The United Nations has marked its 75th anniversary, celebrating the mantra that “multilateralism is not an option but a necessity” – even as the coronavirus pandemic underscores the fragility of international cooperation.
The anniversary kicked off on Monday at the global body’s annual UN General Assembly (UNGA), when normally leaders and representatives of nearly 200 countries gather en masse to sound off about the world’s problems and offer myriad solutions.
Instead, with COVID-19 still limiting global movement, just one representative from each of the 193 UN members will be allowed, and only someone already in the United States.
Everyone else will have to appear by videoconference, including at least 160 heads of state.
Here are the latest updates:
20:00 GMT – What value is there for the United States in the UN?
P.J. Crowley, a former assistant secretary of US state public affairs, said although the US has played a central role in the foundation of the United Nations, it remains to be seen whether the Trump admnistration’s disdain of it is a “temporary tangent” and will revert back to a more conventional foreign policy going forward.
“This is one of the primary differences between Democratic administrations that believe in multilaterism and Republican administrations that see multilaterism as a constraint,” Crowley told Al Jazeera from his home in Alexandria, Virginia.
“If we see a Biden administration, we are going to see a restoration of America’s traditional approach to the UN. But obviously the backdrop is significant contention in a relationship with Russia, and significant competition in a relationship with China.
So certainly in terms of a functioning Security Council – even if a Biden administration is more constructive in its approach – obviously these major power relations will play a significant role in how much the UN gets done going forward.”
19:00 GMT – Afghanistan faces multiple drivers of turmoil, says President Ghani
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has highlighted five “drivers of turmoil” his country is dealing with simultaneously.
These include the coronavirus pandemic, unconventional warfare, global terrorism, climate change and an unprecendented explosion of inequality.
“Though we are facing multiple drivers of turmoil, there’s a clear and urgent priority for us, and that is a ceasefire,” he said.
“I would like to take this opportunity to call on every member of the General Assembly and the P5 to help us achieve the end state of a sovereign, united and democratic Afghanistan at peace with itself in the region.”
“A democratically stable and prosperous Afghanistan of how our collective will can overcome the turmoil and uncertainty that defines our world today,” he added.
18:35 GMT – Venezuelan leader invites UN to monitor elections
Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro has invited the United Nations to monitor its upcoming national elections.
“We have invited the secretary-general of the United Nations to send a technical commission to accompany the electoral process for a new parliament, a new national assembly on December 6,” Maduro said in a recorded speech played at the UN headquarters.
“You can count on Venezuela,” he said. “We are for building that new world without empires, without hegemony over our peoples. The 21st century belongs to our peoples. Long live the United Nations system. And here’s to 75 years of our organisation.”
17:50 GMT – ‘We are responsible for one another’: European Council president
European Council President Charles Michel urged the international community to look into the future and imagine what the world will be like decades from now if it does not act to solve its myriad of problems.
“Will vast swathes of land really have become uninhabitable for the human race? Will the great forests be preserved? Will access to water be guaranteed, or will it be a source of conflict or even lead to wars?” said Michel in a speech marking the UN’s 75 anniversary.
“And above all, will the dignity of each human being, personal freedoms, and the fight against all forms of discrimination be weaker or more robust?”
He said ” intelligence and empathy” together among nations can be a force of positive change.
“It is with solemnity that today I renew the vow of multilateralism on behalf of the European Union… Our speeches will not be enough.”
17:30 GMT – Trump defiantly presses ‘UN’ sanctions on Iran
President Donald Trump said he was imposing sanctions on Iranians for violating a UN arms embargo and demanded enforcement by US allies, who roundly dispute he has any such authority.
Trump’s defiant move came on the very day that the United Nations was celebrating its 75th anniversary with the virtual summit full of calls for greater international cooperation.
The Trump administration said it was imposing sanctions on 27 individuals and entities under a UN resolution including Iran’s defence ministry, its Atomic Energy Organization, and Venezuela’s leftist leader Nicolas Maduro, whom Washington is trying to topple.
17:00 GMT – France’s Macron says foundations of UN ‘crumbling’
French President Emmanuel Macron has asserted the need for countries to work together again, citing climate change and battling the coronavirus pandemic as examples.
Macron lamented the state of the United Nations, saying: “Our shared home is in disarray. Our foundations are crumbling.”
“Wars of annexation, chemical weapons use, mass detention are all occurring with impunity,” he continued. “Our international system is held hostage by rivalries. It is being weakened by its inability to prosecute individuals responsible for these abuses.”
Al Jazeera’s James Bays said Macron has made multilaterism the centrepience of his foreign policy, and is “trying to get the world to work together again”.
LIVE: Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani delivers #UNGA address marking the 75th anniversary of the UN.
— Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) September 21, 2020
16:15 GMT – Qatar’s ruler reaffirms country’s commitment to multilateralism
In a recorded video message, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani has reiterated his country’s commitment to work with and support the UN in order to “achieve its desired goals”.
“We reaffirm Qatar’s steadfast position in supporting and embodying the principles and objectives of the United Nations charter,” Sheikh Tamim said.
“We stress the need to implement the political declaration adopted today by promoting multilateralism and preventive diplomacy, respecting the sovereignty of states and dealing with them on an equal footing, addressing resolutely the use of force in international relations … [and] finding solutions to protracted crises and conflicts based on international law.”
LIVE: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers #UNGA address marking the 75th anniversary of the UN.⁰⁰
— Al Jazeera News (@AJENews) September 21, 2020
16:00 GMT – Turkish president calls for Security Council reform
Turkey’s leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for an “equitably representative” UN Security Council (UNSC).
“In order to empower the UN system, we must first reform the Security Council,” Erdogan said, adding that the current structure that leaves the fate of seven billion people at the mercy of the five permanent members of the council is neither “fair nor sustainable”.
“We can’t overcome today’s challenges through structures designed for the needs of the previous century,” he added.
15:00 GMT – Trump to address UNGA on Tuesday
US President Donald Trump did not address the UN’s 75th-anniversary event via a pre-recorded video speech on Monday as expected.
Trump was listed as the first speaker among member states on the UN’s agenda for the event. Instead, the US acting deputy representative to the UN, Cherith Norman Chalet, spoke in the General Assembly Hall.
“For the Trump administration, this anniversary is an important moment to mark the many successes of the United Nations, but to do so with clear eyes and a renewed determination to see this important body serve its intended purpose,” she said.
Al Jazeera’s diplomatic correspondent James Bays said “eyebrows have been raised” at Trump’s lack of address.
“People are asking whether this was a deliberate snub or an indication of how important the US feels the UN is in its priority list,” he said, speaking from outside the UN headquarters in New York.
14:00 GMT – UN chief calls for for international cooperation
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for more international cooperation in the face of global challenges at an event marking the world body’s 75th anniversary.
“Today we have a surplus of multilateral challenges and a deficit of multilateral solutions,” Guterres said.
“Climate calamity looms; biodiversity is collapsing; poverty is again rising; hatred is spreading; geopolitical tensions are escalating … and the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare the world’s fragilities. We can only address them together.”