Upholding Multilateralism and Moving in the Right Direction of Human Progress
– Keynote Speech at the International Seminar on the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations
Wang Yi, State Councilor and Foreign Minister of the People’s Republic of China
Beijing, 1 September 2020
As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, it is highly relevant to have in-depth discussions under the theme “Strengthening Multilateralism for a Better Future”. I wish to congratulate you on the successful opening of the seminar and thank everyone for your participation and contribution.
The UN’s founding after the scourge of two world wars was a watershed moment in the contemporary era. The ensuing three quarters of a century has witnessed overall peace and stability, no new world wars and the mitigation of local conflicts. Most nations have come to realize that differences must be settled through dialogue and conflicts resolved through mediation.
The Millennium Development Goals and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development have re-energized the global development agenda. Billions of people are marching toward modernization and a large number of emerging markets and developing countries have moved into the fast lane of development and progress.
Under the auspices of the UN, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Declaration on the Right to Development were adopted. These milestone international human rights instruments underscored the importance of peace, development, cooperation and fairness for the promotion of human rights and contributed to the steady progress of the global human rights cause.
Looking back at history, you will agree with me that the United Nations deserves respect and a big thumbs-up. That being said, we cannot expect the Organization to be a panacea. It still faces a formidable journey ahead to meet the expectation of we the peoples.
Over the past 75 years, the UN has traveled an extraordinary course and forged ahead despite challenges. For the next 75 years, we call on all nations to make concerted efforts to safeguard multilateralism, stand on the right side of development and progress, and bring the work of the UN to a new level.
First, the central role of the UN should be upheld. As the most representative and authoritative inter-governmental organization, the UN shoulders the aspirations of the world for a better future. It has unique strengths and plays an irreplaceable role in world affairs.
In the face of increasingly complex and serious global challenges, no country can stand aloof or deal with them alone. Multilateralism is the only way forward. The UN should and can play a central role in the international system. The world is fraught with great challenges, but if we rally under the UN flag and pull together, there will be no problem that is too big to solve, and the world will embrace a brighter future.
Second, the purposes and principles of the UN Charter should be observed. The Charter is the linchpin of the UN and the cornerstone of contemporary international law and international relations. Past experience shows that adherence to the Charter brings tranquility while violation of it is a recipe for turbulence.
At the moment, the world is suffering headwinds against globalization and the rise of unilateralism and bullying. The United States, in particular, has walked out of a number of international organizations and agreements, undermined international law and the basic norms of international relations, and attempted to return the world to Cold War confrontation and conflict. This attempt to turn back the clock of history is doomed to fail.
The world is evolving, but the UN Charter is not outdated and must be faithfully observed. It is important to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity and oppose interference in internal affairs. We must seek peaceful settlements to disputes and oppose the threat or use of force. We must abide by international laws and rules, fulfill international obligations and reject unilateralism and bullying.
Third, peace and development should be pursued. Safeguarding world peace and promoting common development is the sacred mission and bounden duty of the UN. We should bring to bear the instrumental role of the UN and its Security Council in ending violence and maintaining peace, reject Cold War mentality and seek political settlement through dialogue and consultation.
The UN should continue to play a lead role in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and addressing climate change, advance the Decade of Action of the Sustainable Development Goals and the implementation of the Paris Agreement, and reinforce Member States’ efforts to achieve innovative, coordinated, green, open and inclusive development. More support and assistance should be given to developing countries to help them mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and eradicate extreme poverty as early as possible.
Fourth, win-win cooperation should be advocated. We need to take win-win cooperation as a universal principle and seek cooperation that delivers benefits to all. The outdated zero-sum mentality and winner-takes-all approach in state-to-state relations should be abandoned.
Some countries sought to monopolize the right to development. They attempt to rip off the development achievements of other countries, and squeeze the development space of developing countries. These moves which contravene the very spirit embodied by the UN will lead nowhere. The UN should be more democratic, effective and inclusive, where countries, regardless of their size, system and culture, work together and learn from one another as equals. It should not be turned into a wrestling ground between countries, especially between the major ones, in a zero-sum game or confrontation.
Fifth, the vision of building a community with a shared future for mankind should be promoted. At the summit meetings commemorating the 70th anniversary of the UN in 2015, President Xi Jinping expounded on China’s proposition on building a community with a shared future for mankind, which resonated well with other members of the international community.
To forge this community, the UN has an irreplaceable role to play. It should instill the sense that we all live in the same community and therefore should work together in solidarity and look out for one another in tackling risks and challenges. It should promote partnerships at the regional and global levels and envision a common goal of building an open, inclusive, clean and beautiful world that enjoys lasting peace, universal security and common prosperity.
The global pandemic of COVID-19 has compounded the once-in-a-century changes unfolding in our world. It has affected every aspect of our life and reminds us once again that the wellbeing and future of all countries are interconnected.
It is time we make a choice: choose solidarity over division, cooperation over confrontation, and sharing responsibilities over deflecting them to others.
Ultimately, humanity will prevail over the virus. The world may be changed because of the pandemic. Yet, peace and development are still the order of the day; cooperation and mutual benefit will remain the irreversible trend; and history will march forward despite all setbacks.