Effective, Inclusive Multilateralism Key to Address Current Interconnected Threats, Secretary-General Tells Security Council, Highlighting New Agenda for Peace

Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the Security Council open debate on multilateralism, in New York today:

Strengthening multilateralism to address today’s global challenges has been my highest priority since assuming office as Secretary-General.  My report on Our Common Agenda, and the process it has initiated, are aimed above all at reinvigorating multilateralism to deal with today’s interconnected threats.

Even during the darkest periods of the cold war, collective decision-making and continuous dialogue in the Security Council maintained a functioning, if imperfect, system of collective security.

The international system created after the Second World War succeeded in preventing a military conflict between the major Powers.  States armed with nuclear weapons cooperated to cut their numbers, prevent proliferation and avert a nuclear catastrophe.  Peacemaking and peacekeeping by the United Nations helped to end conflicts, saving millions of lives.

Notwithstanding this important progress, we are still grappling with many of the same challenges we have faced for 76 years:  inter-State wars; limits to our peacekeeping ability; terrorism; and a divided collective security system.

And at the same time, conflict has evolved dramatically.  We have seen fundamental changes in how it is fought, by whom and where.  Lethal weapons are cheaper and more sophisticated than ever.  Humankind has the capacity to annihilate itself entirely.  The climate crisis is now contributing to conflict in a host of ways.

The negative implications of digital technology are proliferating.  Misinformation and hate speech poison democratic debate and fuel social instability.  Many elements of modern life are weaponized:  cyberspace, supply chains, migration, information, trade and financial services, and investments.  Frameworks for global cooperation have not kept pace with this evolution.  Issues quickly become zero-sum and polarizing.  Our toolbox, norms and approaches need upgrading.

The UN75 Declaration asked me to make concrete recommendations on a broad range of threats — on land and at sea; in space and cyberspace.  In response, as part of my report on Our Common Agenda, I proposed a New Agenda for Peace.  I hope to submit this to Member States in 2023.

The New Agenda for Peace will take a long view and a wide lens.  It will speak to all Member States and address the full range of new and old security challenges that we face — local, national, regional and international.  It will examine ways to update our existing tools for mediation, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and counter-terrorism.  It will also look at new and emerging threats in less traditional domains, including cyberspace and outer space.

The New Agenda for Peace will recognize the links between many forms of vulnerability, human rights, state fragility and the outbreak of conflict.  It is our opportunity to take stock, and to change course.  Because business as usual does not mean things will stay the same.  In a world where the only certainty is uncertainty, it means things will almost certainly get far worse.

The New Agenda for Peace will aim to address a host of tough questions.  It will articulate a vision for the United Nations work in peace and security for a world in transition, and a new era of geopolitical competition.  It will set out a comprehensive approach to prevention, linking peace, sustainable development, climate action and food security.  It will consider how the United Nations adapts its peace and security instruments to an era of cyberthreats, information warfare and other forms of conflict.

It will look to Member States for new frameworks to reinforce multilateral solutions and manage intense geopolitical competition.  It will call for new norms, regulations and accountability mechanisms to strengthen the multilateral system in areas where gaps have emerged.  And it will consider how we can further engage with non-state actors, including the private sector and civil society, to meet the challenges of our day.

The New Agenda for Peace will also consider how the United Nations existing toolbox can be enhanced.  The Black Sea Grain Initiative shows that the United Nations still has a unique and important role in brokering solutions to global challenges.  We must build on and expand such innovative approaches.

Our existing tools and operations also have enormous value and have contributed to saving many lives; we must do everything we can to invest in them and adapt them to new realities. Where they fail, it is often because they are asked to do the impossible.  I look forward to further discussions with Member States on this important process.

Readying ourselves for the future is a challenge for the entire United Nations.  Member States are firmly in the lead in adapting intergovernmental organs to the needs and realities of today, and I welcome the General Assembly negotiations that have taken place since 2008.

A majority of Member States now acknowledge that the Security Council should be reformed to reflect today’s geopolitical realities.  I hope regional groups and Member States can work together to achieve greater consensus on the way forward and the modalities of the reform.  The United Nations and I personally stand ready to provide the necessary support.

The Council has already benefitted from innovation in its working methods, including open debates and informal mechanisms to strengthen engagement with the wider United Nations membership.  Input to the Council from women’s organizations has helped advance our work on prevention and strengthened our responses to ongoing conflicts.  The Council’s work, and its authority and credibility, can only benefit from consultations with a broader range of people, including women’s organizations and those affected by conflict, displacement and human rights abuses.

I also note calls from Member States for the revitalization of the work of the General Assembly, and strengthening of the Economic and Social Council, in the context of a reformed multilateralism.  The General Assembly has a valuable record of convening Member States on the issues on its agenda.  This year alone, it has passed many important resolutions, including those on the war in Ukraine, the right to a healthy environment, and the use of the veto by Members of this Council.

With regard to any decision by Member States to streamline the resolutions, reporting requirements and committees of the General Assembly, or to strengthen high-level week of the Assembly, the Secretariat stands ready to support.

With regard to the Economic and Social Council:  The proposed Biennial Summit among the Economic and Social Council, G20 Heads of State and Government, the Secretary-General and international financial institutions would be an important step towards better coordination of global governance, and the creation of a global financial system that is fit for today’s world.

The challenge ahead is clear.  We have an opportunity and an obligation to recall the pledge of the United Nations Charter to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.   We must meet that promise with a revitalized multilateralism that is effective, representative and inclusive.

For information media. Not an official record.