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Strengthening Multilateralism and the Role of the United Nations

Statement by H.E. Archbishop Bernardito Auza
Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See

Security Council, Open Debate on
Strengthening Multilateralism and the Role of the United Nations

New York, 9 November 2018



Mr. President,

The Holy See thanks the Presidency of the People’s Republic of China for convening this open debate on the important and timely topic of multilateralism and the role of the United Nations.

Today this theme has acquired new urgency as the international community is suffering from what the Secretary-General has defined a “Trust Deficit Disorder.”[1] People are losing faith in political establishments within their own countries. Unilateral foreign policies backed by economic and military might are undermining trust between nations. There is a weakening in multilateral trust, seen, for example, in how the disarmament agenda is experiencing a paralysis, as well as other worrisome developments in the multilateral negotiating bodies.

The Holy See believes that multilateralism cannot be grounded in a false sense of security, like the threat of mutual destruction or annihilation, or on simply maintaining a balance of power. A healthy, universally beneficial multilateralism is built on justice, integral human development, respect for fundamental human rights, care for our planet, the participation of all in public life, trust between peoples, the support of institutions that promote peace, access to education and health care and solidarity and dialogue. In this regard, the recent High-level Dialogue of the Presidents of the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council and the Security Council, was an important step toward renewing the commitment of the United Nations to multilateralism, not only in terms of its multiple actors, but also for its multi-faceted approach to the challenges of our time. This is a confirmation of the crucial role that the United Nations can and should play in order to rebuild trust among its members.

Mr. President,

In considering multilateralism, we have before us two opposing perspectives: the first is based on the conviction that conflicts can be resolved through a determined and broad based willingness to negotiate effectively in light of the ways and wisdom of law; the second perspective maintains that, in the face of threats to peace and security, force is more efficacious and direct. The latter, however, seriously compromises international cooperation rather than enhancing it, leading inexorably to negative repercussions on multilateralism. One of the outcomes emerging from this Open Debate must be, therefore, a clear message in favor of the force of law rather than the law of force.

Interdependence among nations and the risks of reciprocal destruction require renewed emphasis on multilateralism, which, rather than placing excessive importance on force or practicing selective treaty enforcement, demands all the States and individuals to enforce decisively the laws and procedures that have been established to mitigate and eliminate threats.

Aware of the gravity of the present situation, in which law must be chosen to prevail over force, every member of the international community must be animated by a profound sense of responsibility. The most effective way to secure compliance with commitments cannot be isolationism and protectionism, but rather a clear willingness on behalf of everyone and of all States to cooperate in a genuine spirit of multilateralism.

Mr. President,

Besides guaranteeing peace and security, the noble vocation of the United Nations as the preeminent multilateral institution consists in promoting integral development and defending human rights. With the 2030 Agenda, the international community committed itself to end poverty in all its forms and dimensions and pledged that no one will be left behind. It did so based on an approach that recognizes the centrality of the human person. Integral human development and the full exercise of human dignity, however, cannot be imposed, but rather must be allowed to flourish for each individual and for every nation in relation with others. We must reaffirm the common conviction that everything is interconnected and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationship with nature should be reflected in fraternity and fairness among nations.[2] We cannot rebuild broken trust unless we begin to walk together in solidarity with our less fortunate brothers and sisters and so help free them from oppressive poverty and enable them to become dignified agents of their own destiny.

This common vision must draw strength from a renewed understanding of multilateralism, founded on the idea of the international community as a “family of nations” committed to pursuing the good of all. It requires the exercise of solidarity on the part of Governments, international organizations, and all men and women. Its strong foundation is the collective and shared responsibility for the common good and for the development of those who are poorest, so that every human being may truly feel that they are a member of the global family.

Thank you, Mr. President.


1. António Guterres, Address to the General Assembly, 25 September 2018.
2. Pope Francis, Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 70.