UN chief calls for multilateralism that matches new multipolar world

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks at a preparatory ministerial meeting for the Summit of the Future at the UN headquarters in New York, on Sept. 21, 2023. [Photo/Xinhua]

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday stressed the importance of multilateral institutions that match a multipolar world that is in the making.

"We are moving toward a multipolar world. Multipolarity is creating new opportunities for different countries to lead on the global stage. But history teaches that multipolarity without strong multilateral institutions creates serious risks. It could result in even greater geostrategic tensions, chaotic competition and further fragmentation," he told a preparatory ministerial meeting of the Summit of the Future.

Multilateral institutions will only survive if they are truly universal. Next year's Summit of the Future is a unique opportunity to help rebuild trust and bring outdated multilateral institutions and frameworks into line with today's world, based on equity and solidarity, he said.

The summit is more than an opportunity. It is an essential means of reducing risks and creating a safer and more peaceful world, he added.

Guterres welcomed member states' agreement to adopt an inter-governmentally negotiated Pact for the Future at the Summit of the Future, reaffirming the UN Charter, reinvigorating multilateralism, boosting implementation of existing commitments, and agreeing on solutions to new challenges.

"The Pact for the Future will be your contract with each other and with your people. It represents your pledge to use all the tools at your disposal at the global level to solve problems - before those problems overwhelm us," said Guterres.

The challenges facing the world are universal. They require universal solutions and cannot be solved through small groupings of states or coalitions of the willing. The United Nations is the only forum where this can happen, he said, adding that it will also be important to welcome the contributions of civil society, academia, the private sector, and other important stakeholders.

The stakes are high. A substantive, comprehensive Pact for the Future has the potential to turbo-charge implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), he said. "It will help to determine whether we meet the serious challenges of today and tomorrow, or continue down the path of social, financial, political, and environmental breakdown."

This pact will fully complement and reinforce global efforts to achieve the SDGs and create a more peaceful, sustainable, and equitable world today. But time is running out, he warned.

In the past two years, new conflicts have emerged and geopolitical tensions are higher than ever. Humanity has crossed a new Rubicon with generative artificial intelligence. There are signs of climate breakdown. Billions of people around the world have been hit by the cost-of-living crisis. And more countries than ever are struggling with debt distress or default, he noted.

"We cannot inch toward agreement while the world races toward a precipice. We must bring a new urgency to our efforts, and a shared sense of common purpose," the UN chief said.

Guterres urged ministers to redouble their efforts over the coming year to ensure that the Pact for the Future is ambitious and transformative.

"The Summit of the Future must also be a moment to reinforce the connection between global governance, and the people of the world. The Pact for the Future must reflect the priorities and concerns of women and men struggling to feed their families, and communities bearing the brunt of the climate emergency. It must offer solutions for a better, fairer, more peaceful, and more sustainable world. Above all, it must demonstrate that multilateralism can deliver for everyone, everywhere," he said. 

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