The high-level meeting marking the United Nation’s 75th anniversary has concluded. Like almost all other international meetings, the celebrations were held virtually due to restrictions and other challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.
World leaders had their say, expressing their vision for the UN amid past, current and future challenges. Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke at the initial stages of the UN General Assembly where he espoused the need for global camaraderie at a time when some countries have become selfish and insular to the needs of others.
Xi noted that in the last century the world suffered the scourge of two devastating wars that brought untold suffering to mankind. It was against this background that the UN was formed. The 75 years since the founding of the UN has seen dramatic progress in human society.
The UN has stood tests with vigour and vitality. It embodies the aspiration of the over seven billion people for a better life, and the UN Charter remains an important guarantee for world peace and development.
The world has recorded a revolution in science and technology and is now embracing a new round of even more progress. Globally, social productivity has been unprecedentedly unleashed and boosted. Mankind has never been so powerfully capable of overcoming the difficulties it faces.
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“The 75 years since the founding of the UN has been a period of rapid development of multilateralism. Problems facing the world are big and many, and global challenges are on the increase,” added Xi, adding that “they should and can only be resolved through dialogue and cooperation”.
At his juncture, the sudden attack of COVID-19 is a grave test for the entire world. Mankind has entered a new era of interconnectedness, with countries sharing intertwined interests. Global threats and global challenges require strong, global responses.
From the foregoing, Xi stated that the world needs serious soul searching: What kind of UN is needed for the world? How should the organization play its role in the post-COVID era? Consequently, he shared some of his thoughts on the way forward.
First, the UN must stand firm for justice. Mutual respect and equality among all countries, big or small, represents the progress of our times and is the foremost principle of the UN Charter. No country has the right to dominate global affairs, control the destiny of others, or keep advantages in development to itself.
Unilateralism is a dead end. All countries need to follow the approach of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits. All need to come together to uphold universal security, share the fruits of development, and jointly decide on the future of the world. It is imperative that the representation and voice of developing countries be increased so that the UN is more balanced in reflecting the interests and wishes of the majority of countries.
Second, the UN must uphold the rule of law. The purposes and principles of the UN Charter are the fundamental guidelines for handling international relations. They constitute a cornerstone of stable international order and must be unswervingly upheld. Relations among countries and coordination of their interests must only be based on rules and institutions; they must not be lorded over by those who wave a strong fist at others.
There must be no practice of exceptionalism or double standards. Nor should international law be distorted and used as a pretext to undermine other countries' legitimate rights and interests or world peace and stability.
Third, the UN must promote cooperation. To promote cooperation among countries is a founding mission of the UN and an important purpose spelt out in the UN Charter. Cold War mentality, ideological lines or zero-sum game are not a solution to a country's internal problems. What we need to do is to replace conflict with dialogue, coercion with consultation and zero-sum with win-win. We need to expand the converging interests of all and build a global family of harmony and cooperation.
Fourth, the UN must focus on real action. To put into practice the principle of multilateralism, we must act, not just talk. There must be a cure, not just a therapy. The UN should aim at problem solving and move toward tangible outcomes as it advances security, development and human rights.
As the UN advances its 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, priority should be given to addressing non-traditional security challenges such as public health; the issue of development should be highlighted in the global macro framework; and there should be a greater emphasis on the promotion and protection of the rights to subsistence and development.
Xi noted that China was the first to sign on the UN Charter and is the only developing country that takes a permanent seat on the Security Council. The country will maintain this legacy by continuing to be a true champion of multilateralism and stay actively engaged in reforming and developing the global governance system.
-The writer is a communication expert and international affairs columnist specialising in Sino-Africa relations.