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UN praises multilateral approach for curbing famine, keeping peace

Multilateralism has "a proven track record in saving lives, generating economic and social progress and avoiding a third descent into world war," said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sept. 27.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Sept. 27. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images/DON EMMERT

UNITED NATIONS — Diplomats who do the collaborative work of the world’s foremost multinational coalition at the UN on Friday praised the organization’s multilateral approach for thwarting wars, curbing disease and famine, fending off global environmental disaster and maintaining peace.

Multilateralism has “a proven track record in saving lives, generating economic and social progress and avoiding a third descent into world war,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, speaking at a Security Council meeting arranged by China, which is president of the 15-member body for November.

“Recent years have seen inspiring achievements in international diplomacy — above all the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement on climate change,” Guterres added. “The peace operations authorized by this council are also important expressions of multilateralism in action. Peacekeeping has helped a great many countries to recover from armed conflict. Our missions are often critical bulwarks against chaos and bloodshed.”

The U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who has campaigned for the United States to contribute less money to the UN’s business, said multilateralism reaches a point of diminishing returns when burdens are not appropriately shared.

“There are times when we are tempted to believe that multilateralism has been a bad deal for the United States; that we could be more effective advancing our principles and interests on our own,” she said. “But multilateralism requires that we all contribute; that we all work together for the common good. Everyone has skin in the game, and everyone should ultimately benefit.”

The speech came as the United States trimmed its contribution to the UN’s peacekeeping budget from 28 to 25 percent and slashed its contribution to the UN Relief and Works Agency in the Occupied Territories to $30 million from $330 million.

The United States also contributes 22 percent of the UN’s general operating budget, a figure that UN officials arrive at based on each country’s financial position relative to the other countries. As it has the largest economy in the world, the United States shoulders the largest share of the UN’s budget.

The European Union’s representative said globalization has rendered obsolete the multipolar approaches before the formation of the UN at the end of World War II, in 1945.

“No state is big and powerful enough to address the great challenges of our times alone,” said Joao Vale de Almeida. “We need an effective multilateral system with a strong United Nations at its core. The alternative would not be the rule of nation states: it would be complete chaos. The alternative to a rules-based global order is a global disorder.”

Guterres and other nations’ ambassadors noted that multilateralism was under threat when countries acted unilaterally or ignored agreements.

“We need such an annual forum to discuss emerging challenges to multilateralism; the latest of which is the doctrine of 'withdrawal from international instruments and institutions' of a member of this council,” said Iran’s ambassador to the UN, Gholamali Khoshroo, referring to the United States. “This, among others, has resulted in its withdrawal from the Human Rights Council, UNESCO, Paris Agreement, and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.”

The JCPOA is the deal that monitors Iran’s nuclear activities. The United States withdrew from it and, this week, imposed sanctions on Iran, even as other countries remain in the pact.

“The U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA and re-imposition of unilateral sanctions four days ago appallingly violates resolution 2231 and openly defies international law,” Khoshroo added.

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