UN’s retreat from multilateralism

GS 2- INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS: Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests.

Introduction The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization that aims to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations, achieve international cooperation and a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations


Contemporary News:

The United Nations commemorated its 75th anniversary on September 21, 2020 by adopting a Declaration.

  • witnessing a retreat from multilateralism.
  • also faces an unprecedented pandemic.
  • Secretary-General called the pandemic “the fifth horseman”.
  • also brought the deepest recession,the world has seen since the 1930s.
  • made it more difficult to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

Challenge to multilateralism:

  • The U.S. is not alone in withdrawing from multilateralism.
  • Brexit has shown that nationalism remains strong in Europe.
  • China has stepped in to take advantage of West’s retreat from multilateralism.
  • The European Union and U.S sanctions against Russia have driven it closer to China.
  • The rift between the permanent members of the Security Council has already started affecting the work of the UN Security Council.


The speeches at the UN General Assembly brought out the clashing perspectives of the U.S. and China.

  • Trump:-“America First” in his speech, and suggested that others too should put their countries first.
  • highlighted China’s culpability in the spread of the pandemic.
    • China had banned internal flights but allowed international flights from Wuhan to continue leads to spread of COVID-19.
    • World Health Organization also failed to provide early warnings.
  • President Xi’s speech:- A role on the world stage is not an embrace of the idea of multilateralism.
  • sought to project the fight against COVID-19
    • matter of collective responsibility of the international community.
    • China will honour its commitment to provide $2 billion assistance to the developing countries over two years.
  • French President Macron :-the U.S, which created the international system as we know today, is no longer willing to be its “guarantor of last resort”.
  • pointed out that while the U.S. is withdrawing, the world faces China’s projection beyond its frontiers.
    • highlighted problems posed by Turkey’s intervention in Syria, Libya, and the Eastern Mediterranean.(Breach of International law)
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a detailed reference to the Jammu and Kashmir issue.
  • Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan, in his speech made an extensive reference to Jammu and Kashmir.
    • country has slid to the 134th rank in the UN SDG index, the lowest for any country in South Asia.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi Speech:focused on UN reforms and India’s contribution to UN Peacekeeping.
  • need to support reform to expand the permanent members’ category of the Security Council.
  • also to revitalise the role of the General Assembly.

World Leaders on Climate change:

  • Trump mentioned that 
    • China’s emissions are nearly twice of those of the U.S.
    • its withdrawal from the Paris Agreement.
    • U.S. has reduced its carbon emissions by more than any country in the world.
  • President Xi said that after peaking emissions by 2030, China will achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.
  • President Macron EU agree on a target of achieving carbon neutrality by 2050.

Achievements by the UN:UN Secretary-General’s report

  • Over 40 UN political missions and peacekeeping operations engage 95,000 troops, police, and civil personnel.
  • The UN peacekeeping budget, a little over $8 billion, is a small fraction of the $1.9 trillion military expenditure governments made in 2019.
  • outstanding assessed contribution of $1.7 billion for peacekeeping activities by the end of the financial year.
  • outstanding $711 million in the assessed contribution for the general budget.
  • Most of the humanitarian assistance, developmental work, and budgets of the specialised agencies are based on voluntary contributions.
  • The UN provides ‘public goods’ in terms of peace and development often in remote parts of the world.


  • It suffers from a paucity of resources.
  • There are calls for increasing public-private partnerships.
  • Not a satisfactory arrangement.
  • There may not be enough appetite on the part of corporations- remains an inter-governmental body.
  • Narendra Modi called for reform of its
    • outdated structures.
    • absence of comprehensive changes.
    • the world body today faces a crisis of confidence.
    • principal organ
    • the Security Council
    • rules-based international order
    • contributing to peacekeeping through UN forces.


Declaration passed by all member countries this week pledges to “upgrade the United Nations” with a commitment to “instil new life in the discussions on the reform of the Security Council”.

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