UN Secretary General António Guterres speaks during the opening of the General Debate of the 77th session of the UN General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York, the U.S., on September 20 (XINHUA)
The 77th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) opened at the world body's headquarters in New York on September 13. This was the first entire in-person meeting at the UN headquarters since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Stressing that the globe is facing widening geopolitical divides and protracted uncertainties, Csaba Korosi, President of the 77th UNGA Session, listed challenges that confront the whole world, including climate change, the continuous havoc of the COVID-19 pandemic, acute food insecurity, soaring energy prices, global supply chain disruption and humanitarian upheavals created by conflicts.
The theme of this session, A Watershed Moment: Transformative Solutions to Interlocking Challenges, highlights the international community's expectation for constructive solutions. Will the world find the answers it's looking for now that the long-suspended debate has resumed in the halls of the United Nations?
After the opening of the UNGA session, China's Permanent Representative to the UN Zhang Jun tweeted that the world is in a state of change and chaos, and the UN is also standing at a crossroads. "At this moment, we need confidence, wisdom, unity, and more importantly, we need to practice genuine multilateralism and jointly safeguard the purposes and principles of the [UN] Charter," he said.
The way out
This year's UNGA is of special significance in the face of a more divided world, Zhang Guihong, Director of the Center for the United Nations and International Organizations at Shanghai-based Fudan University, told Beijing Review.
The UN is an important platform for strengthening solidarity and dispelling misunderstandings among the international community, he said. Each year, during the UNGA session, member states focus on the most pressing global issues, express their respective concerns, and try to reach consensus, coordinated action, and collective response to common challenges, he explained.
UN Secretary General António Guterres warned in his opening remarks that progress made in coping with challenges is a hostage to geopolitical tensions. "Our world is in peril and paralyzed... No cooperation. No dialogue. No collective problem solving. But the reality is we live in a world where the logic of cooperation and dialogue is the only path forward," he stressed.
Guterres's warning is both a description of the status quo and a concern about the current situation of the UN. However, to what extent key stakeholders can translate this concern into action remains a question.
At the end of World War II, many Western countries came together and participated in creating a family of multilateral institutions under the banner of the UN, Singaporean diplomat and scholar Kishore Mahbubani said in May.
"If we want the world to work together, we must find a place for all the countries in the world to come together. And that place clearly is the UN," he said, adding that, sadly, what's happened in the last few years is that the same Western countries that had championed the creation of the UN family were trying to weaken its family of institutions.
The U.S. and its Western allies are dividing the UN and the world into different groups. They have also imposed unwarranted sanctions that have destabilized the global supply chain and pressured other countries to take sides, Sun Chenghao, a researcher with the Center for International Security and Strategy of Tsinghua University, told the Global Times.
China, together with like-minded countries, is promoting multilateralism and seeking solutions to issues of global concern. For example, China's proposals on global security and development, which fit the needs of the majority of the countries, offer China's approach to achieving global sustainable development, Sun said.
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi attended the general debate of this year's UNGA session and delivered a speech on September 24. "China has been a defender of the international order. We are committed to upholding the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, the international system with the UN at its core and the international order based on international law," he said.
"China has been involved in multilateral affairs in all fields. It is a member of almost all universal intergovernmental organizations and a party to over 600 international conventions. It has concluded more than 27,000 bilateral treaties and fulfilled in good faith its international obligations. China abides by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and has made relentless efforts to protect and strengthen its human rights. At the same time, China is firmly against attempts to politicize human rights and has worked to advance the healthy development of international human rights cooperation," he continued.
China played "a decisive role" in the negotiation process of the Paris Agreement on climate change in December 2015, former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said in an interview with Xinhua News Agency in October 2021, adding China's commitment to reaching carbon neutrality before 2060 has also sent an encouraging signal to other countries.
The country has not only made a substantial contribution to realizing the Millennium Development Goals, but has also been playing a crucial role in implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, Ban said. Referring to China's achievements in eliminating absolute poverty, he said it encourages other developing countries to do the same.
"As a member of the developing world, China will forever stand together with other developing countries," Wang said. "We are heartened to see the rapid progress achieved by the developing world in recent years, and we will continue to speak up for other developing countries, help them overcome difficulties and fully support efforts in raising the representation and say of developing countries in international affairs."
