– As delivered –
Statement by H.E. Mrs. María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd Session of the UN General Assembly
23 April 2019
Your Excellency, Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, President of the Asia Society Policy Institute and Chair of the International Peace Institute,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Representatives of NGOs at this meeting,
I am truly delighted to welcome you to this Informal Policy Dialogue on: “Building Trust and the Importance of Multilateralism: Making the UN Relevant to All People.”
I stress the word “informal” because today’s event is about broadening the conversation on multilateralism and hearing from different stakeholders. For that reason, there will be no speakers’ list and we are keen to hear informal comments and not prepared statements!
Before I begin, I’d like to express my deep appreciation to Kevin and the whole team at the International Peace Institute for partnering with us on yet another event – we are really lucky to have you. I also want to thank the Together First campaign and the UN2020 coalition for their generous support in ensuring we were all fed and watered ahead of this event – a very practical example of civil society supporting the UN!
Tomorrow, Member States will commemorate the first-ever International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace – and I warmly invite all Member States to attend, because it is an important opportunity for states to reaffirm their commitment to the UN Charter – at a time when the need for multilateralism is greater than ever, but when it is facing deep challenges, as Kevin just mentioned.
We are witnessing the impacts of shifting global power dynamics, as the world becomes more multipolar, but also more polarized. We are seeing a rise in nationalist populism and extremist ideologies, which is putting stress on international agreements and institutions. And we are seeing a growing disconnect between people, governments and institutions, as the social contract frays and inequalities deepen.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today’s policy forum will consider how we can move forward in this challenging context, and I’d like to feed four points into our conversation today:
First, despite the threats to multilateralism, it is alive and kicking in these corridors. It can be messy, it can be difficult, but we see it in action, day in, day out – so let us think about how we can use existing UN processes and forums to strengthen trust between stakeholders.
This, of course, requires stakeholders to be in the room – which is my second point: we cannot build trust in multilateralism if we exclude the very people who are supposed to benefit from global solutions. Indeed, we cannot design global solutions without their input. I have sought to include civil society in every event I have organized – but we must do more to ensure consistent, ongoing and meaningful engagement.
Third, we need to deliver. I really hope that tomorrow’s High-Level Meeting will go beyond warm words about multilateralism. Not because words don’t matter. They matter and they matter a great deal – as we contend with hate speech, and with threats to human rights, women’s rights and civil society around the world.
But words are not enough and we know that. To build trust in multilateralism, we need to show that it can deliver – that we can deliver – tangible improvements to peoples’ lives every day. We need to keep the promises we have made through the 2030 Agenda and Paris Agreement, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and so many other instruments. That also means making more effective use of multilateral bodies for financing, trade and so on.
And finally, building trust in the multilateral system means building trust in its beating heart: the United Nations. We need to show that this Organization can be more effective, transparent and accountable.
I dare not say the word “reform” – because there is already a huge reform effort underway and a real danger of reform fatigue. But we are doing it, in the best way we can.
But I believe there are things we can do – not by reinventing the wheel but by taking a smart, strategic look at all the reviews and reports that have been produced in recent years and identifying common themes, things that were agreed but have not been fully implemented – to generate a set of transformative next steps we can pursue.
We cannot build trust in multilateralism if we exclude the very people who are supposed to benefit from global solutions. Indeed, we cannot design global solutions without their input. I have sought to include civil society in every event I have organized – but we must do more to ensure consistent, ongoing and meaningful engagement.
Let me conclude by again inviting all Member States to attend tomorrow’s commemoration of the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace in the General Assembly Hall. I also want to assure everyone here that I want today’s event to count. I will be producing a summary of our discussion to feed into preparations to mark the UN’s 75th anniversary next year.
I sincerely hope we can use that occasion to signal that we can do things better and differently; that we can listen and learn; and that we can work together – as states, civil society, business, youth, indigenous peoples – to build a safer, fairer and more sustainable world.