July 2024 Monthly Forecast

Posted 30 June 2024
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Multilateral Cooperation in the Interest of a More Just, Democratic and Sustainable World Order

Expected Council Action

In July, the Security Council will hold a ministerial-level open debate on “Multilateral cooperation in the interest of a more just, democratic and sustainable work order”. This is one of the signature events of the Russian presidency. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to chair the meeting. No briefers are anticipated.

Key Recent Developments

The Security Council convened an open debate at the initiative of Russia during its April 2023 Council presidency on “Effective multilateralism through the defence of the principles of the UN Charter”. Secretary-General António Guterres briefed during the meeting, which was chaired by Lavrov. Guterres called multilateral cooperation “the beating heart of the United Nations”. He said that many of the successes of the UN system had resulted from multilateral cooperation, including, for example, preventive diplomacy, peacekeeping, disarmament and non-proliferation, and a worldwide humanitarian system coordinated by the world body. He warned, however, that the multilateral system was under significant stress, especially given the tensions among the major powers. He argued that global challenges such as climate change, the resistance to human rights and gender equality, terrorism, and others could be “solved only through respect for international law, adherence to global commitments and the adoption of appropriate frameworks of multilateral governance”.

The Council has discussed the UN Charter and the multilateral system on several other occasions in recent years. Previous meetings on the same or similar topics have included open debates on:

  • “New orientation for reformed multilateralism”, organised by India, on 14 December 2022;
  • “Upholding multilateralism and the UN-centred international system”, convened by China on 7 May 2021; and
  • “Upholding the UN Charter”, initiated by Viet Nam on 9 January 2020.

During the open debate hosted by Viet Nam, the Council adopted a presidential statement that “reaffirm[ed] its commitment to multilateralism and the central role of the United Nations” and “recognised the critical importance of the Charter to the maintenance of international peace and security and development of international law”.

The Group of Friends in Defense of the Charter of the United Nations released a communiqué in connection with the Security Council’s 12 June meeting on the human rights situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of North Korea (DPRK). In the communiqué, the Group of Friends rejected the holding of meetings that address country-specific human rights situations. It maintained that the promotion and protection of human rights are “strengthened on the basis of dialogue and cooperation”, declared that human rights “shall not be weaponized or used to either advance political agendas or to meddle into the internal affairs of other States”, and expressed concern that the Council is encroaching on “issues that fall beyond its mandate, as clearly defined in the…Charter of the United Nations”.

Current members of the Group of Friends include Algeria, Belarus, Bolivia, China, Cuba, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Mali, Nicaragua, the State of Palestine, the Russian Federation, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Syria, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe.  Initiated in July 2021, the Group believes that “multilateralism, which is at the core of the Charter, is currently under an unprecedented attack, which, in turn, threatens global peace and security”. It further asserts that “the world is seeing a growing resort to unilateralism, marked by isolationist and arbitrary actions, including the imposition of unilateral coercive measures or the withdrawal from landmark agreements and multilateral institutions, as well as by attempts to undermine critical efforts to tackle common and global challenges”.

Key Issues and Options

An overarching issue is how Council members can find common ground in resolving threats to international peace and security and reconciling different views of the world order and interpretations of the UN Charter. This is especially challenging given global tensions—which have been exacerbated by the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

Another key issue is how to strengthen multilateralism to meet current challenges and threats to international peace and security. An important factor in this respect is how the Council can most effectively cooperate with other UN bodies, member states, regional organisations, and civil society to address global challenges such as terrorism, climate change, cybersecurity, and transnational organised crime. Ideally, discussions in the Council meeting could feed into deliberations on the “Pact for the Future” currently being negotiated by member states and expected to be adopted in September.

More strategic use of certain UN Charter articles could enhance the Council’s ability to address issues of peace and security. For example, urging the Secretary-General to make more frequent and explicit use of his Article 99 powers might be a constructive step in the current difficult climate. A deeper and more systematic exploration of the scope of Chapter VIII, on regional arrangements, could also be timely.

In the future, the Council could also consider holding a private meeting with representatives of the General Assembly’s “Special Committee on the Charter of the UN and the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization” to discuss the committee’s activities and to consider potential ideas for strengthening the Council’s work.

Council Dynamics

Council members recognise the contributions of the multilateral system to the promotion of international peace and security and appreciate the value of the UN Charter as a cornerstone of international law. There are, however, contrasting views regarding which countries adhere to multilateral norms and the values of the Charter, and these are likely to be on display at this month’s meeting.

China and Russia have maintained that the “rules-based international order” that Western countries refer to is a façade for the selfish pursuit of their strategic interests. They maintain that the US and other Western states adhere to international law only when it is convenient and beneficial for them to do so. US support for the Israeli military operation in Gaza—which has been widely criticised within the UN system for violating international law—has fuelled such criticisms, which have resonated among the wider membership, particularly in the developing world.

At the same time, many member states continue to see Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine and the ongoing conflict there as a violation of a core tenet of the UN Charter, the non-use of force against the territorial integrity of states, as outlined in Article 2 (4). In this regard, 82 states and six organisations have supported the communiqué of the 15-16 June “Summit on Peace in Ukraine” in Bürgenstock, Switzerland—including Council members Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, the Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, the UK, and the US. The communiqué affirms that the “United Nations Charter, including the principles of respect for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of all states, can and will serve as a basis in achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine”.

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Security Council Presidential Statement
9 January 2020S/PRST/2020/1 This was a presidential statement adopted during the ministerial-level debate on “Maintenance of international peace and security: upholding the UN Charter”.
Security Council Meeting Records
24 April 2023S/PV.9308 This was a ministerial-level open debate on “Effective multilateralism through the defense of the principles of the UN Charter”.
14 December 2022S/PV.9220 This was an open debate titled “New Orientation for Reformed Multilateralism” under the agenda item “Maintenance of international peace and security”.
11 October 2022S/PV.9149 This was a debate on “Cooperation between the United Nations and regional and subregional organizations in maintaining international peace and security”.
11 May 2021S/2021/456 This letter transmitted the meeting record of the high-level videoconference briefing on “Maintenance of international peace and security: Upholding multilateralism and the United Nations-centred international system”, which was held on 7 May 2021.
9 January 2020S/PV.8699 This was a ministerial-level open debate on “Maintenance of international peace and security: upholding the UN Charter” where member states reflected on and reaffirmed their commitment to upholding Charter principles, particularly in the context of international peace and security. The list of speakers numbered 111 member states, which led to the open debate continuing over the following two days (Resumptions 1 and 2).

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