U.N. calls for renewed multilateralism in fight against pandemic

Sep 22 , 2020. 6 hours ago – 04:08 KYODO NEWS

United Nations headquarters in New York. (Getty/Kyodo)

NEW YORK – The United Nations on Monday highlighted the need to reinvigorate “multilateralism” to counter the coronavirus pandemic, which poses not only a global health crisis but has also sent the world economy into a recession and increased poverty.

“Multilateralism is not an option but a necessity as we build back better for a more equal, more resilient and more sustainable world,” the 193-member U.N. General Assembly said in a declaration adopted to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

Speaking at a high-level event to mark the anniversary, U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said that the world faces “a surplus of multilateral challenges and a deficit of multilateral solutions,” touching on the threats posed by the pandemic, climate change, nuclear weapons and rising poverty, among other issues.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the world’s fragilities. We can only address them together,” he said.

Concerns linger over the strengthening of unilateralism and protectionism on the back of the continuing spread of the novel coronavirus, which has resulted in many countries closing their borders, focusing on domestic economic recovery and preparing to secure vaccines for their respective populations once they are rolled out.

The United States has decided to withdraw from the World Health Organization, which President Donald Trump has accused of being China-centric such as by pushing Beijing’s “misinformation” about the coronavirus outbreak that was first detected in the Asian country.

At the high-level meeting, a representative of the U.S. government hailed U.N. efforts to promote peace and provide emergency food assistance, while referring to the United States as the world body’s “largest and most reliable funder for all of its 75 years.”

But she also pointed to concerns over the organization, saying that it “has for too long been resistant to meaningful reform” and is “too often lacking in transparency and too vulnerable to the agenda of autocratic regimes and dictatorships.”

Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a video message through a translator that Beijing will “continue to be a true follower of multilateralism.”

China will “firmly uphold the international order underpinned by international law and firmly defend the United Nations’ central role in international affairs,” he added.

This year’s high-level meetings of the U.N. General Assembly have gone largely virtual due to the pandemic, including the general debate set to begin Tuesday. World leaders have been allowed to submit video statements in advance.

CR:KYODO NEWS