President Emil Constantinescu and Dr Oana Brânda, the project manager for the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization’s ongoing project The world post-COVID-19: a humanist vision for a sustainable future, alongside a series of other former heads of state and government including Bertie Ahern, Taoiseach of Ireland (1997-2008), Igor Luksic, President of Croatia (2010-2015), Igor Luksic, President of Montenegro (2010-2012) or Rui Duarte de Barros, Prime Minister of Guinea Bissau (2012-2014), took part in a round-table discussion that tackled The Role of Multilateralism in our 21st Century Society, organized by India’s International Movement to Unite Nations, the largest student-run NGO in the world numbering over 25.000 members. The event was a preamble to a broader Model UN session to be held the following day, where students would play out the roles of both UN Member States as well as the roles of the speakers of the round-table discussions held the previous day. In this way, the multiple perspectives and opinions shared by the former heads of state and government in attendance would not only underpin the later discussions between the “UN member states”, but also inform and positively influence the results of the “plenary” debates and the “resolutions” adopted therefrom.
2020’s many challenges have all but confirmed the fact that, when faced with serious crises, the majority of the world’s population rely on answers and firm solutions on the part of their own regional or national governments. In this way, the COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new age in which the rise of political and economic isolationism coupled with a push towards deglobalisation, positions embraced by ever more political actors and accepted by ever broader swathes of the populace, critically endanger the very existence of the multilateral international structures which have underpinned global sociopolitical security since shortly after World War II.
As the former Irish Taoiseach showed, the most critical problems mankind is faced with at this moment – climate change, human rights, access to essential services, food, water and hygiene – are also, in reality, the great problems facing future generations as well. They will likewise prove impossible to resolve on an individual basis, without international cooperation and goodwill. President Josipovic, in turn, highlighted that multilateralism represents not only a series of international treaties, but also a particular philosophical position. He argued that it is only on the basis of solid philosophical proofs that we will be able to both reform our existing international institutions and stimulate the interest of nation-states to engage in multilateral agreements and projects with a mutual and assured confidence. Unfortunately, instead of strengthening the capacity of global institutions to present a unified front against broad systemic shocks such as the coronavirus, the current pandemic forces us to also face down the immediate danger of carelessly destroying the most fundamental shared characteristic the virus itself helped us realize: the reality of our own common and shared humanity, coupled with the potential of multilateral approaches that have allowed us to develop a vaccine in a mere few months, instead of several years.
There is a tendency to overlook the fact that almost half of the current population of the world has not yet reached 24 years of age; moreover, official statistics also show that an overwhelming proportion of the above cohort – a staggering 89.7% - live in underdeveloped or developing nations. In presenting these astonishing figures, President Luksic aimed to highlight that it is only by way of a multilateral outlook predicated on supporting and reforming international institutions such as the United Nations or the World Health Organization could such developing countries safeguard the protection of their citizens and the promotion of their interests at a global level. In this context, the younger generations have an obligation to pressure local, national and regional decision-makers to promote and support efficient and effective policy proposals, drafted in accordance with the needs of tomorrow’s young.
The Prime Minister of Guinea-Bissau, Rui Duerte, continued this portrait of developing countries from an African perspective, drawing attention to the danger and imbalance inherent in the fact that, until present, no developing African nation has received any doses of anti-COVID vaccines whatsoever.
In turn, President Constantinescu resonated with the opinions of the other heads of state and government in attendance, arguing and exemplifying the reality that it is only through multilateralism that we can give a voice to those too small or insignificant to matter, but whose contributions can nevertheless prove of substantial aid in practical terms. He also highlighted the fact that, even though international organizations such as the UN or WHO assuredly have their problems and can sometimes be found lacking, they nevertheless helped us all harmonize our operational systems at the global level, aiding us correlate our strategies and identify and eliminate specific geopolitical posturing that cal lead tot he escalation or resumption of conflict by focusing our efforts on the creation of a world at peace. Consequently, there is at present a clear need for multilateralism in order to be able to understand one another, to be able to communicate more efficiently and to ensure that we are all working towards the similar and interwoven aims of peace and harmony.