Flags of member states flying at United Nations Headquarters. As the most representative international organization and the utmost expression of multilateralism, the United Nations is the main instrument to address multifaceted and complex global challenges through collective action. © UN Photo/Mark Garten

The Virtues of Multilateralism and Diplomacy

The International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace was established on 12 December, 2018 through resolution A/RES/73/127 and was first observed on April 24, 2019.

Preserving the values of multilateralism and international cooperation, which underpin the UN Charter and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is fundamental to promote and support the three pillars of the UN - peace and security, development and human rights.

The international norms and rules-based system that have steered nations through seven decades must rise to meet the mounting challenges of protectionism and isolationism. Global issues such as climate change, geopolitical tensions, humanitarian and migratory crises are cross-cutting, implicating the values and interests of nations and necessitate collective attention and action. Technological advancement has also impacted the political and socio-economic landscape and inter-state relations.

As emphasized in the resolution, the International Day is a reaffirmation of the UN Charter and its principles of resolving disputes among countries through peaceful means. It acknowledges the use of multilateral decision-making and diplomacy in achieving peaceful resolutions to conflicts among nations.

Background

The United Nations came into being in 1945, following the devastation of the Second World War, with one central mission: the maintenance of international peace and security. The Charter of the United Nations states that one of the United Nations' purposes and principles is the commitment to settle disputes through peaceful means and the determination to succeeding generations from the scourge of war.

Conflict prevention remains, however, a relatively under-publicized aspect of the UN's work. Meanwhile, the most efficient and desirable employment of diplomacy is to ease tensions before they result in conflict, or, if conflict breaks out, to act swiftly to contain it and resolve its underlying causes. Preventive diplomacy is very important in supporting United Nations efforts to assist in the peaceful settlement of disputes.

Commitment to multilateralism and international peace and security was also reaffirmed by most world leaders in the General Debate in September 2018. This commitment was also reinforced in the discussion during the High-level Dialogue on Renewing the Commitment to Multilateralism on 31 October 2018.

On 12 December 2018, the General Assembly adopted the resolution, "International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace" (A/RES/73/127) by a recorded vote of 144 in favour to 2 against. By that text, the General Assembly invites all Member States, observers and organizations of the United Nations to observe the International Day in an appropriate manner and to disseminate the advantages of multilateralism and diplomacy for peace, including through educational and public awareness-raising activities.

Message of the UN Secretary-General

The COVID-19 pandemic is a tragic reminder of how deeply connected we are. The virus knows no borders and is a quintessential global challenge.  Combatting it requires us to work together as one human family.

We must do all we can to save lives and ease the economic and social devastation.  Crucially, we need to draw the appropriate lessons about the vulnerabilities and inequalities the virus has laid bare, and mobilize investments in education, health systems, social protection and resilience.

This is the biggest international challenge since the Second World War.  Yet even before this test, the world was facing other profound transnational perils – climate change above all. 

But multilateralism is not only a matter of confronting shared threats; it is about seizing common opportunities.  We now have the opportunity to build back better than in the past, aiming at inclusive and sustainable economies and societies.

It is not enough to proclaim the virtues of multilateralism; we must continue to show its added value.  International cooperation must adapt to changing times.

We need a networked multilateralism, strengthening coordination among all global multilateral organizations, with regional ones able to make their vital contributions; and an inclusive multilateralism, based on deep interaction with civil society, businesses, local and regional authorities and other stakeholders… where the voice of youth is decisive in shaping our future.

At this key moment for international cooperation, and in this 75th anniversary year of the United Nations, let us strive as one to realize the founders’ vision of a healthy, equitable, peaceful and more sustainable future for all.

António Guterres

António Guterres

It is not enough to proclaim the virtues of multilateralism; we must continue to show its added value. International cooperation must adapt to changing times.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres

 

The UN Charter requires that countries with disputes that could "endanger the maintenance of international peace and security" shall first of all try to "seek solutions through peaceful methods such as "negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice." It envisages roles for the Secretary-General, the Security Council and the General Assembly, among others, in the peaceful settlement of disputes; and UN resolutions and practice have further contributed to the development of the peacemaking functions of the Organization.

 

 

International days are occasions to educate the public on issues of concern, to mobilize political will and resources to address global problems, and to celebrate and reinforce achievements of humanity. The existence of international days predates the establishment of the United Nations, but the UN has embraced them as a powerful advocacy tool. We also mark other UN observances.