The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has just concluded its 75th session which saw, leader after leader, in days of speeches delivered virtually, stress the importance of multilateralism in today’s hostile environment including the importance of working together to navigate the coronavirus outbreak and the challenges that lie beyond it.
However, while most of the U.N. member states envisioned a multilateral world, some world leaders were seen championing a new era of intense nationalism, the very opposite of the United Nations’ vision of multilateralism.
This year’s General Assembly would be remembered for strong divisive grievances which demonstrate that multilateralism today faces serious challenges and more so as the world grapples with a global health crisis.
Various underlying issues and challenges that divide nations were on full display at the General Assembly, among them was the Armenia / Azerbaijan dispute over the separatist enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh; Iran / Israel dispute over reported nuclear program; UAE / Iran dispute over three Iranian-occupied islands and Tehran’s ‘destabilizing conduct’ in the region.
The most palpable was the U.S.-China rivalry which escalated in a renewed war of words between Presidents Trump and Xi Jinping at the General Assembly forum over responsibility for the Covid-19 pandemic.
Condemning the rivalry which has emerged as a source of great concern for the UN, Mr. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General, in his opening remarks to the annual gathering, as if sensing what was to follow, stated that, “Our world cannot afford a future where the two largest economies split the globe in a Great Fracture. A technological and economic divide risks inevitably turning into a geostrategic and military divide. We must avoid this at all costs.”
Following from the happenings at the General Assembly, experts question whether the world’s governments will still see value in multilateral cooperation. Questions have also been raised about the United Nations’ effectiveness and relevance in years to come, owing to its inadequacy to combat the pandemic, a looming global economic depression, and the brewing cold war between the United States and China.
All things considered, seventy-five years after the 24 October 1945 ratification of the United Nations (UN) Charter, the UN remains at the heart of the multilateral system. Lending credence to this was Mr.VolkanBozkir, President of the 75th General Assembly, who ended the deeply-tensed six-day meeting on an optimistic note, reiterating the need for multilateralism and unity.
“I urge you to stay positive and look at the bigger picture, one thing is clear: ‘We are stronger together. The challenges facing us are enormous, but so are the possibilities of solutions. By working together, we can overcome them”, Mr.Bozkir said at the closing ceremony of the virtual summit.