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On the 75th Anniversary of the UN Charter, Multilateralism Remains Key

How the founding principles of the United Nations can address current global challenges with bold responses, by Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Bonn, 25 June 2020 - The signing of the United Nations Charter in 1945 heralded a new era in human history: one defined by a consensus-driven, rules-based international order and guided by multilateralism. For a world exhausted by the impacts and horrors of two global wars, the commitment by national leaders to cooperatively address common issues based on the fundamental pillars of the UN system—peace and security, development and human rights—provided cautious hope and optimism for the future.

In the subsequent 75 years, the strength of this consensus-based order has often been tested, but the pillars have held firm. Consequently, a period of relative peace has led to significant global advances. This includes the Millennium Development Goals, in which the UN led efforts in areas crucial to human security and well-being, including the reduction of poverty, global hunger, the expansion of health programs and more. It includes the Paris Agreement, a global agreement signed in 2015 to address climate change. It also includes the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, also adopted by in 2015. With it, the world has a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future. Climate change is not only one of the SDGs, but it is intricately tied to all of the other major challenges.

The arrival of the global pandemic, COVID-19, has provided the most significant challenge to nations since the end of the Second World War, resulting in an unprecedented global health crisis with severe economic and social impacts. Its repercussions are felt financially, politically, economically and beyond, but it is, first and foremost, a human tragedy; one impossible to measure in numbers, statistics and charts alone. It will continue to change the lives of people throughout the world for the foreseeable future.  

In a changing world, the stability and dependability of the founding principles of the United Nations are crucial, including the need for cooperation across borders, sectors and generations, the need for rules-based international order, for multilateralism, for consensus, and for the United Nations system itself. COVID-19, after all, has not made all other global challenges disappear; it has exacerbated them. This includes climate change.

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