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International community must unite, or be crushed by chaos, warns UN chief

The dangerous mix of high geo-political tensions and complex threats to peace, now complicated by COVID-19, demands innovative thinking on global governance and multilateralism, said António Guterres, briefing the Security Council via video link.  

The COVID-19 pandemic is a clear test of international cooperation, “a test we have essentially failed,” he added. 

“It has killed nearly one million people around the world, infected over 30 million, and remains largely out of control. This was the result of a lack of global preparedness, cooperation, unity and solidarity.” 

Need for networks 

With the 15 Council members, also joining remotely, Mr. Guterres called for “networked multilateralism” based on strong links and cooperation between global and regional organizations, international financial institutions, and other global alliances and bodies. 

The need is all the more pressing with worsening impact of the pandemic. “We have no choice … Either we come together in global institutions that are fit for purpose, or we will be crushed by divisiveness and chaos”, said the Secretary-General.  

Convened by Niger, in its capacity as the President of the Council for the month of September, the summit-level event discussed reforms to global governance in the context of peace and security, against the backdrop of the pandemic. The meeting was chaired by Mahamadou Issoufou, President of the Republic of the Niger. 

More effective government 

Alongside the responsibility of the UN to improve the effectiveness of global governance, Member States also have an equally important role in forging collective action to common challenges.  

Conflict, human rights abuses, humanitarian crises, and stalled progress on development, reinforce each other and are interlinked, while global response is more and more fragmented, Mr. Guterres warned. 

Emulate AU-UN partnership model 

The Secretary-General highlighted the partnership between the African Union (AU) and UN as a model to be emulated in relationships with other regional organizations, recalling the African Union-United Nations framework on peace and security on the continent. 

He called on the Security Council to deepen engagement by creating strong, formalized links and regular communications with the AU’s Peace and Security Council. 

Doing so would enable the effective division of labour, allowing for AU peace enforcement and counter-terrorism operations, backed by Security Council mandates, with predictable funding, guaranteed by assessed contributions. 

“That is the only way we will build the coalition we need to beat terrorism on the African continent and fulfil the African Union’s flagship initiative to Silence the Guns,” he said. 

UN Photo/Loey Felipe
UN Security Council members hold an open videoconference in connection with Maintenance of International Peace and Security: Global Governance post-COVID-19.

AU Commission urges Security-Council to act on its responsibility 

Also briefing the Security Council, Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, voiced concerns over the response, thus far, to the pandemic. 

Against the backdrop of COVID impacts – disrupted economies and industries, shuttered schools, hundreds of millions left vulnerable, and international diplomacy thrown severely off track – peace processes have become moribund and conflicts entrenched, he said. 

Operations of several peacekeeping missions in Africa have also been hit, with troops unable to deploy to the field. Armed groups and violent elements are exploiting the situation for their vested interests, pushing their tactical advantage and intensify criminal activities. 

The Sahel region, Lake Chad basin, Somalia and northern Mozambique provide stark illustrations, said Mr. Mahamat. 

Adapting global institutions and tools, to better respond to such threats, which do not respect borders, “is an urgent and pressing task”, he underscored, calling on the Security Council to exercise the responsibilities has been given under the UN Charter. 

“The pandemic has made it abundantly and painfully clear that humankind is one indivisible family … we need to show our determination and to pull together our intelligence and response to ensure a renaissance of multilateralism, build stands on our common values,” urged the AU Commission head. 

“The people of the world are hungry for effective global governance that can really deliver for them”, he said. 

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