A personal view on the United Nations from the current multilateralism

Welcome Remarks UPMUNC Conference 2019
Dr. Juan Carlos Sainz-Borgo Dean University for Peace
San Jose, March 20, 2019.

Welcome everybody for this new gathering of the UPMUNC 2019.

This is an academic exercise that try to emulate the complexity of the work within the United Nations. During these three days you will exercise the roles of the United Nations staff, countries and specialized agencies of the system. You will receive instruction and the organizing team will try to build the environment to prepare you to work into the United Nations system in the future.

But I am sure that after these three days you will start to suspect that the reality is much more complex than the theoretical models that you are going to develop.

The United Nations is more than 193 countries that met at the General Assembly; it is more than a specialized bureaucracy where all type of professionals trying to achieve their mandates; it is more than open spaces for the civil society to work on a global view. 

Perhaps, today the best way to understand the United Nations is through the work of the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodical Review. For these monitoring process within the human rights sphere, the sovereign countries, the UN staff and the civil society presents their particular views with the only objectives to evaluate the advance of a particular country in relation to their commitment into the Human Rights.

These evaluations help to understand that the United Nations is not a neutral organization. It is a community of countries with a mandate from the United Nations Charter:

To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;” (Art. 1 UN)

The previous objectives drafted on the United Nations Charter draw the bases of multilateralism, as the methodology to work together at the international arena. Keohane defines multilateralism in a quantitative approach, as something larger than bilateralism. However, Ruggie[1]suggests that multilateralism needs the following three features: indivisibility, generalized organizing principles, and diffuse reciprocity. Indivisibility requires multilateralism to be based around socially constructed public good[2]. Generalized organizing principles and diffuse reciprocity require multilateralism to be opposed to discrimination and preferential bilateralism.

Today the multilateralism as a way to address problem is in crisis. Secretary general Antonio Guterres referred on Davos World Economyc Forum last January, the following:  

“I would say we are in a world in which global challenges are more and more integrated, and the responses are more and more fragmented, and if this is not reversed, it's a recipe for disaster”.[3]

But, we dot listen it and, in many cases, we do not believe it

Let´s take the most advance form of multilateralism today: The European Union. The idea of the Brexit, or in a more historical perspective, the intricate denunciation of the treaty of the European Union by a precarious exercise of direct democracy on a referendum is untying the worst demons of Europe. One example, on January 19 2019, a bomb exploded on Londonderry, in Northern Ireland, as a effect of the new – or perhaps old order that could be imposed on the area as a result of the Brexit.  The United Kingdom is not yet out of the European Union and the traditional tension are already coming back, even with the use of force.

As explained by the former press Secretary of Prime Minister David Cameron in reference to the Brexit, “we struggled to communicate a complex truth in the face of simple lies”.

When we read, listen of participate on discussion about the problems, complexities or challenging faces by the Organization of United Nations, it is important to remember that the organization in 70 years had survive where other fails: It has stand for peace when war ruined other examples of multilateralism. 

The United Nations is the most complex example of contemporary diplomacy and you will enjoy a little sample of it, today, here. Enjoy and good luck.

[1]Ruggie, J. G. (1992). Multilateralism: The anatomy of an institution. International Organization46(3), 561–598.
[2]Ruggie, J. G. (Ed.). (1993). Multilateralism matters: The theory and praxis on an international form. New York: Columbia University Press. P. 11.
[3]António Guterres: Read the UN Secretary-General’s Davos speech in full.Available: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/01/these-are-the-global-priorities-and-risks-for-the-future-according-to-antonio-guterres/