Patti Londoño Jaramillo
September 14, 2020
The UN celebrates its 75th anniversary in times of COVID-19 and has been required to adapt to virtual and digital interactions. This situation does not affect leaders delivering their statements, however it limits the several bilateral and valuable meetings that happen at the margins of the General Debate and special events.
It has become commonplace to criticize multilateralism. Nonetheless, some are not aware of the UN value proposition creating consensus in economic, environmental, social, security and disarmament, regional, or peaceful coexistence issues that affect us all. Without this setting for concertation 193 Member States would be isolated and living in sub and regional restrictive frameworks and the adoption of universal agendas would not be feasible. Agendas such as the Sustainable Development Goals would have never happened without multilateral negotiations. Also, the nature of the General Assembly has prevented so far the adoption of arbitrary decisions such as the Security Council reform by which 4 countries aspire to access unjustified privileges, disregarding the current international context and the balance among regional actors.
The 75th General Assembly will recapitulate environmental agreements on Biodiversity, fundamental for human and Planetary health; Will reiterate the commitment to reject nuclear weapons; Reaffirm the Beijing commitments on Women after 25 years; And review the Plenary and 6 commissions´ agendas (Disarmament and International Security; Economic and Financial, that also includes Environmental and Development issues; Social, Humanitarian and Cultural; Special Political and Decolonization; Administrative and Budgetary; and Legal).
The Assembly is valuable in its role to negotiate and keep agreements to adopt conventions that once ratified become part of the national legislation. This allows to advance common goals to fulfil universal agendas in a definitely globalized world as proven by COVID-19.
Creating consensus among 193 states is not an easy task when profound divisions and polarized interests exist. Indeed, it takes time. However beyond any doubt, trying every year is worthwhile because any other alternative seems inadequate to preserve peace and promote development in the international community.
Unresolved conflicts depend more on the involved parties political will and the negotiations among the great powers. Once the relevant actors are aligned, the UN can act and create reconciliation mechanisms. However, the lack of action is not always the result of the Organization’s incapacity to deliver on its mandates. Its intergovernmental nature prevents it from taking action without the consent of the countries and when one or more of the 5 permanent members veto any resolution in the framework of the Security Council dealing with peace and security.
In this context, if we are facing a multilateralism crisis it is due to the lack of political will of states at bilateral, sub and regional levels and not because the mechanism at our disposal, even though it may have bureaucratic and implementation flaws, is inadequate to respond to peace, security and development challenges of its members.