73rd UNGA: Leaders defend multilateralism at global gathering

UN General Assembly

73rd UNGA - Leaders defend multilateralism at global gathering

At the UN, there’s one more day of debates to go at the 73rd General Assembly. World leaders have taken the podium to talk about a wide range of issues, but as CGTN’s Liling Tan explains, one recurring theme has stood out.

Looking back on a week of high-level speeches and side-level meetings, multilateralism – the principle of international cooperation to solve world problems – was the common refrain. Both the need for it, and the defense of it.

“At a time when our collective system is falling apart, sadly, it is most in demand,” French President Emmanuel Macron explained.

“Equality, mutual trust and win-win cooperation are the call of our times, whereas power politics and the rule of the jungle find no support,” according to Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

For a week, world leaders among the United Nations’ 193 member states took the rostrum to address their peers, and met behind the scenes to discuss global issues that require multilateral solutions. They fought to save the Iran nuclear deal, known as the JCPOA, and discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after the U.S. defied a majority of nations by declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel and moving the U.S. embassy there.

It appears that much of the defense of multilateralism was directed at the United States; less by a direct mention of America, than by the international pacts and agencies that the Trump administration has criticized or snubbed.

“We shall support those working for peace and humanity: UNESCO – the conscience if you’d like of the United Nations – the Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Court, UNRWA,” Macron promised.

“International trade is complimentary and win-win by nature,” Wang Yi added. “It should not be a zero-sum game in which one gains at the expense of the others. No one should be allowed to place their own interests above the interests of others.”

But as for U.S. President Donald Trump?

“America will always choose independence and cooperation over global governance, control and domination.”

Trump’s speech was heavy on the defense of sovereignty over multilateralism a position that many world leaders, diplomats and UN officials fear is at odds with the core tenet of an organization made up of nations that are supposed to be united in tackling global challenges.