U.S. President Donald Trump (R, front) shakes hands with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres (L, front) during a high-level UN reform meeting at the UN headquarters in New York, Sept. 18, 2017. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)
by Xinhua writer Wang Jiangang
UNITE NATIONS, Sept. 25 (Xinhua) -- The General Debate of the 72nd General Assembly of the United Nations, regarded as the U.N.'s annual summit, lowered its curtains Monday with a tendency meriting attention: World leaders were pinning high hopes on multilateralism for solutions to global challenges and threats.
MULTILATERALISM: STRONG VOICE
Incomplete statistics showed that, of the 196 statements delivered from the General Assemly's podium by world leaders and senior national officials, more than half were in one way or another holding in esteem multilateralism, hoping this approach can help countries concerned deal with unprecedented global challenges facing them.
On the fourth day of the Assembly's annual general debate, Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel described multilateralism as "a robust and reliable driving force for creating a better world," emphasizing the necessity of coordination and consensus.
He emphasized that although multilateralism was complicated and could create difficulties, international and regional organizations and action must be strengthened.
Reinforcing that sentiment, Margot Wallstrom, Sweden's Minister for Foreign Affairs, stressed: "This is the moment for multilateralism, not unilateralism," warning that unless countries grasped that chance, they would "face the consequences."
Today, "going it alone" was not an option, she said, adding that member states had the responsibility to act coherently and flexibly.
UNPRECEDENTED CHALLENGES AND THREATS
The motivations behind upholding multilateralism might be various, but the major one was attributed to the fact: no single country or region can solve the current traditional and untraditional challenges and threats facing the entire world.
The United Nations was created at the end of the Second World War as an international peacekeeping organization and a forum for resolving conflicts between nations. It replaced the ineffective League of Nations, which had failed to prevent the outbreak of the Second World War.
However, 72 years have passed, newly-emerged threats and challenges coupled with traditional ones continue to endanger the well-being or even the survival of human beings.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last Tuesday highlighted "nuclear peril" at the very beginning of annual general debate of the General Assembly, saying "today global anxieties about nuclear weapons are at the highest level since the end of the Cold War."
Extreme weather has dealt a hard blow to many countries. The Nature is taking full revenge on human beings as their ways of survival are not disciplined and eco-friendly.
In addition, global terrorism and extremism have become a headache for many countries. Cinemas, theaters, stadiums and other entertainment places are constantly under terror attacks, with innocent civilians killed in large numbers.
The European refugee crisis, the largest in scale since the Second World War, is sweeping across Europe, which has consequently triggered horrible social and economic problems and humanitarian crises.
In addition, some 700 million people worldwide are still struggling under the poverty line.
ONLY WAY OUT: JOINING HANDS
Facing all these global threats and challenges, worrying countries are fully aware that only by joining hands with the international community can they survive and live better.
The U.N. chief appealed for unity to "mend a broken world" last Tuesday at the opening session of the General Debate, noting "societies are fragmented. Political discourse is polarized. Trust within and among countries is being driven down by those who demonize and divide."
"We are a world in pieces. We need to be a world at peace," he said.
In a similar vein, Prime Minister Allen Michael Chastanet of Saint Lucia said multilateral discussions were needed to address inequality and other issues.
If states indulged their differences, inequity would persist as the driving force in the international system and people would struggle to survive, he cautioned, emphasizing that the global reality increasingly called for integrating economies, the environment and population.
Multilateralism, whether in the form of membership in international institutions, serves to bind the great power, discourage unilateralism, and give the small powers a voice and voting opportunities that they would not otherwise have.
Some island countries, in the face of climate change, have more urgent aspirations for international cooperation.
"As small island Pacific countries, we are no longer protected by our isolation," Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, the Prime Minister of Samoa, said, "Climate change, like other global challenges, cross borders seamlessly. It has no respect for sovereignty and does not discriminate countries between rich or poor."
Limiting the warming to 2 degrees Celsius requires the entire world to use clean energy, change their behavior and change their energy structure. Without joint efforts of the international community, no single country can do that. That is the reality.
U.S. President Donald Trump had long been a critic of the United Nations. However, he seemed to have changed subtly in his stance towards the U.N. after he found that almost all challenges facing the world today need joint efforts of the entire world. He is beginning to fine-tune his stance, although slightly noticed.
In his random talk with the U.N. chief during the lunch with world leaders and senior officials last Tuesday, Trump's remarks that "the potential of the United Nations is unlimited" had drawn wide attention. Observers believed Trump was finding a way to save face.
Trump, an obvious defender of unilateralism while preaching "America First", seemed to elbow towards multilateralism after meeting and talking with world leaders, who had brought to the U.N. tons of problems with them, which might make Trump think twice: Multilateralism might help.