Diao Daming, an associate professor at Renmin University of China in Beijing, told the Global Times that as for how to solve tough issues facing the world, the U.S. and some Western countries are going astray—they are creating a small clique to maximize their own geopolitical interests, increasing tensions and sowing discord to impede other countries' cooperation.
Such pseudo-multilateralism is posing a threat to genuine multilateralism, Zhang Guihong warned. Discussions on how to maintain true multilateralism and make innovative plans to strengthen its resilience and efficiency in the current era should feature on the UN agenda, he added.
Wang said developing countries are no longer the silent majority in international and multilateral processes. "With stronger solidarity among ourselves, China and other developing countries have spoken out for justice, and we have become a pillar of promoting development cooperation and safeguarding equity and justice," the Chinese foreign minister added.
(Print Edition Title: Action Across the Board)
China Answers the Call of the Times
Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi delivered a speech at the General Debate of the 77th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the U.S., on September 24. Edited
We are at a time fraught with challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic has continued to resurface. Global security faces uncertainty. Global economic recovery is fragile and unsteady, and many kinds of risks and crises are emerging. The world has entered a new phase of turbulence and transformation. Changes unseen in a century are accelerating.
But we are also at a time full of hope. The world continues to move toward multipolarity; economic globalization is deepening, and our societies are becoming increasingly digitalized and culturally diversified. Indeed, countries are becoming ever more interconnected and interdependent. Peace and development remain the underlying trend of our times. Around the world, the people's call for progress and cooperation is getting louder than ever before.
How should we respond to the call of our times and ride on the trend of history to build a community with a shared future for humanity? China's answer is firm and clear:
First, we must uphold peace and oppose war and turbulence. Chinese President Xi Jinping notes that peace, like air and sunshine, is hardly noticed when we are benefiting from it. But none of us can live without it. Peace is crucial for our future and it underpins common security of all countries. Turbulence and war can only serve to open a Pandora's box, and those who instigate a proxy war can easily burn their own hands. Pursuing one's own absolute security can only undermine global strategic stability. We should remain committed to addressing differences through peaceful means and resolving disputes through dialogue and consultation.
Second, we must pursue development and eliminate poverty. Development holds the key to resolving difficult issues and delivering a happy life to our people. We should place development at the center of the international agenda, build international consensus on promoting development, and uphold all countries' legitimate right to development. We should foster new drivers for global development, forge a global development partnership, and see that everyone in every country benefits more from the fruits of development in a more equitable way.
Third, we must remain open and oppose exclusion. President Xi Jinping once pointed out that openness is the sure way to realize human prosperity and advancement. Protectionism can only boomerang and decoupling and supply chain disruption will hurt both those who practice them and others. We should stay true to openness and inclusiveness and tear down fences and barriers that hinder the free flow of factors of production. We should uphold the multilateral trading system with the World Trade Organization at its core and endeavor to build an open world economy.
Fourth, we must stay engaged in cooperation and oppose confrontation. As we face a host of global challenges, our biggest strength will come from solidarity; our best strategy is to stick together through thick and thin; and the brightest prospect is win-win cooperation. It is only natural that countries sometimes have problems and differences among them, but they should increase mutual understanding on the basis of equality and respect. We should engage in dialogue, consultation and win-win cooperation, and reject conflict, coercion and playing zero-sum games. We should jointly oppose group politics and bloc confrontation.
Fifth, we must strengthen solidarity and oppose division. President Xi Jinping once stated that countries around the world are like passengers aboard the same ship which share a common stake. All passengers should pull together to navigate the ship through storms toward a brighter future. Our world must embrace diverse civilizations if it is to make continuous advances, and humankind must pursue an inclusive path if it is to achieve modernization. Peace, development, fairness, justice, democracy and freedom are common values of humanity. Difference in system should not be used as an excuse to create division; still less should democracy and human rights be used as tools or weapons to achieve political ends. We should stand against drawing lines on ideological grounds, and we should work together to expand common ground and convergence of interests to promote world peace and development.
Sixth, we must uphold equity and oppose bullying. Mutual respect and equality of countries big and small is a primary principle of the UN Charter. Major international issues should be handled by all countries, and international rules should be drawn up by all countries together. No country is above others, and no country should abuse its power to bully other sovereign countries. We should promote and practice true multilateralism, promote equality of all countries in terms of rights, rules and opportunities, and build a new type of international relations featuring mutual respect, equity and justice, and win-win cooperation.
Copyedited by G.P. Wilson
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