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Sep 15 2020
Address Three Challenges to Multilateralism
By Xue Lei

As the global pandemic continues to ravage the world, the United Nations on its seventy-fifth anniversary faces significant challenges. Even well before COVID-19, the UN’s global role was heavily constrained by a decreasing budget and increasing workload. Now it needs to meet the even more complicated challenges of geopolitical strategic competition, political and social division, and the reversal of global development. How the United Nations addresses these challenges may shape the trajectory of its future as well as that of multilateralism.

First, rising geopolitical tensions are disrupting the UN agenda. The world is experiencing unprecedented global power shifts. Yet the COVID-19 pandemic has fully exposed the harmful aspects of great power competition, leaving confrontation as the main theme, dominating all interactions between the major powers. At a multilateral level, the rivalry has gradually evolved into a duel between two political approaches that could result in crippled multilateral organizations, including the United Nations. 

Second, the Western world is awash in increasing political polarization and social cleavages. Political tribalism has become a significant factor in influencing the future direction of political institutions in developed countries. In the meantime, the age of disinformation and ever-increasing influence of social media has left truth and facts more colored by predesignated concepts and ideas. 

Third, progress on global development and poverty is declining. One of the long-lasting effects of the current global pandemic is the reversal of the work of national governments and international institutions, in particular the UN system, on global development and the reduction of poverty. Developing countries are beset by heavy losses in jobs, income, and economic opportunities. The traditional major industries in developing countries, such as textile, tourism, and handcrafts, are now met with heavy international headwinds because of shrinking overseas demand due to COVID-19. The dramatic decrease of the volume of remittances from recession-hit developed countries has further aggravated their economic woes.


Source of documents:The UN Turns Severnty Five, Council of Councils, Sep 14th