During the 76th session of the UN General Assembly this week, Chinese President Xi Jinping made an impassioned plea to the international community to improve global governance and commit to practicing “true multilateralism”.
This was not the first time that President Xi made the call. In recent times he has reiterated the call at every opportune moment. Recent events in Afghanistan are a stand-out example of how the ethos of multilateralism and global governance can be undermined.
History is littered with similar examples. Readily coming to mind is the 2003 invasion of Iraq by a US-led so-called Coalition of Willing, which blatantly ignored the UN-based consensus mechanism. The killing of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi ten years ago that triggered the present-day civil war is another example of the failure to practice true multilateralism.
I am picking up on President Xi’s theme in the light of its importance to the maintenance of global peace through cooperation.
When powerful regimes ignore the UN-based international system that serves as a universal glue to peaceful coexistence, the results can only be what we have come to witness: shambolic imposition of foreign norms and standards upon nations that couldn’t give a damn about alien traditions and cultures, no matter how neatly they may be packaged as democracy and civilization. Again,
Afghanistan serves as a fresh example of imperial agenda gone horribly wrong. Twenty years after the ousting of the Taliban through a US invasion whose main mission was to go after Osama bin Laden and ISIS in reaction to the twin tower bombings of 9/11 in New York, the same Taliban has reclaimed power and authority through the barrel of a gun.
Russian President Vladimir Putin told a recent BRICS summit that the shambles and ruins left behind in Afghanistan by a hurried and chaotic withdrawal of the US and NATO forces have suddenly become a concern for the entire international community to fix a mess that they did not create.
But back to President Xi’s address to the UN General Assembly: “In the world,” he said, “there is only one international system, i.e. the international system with the United Nations at its core. There is one international order,” he continued, “that is the international order underpinned by international law.”
President Xi also told the delegates, “There is only one set of rules, that is the basic norms governing international relations underpinned by the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. Therefore only the UN, and no one else – no matter how powerful, should hold high the banner of true multilateralism, ” said President Xi.
On September 17, 2021, whilst addressing the Council of Heads of State of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, President Xi also emphasised the importance of multilateralism as enshrined in the UN Charter. He said China stood ready to oppose “actions that undermine the international order and cause confrontation and division by claiming to use so-called rules.”
President Xi explained, “We need to boost mutually beneficial cooperation, remove trade, investment and technology barriers, and promote inclusive development that delivers benefits to all.”
And speaking during the 13th BRICS summit in early September, President Xi continued on his international cooperation message when he told Heads of State.
“We need to promote the practice of true multilateralism, adhere to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, and safeguard the UN-centred international system and the international order underpinned by international law.”
Addressing the plenary session of the sixth Eastern Economic Forum via a video link on September 3, 2021, President Xi said, “We need to offer each other help to overcome the pandemic challenge. China is ready to work with all parties to uphold true multilateralism, advocate trust and harmony, promote win-win cooperation, and march with firm steps toward the goal of building a [global] community with a shared future for mankind.”
The UN General Assembly has taken place amid a growing atmosphere of mistrust and open hostilities. It is vitally important, therefore, that voices of authority such as President Xi’s are seen to contribute towards global peace and harmony. International vaccine inequality often referred to in other quarters as vaccine apartheid, remains a major cause of concern as it separates wealthy nations from their poorer counterparts.
Social sciences teach us that where there is inequality in systems and services, there can be no peace between the haves and the have-nots.
The UN is in desperate need to reform its Security Council in particular, where only five countries are permanent members and the rest of the nations are tossed in and out on an annual basis.
Gross evidence of the unjust composition of the Security Council is the fact that the five permanent members – US, Russia, France, UK and China each possess veto powers that can lawfully nullify any resolution regardless of the majority vote.
Luckily, BRICS members China and Russia have publicly stated their support for the reformation of the Security Council and hopefully, the rest of the Western permanent members will soon opt for reforms too.
An unequal world order can be no good for any one country or a particular bloc of nations no matter how powerful and influential they may be. Instead, inequality breeds contempt and harbours permanent possibilities of violence and disruption.
In the 21st century, no one country should side-step the authority of the UN in pursuit of its sectarian foreign policy objectives, such as drone attacks on innocent communities caught in the middle of wars they never caused.
The recent killing of ten innocent family members in Kabul, Afghanistan, by a US drone attack is a case in point for military power gone awry.
The world had thought that the replacement of former President Donald Trump with Democrat and career politician President Joe Biden would reduce tension in the international community. But, alas! The Biden administration has adopted most of the Trump foreign policy persuasions that are based on America First, just a tweak from Trump’s policy of “Make America Great Again”.
At the UN, nations from various continents need to start adopting binding resolutions to demand changes in the structure of the UN Security Council.
In the meantime, powerful nations such as Russia and China must continue to speak through voices such as that of President Xi about the importance of “true multilateralism” and the essence of global cooperation.
Hopefully, just hopefully, powerful regimes in the so-called first world will begin to appreciate that a diverse international order can live in peace and harmony without weaker economies being lectured on democracy and civilization by the self-righteous Western demi-gods.