapting intergovernmental organs to meet changing needs.  A majority now acknowledge that the Security Council itself would benefit from reforms that reflect today’s geopolitical reality.  The same is true for the Bretton Woods institutions.  They do not reflect the reality of today’s global economy.

The High-level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism that I appointed last year has identified a number of transformational shifts to address peace and security challenges, growing economic inequalities, the triple planetary crisis of climate, biodiversity and pollution, and a widening digital divide.  I hope their report will make a significant contribution to our collective reflection in the lead-up to the Summit of the Future next year.  I count on your engagement and support in preparations for the Summit.

Our institution was created for crisis.  Throughout its history, the United Nations has overcome seemingly intractable conflicts and deep divisions.  We must find a way forward and act now, as we have done before, to stop the slide towards chaos and conflict.  It is time to deepen cooperation and to strengthen multilateral institutions, to find common solutions to common challenges.

Members of this Council, particularly those that enjoy the privilege of serving permanently, have a particular responsibility to make multilateralism work, rather than contribute to its dismemberment.  Competition between States is inevitable.  But, that should not rule out cooperation where shared interests and the greater good are at stake.  And when competition escalates to confrontation, the multilateral system, founded on the Charter and international law, is the most effective means to manage disputes peacefully.

We must cooperate.  We must adapt multilateral institutions and foster trust where it is most needed.  The urgency of global challenges demands bold and swift action.  Thank you.

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