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International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace

In Being a World Citizen, Conflict Resolution, Cultural Bridges, NGOs, The Search for Peace, Track II, United Nations, World Law on April 26, 2021 at 7:40 PM

By René Wadlow

April 24, International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace was established by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and first observed on April 24, 2019. The resolution establishing the Day is in part a reaction to the “America First, America First” cry of the U. S. President, Donald Trump, but other states are also following narrow nationalistic policies and economic protectionism. The Day stresses the use of multilateral decision-making in achieving the peaceful resolution of conflicts. Yet as the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, said, “Multilateralism is not only a matter of confronting shared threats, it is about seizing common opportunities.”

One hour after Trygve Lie arrived in New York as the first UN Secretary-General in March 1946, the Ambassador of Iran handed him the complaint of his country against the presence of Soviet troops in northern Iran. From that moment on, the UN has lived with constant conflict-resolution tasks to be accomplished. The isolated diplomatic conference of the past, like the Congress of Vienna in 1815 after the Napoleonic wars has been replaced by an organization continually at work on all its manifold problems. If the world is to move forward to a true world society, this can be done only through an organization such as the UN which is based on universality, continuity, and comprehensiveness.

Europe after the Congress of Vienna in 1815

Today’s world society evolved from an earlier international structure based on states and their respective goals, often termed “the national interest”. This older system was based on the idea that there is an inevitable conflict among social groups: the class struggle for the Marxists, the balance of power for the Nationalists. Thus, negotiations among government representatives are a structured way of mitigating conflicts but not a way of moving beyond conflict.

However, in the UN there is a structural tension between national sovereignty and effective international organization. In the measure that an international organization is effective, it is bound to impair the freedom of action of its members, and in the measure that the member states assert their freedom of action, they impair the effectiveness of the international organization. The UN Charter itself testifies to that unresolved tension by stressing on the one hand the “sovereign equality” of all member states and, on the other, assigning to the permanent five members of the Security Council a privileged position.

The UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in session

Nonetheless, what was not foreseen in 1945 when the UN Charter was drafted was the increasing international role of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). “We the Peoples” in whose name the UN Charter is established, are present in the activities of the UN through NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council. NGOs have played a crucial role in awareness-building and in the creation of new programs in the fields of population, refugees and migrants, women and children, human rights, and food. Now, there is a strong emphasis on the consequences of climate change as the issue has moved beyond the reports of climate experts to broad and strong NGO actions.

This increase in the UN related nongovernmental action arises out of the work and ideas of many people active in social movements: spiritual, ecological, human potential, feminist, and human rights. Many individuals saw that their activities had a world dimension, and that the UN and such Specialized Agencies as UNESCO provided avenues for action. Thus, as we mark the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, we recognize that there is the growth, worldwide, of a new spirit which is inclusive, creative, and thus life-transforming.

Prof. René Wadlow is President of the Association of World Citizens.

  1. […] Association of World Citizens President René Wadlow, marking the United Nations International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, writes, “In the UN there is a structural tension between national sovereignty and effective international organization. In the measure that an international organization is effective, it is bound to impair the freedom of action of its members, and in the measure that the member states assert their freedom of action, they impair the effectiveness of the international organization.” Read full article […]

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