UN Charter turns 75: multilateralism in the crisis?

Seventy-five years ago today, on 26 June 1945, 3000 delegates from 50 countries signed the Charter of the United Nations in San Francisco. Commentators take stock of the UN's success and examine the role of international cooperation in today's politics.

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The Economist (GB) /

More important than ever

The UN has proven to be a stable and effective institution, The Economist writes:

“The UN has proved durable. Its membership has grown to 193 through decolonisation and the break-up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia. It has moved into peacekeeping and humanitarian relief. There has been no new world war. ... The UN has had dark moments, such as the genocide in Srebrenica, and no shortage of scandals. Lately, critics accuse it of weakness on human rights. Yet global challenges, from pandemics to climate change and (still) security, make it as relevant as ever. As its most revered secretary-general, Dag Hammarskjold, said: 'The UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell.'”

Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

One dilemma remains

The Süddeutsche Zeitung also says the UN has on the whole done a good job:

“The UN may not be the most effective body in the world - in ideal terms, however, it's the most important association on the planet. ... Secretary General António Guterres is right when he says it has achieved its main goal: to prevent a third world war, especially a global nuclear conflict. And he's also right when he says the organisation needs to be reformed and modernised. This anniversary provides a good opportunity to make a start on this. But there is one fundamental problem that cannot be solved: the duality between the claims of the great powers, especially China, Russia and the United States, all permanent members of the Security Council, and the idea of equality for all countries. This problem will presumably also shape the next 75 years of the UN.”

De Standaard (BE) /

A dangerous power vacuum

The US turning its back on international organisations is a worrying trend, Jan Wouters, a professor of international law laments in De Standaard:

“China is eagerly stepping in to fill the vacuum in the UN system. It recently became the second largest donator to the UN and UN peacekeeping operations (after the United States). ... One must ask, however, if Chinese dominance is good for the United Nations, especially when it comes to human rights and democracy. ... Ideally, Europe should take the lead in the United Nations. But the 27 member states, including our country, are divided and each of them is clinging to its own seat. The UN remains above all a club of and for nation states, which makes it difficult for the EU to play a major role.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Europe wants joint action

Although there is generally less willingness for international cooperation, there are some hopeful signs, Le Temps notes:

“Multilateralism is in crisis, sabotaged by a repulsive populism, by a worrying nationalist isolation and increasingly impossible budgetary constraints. The rivalry between China and the US is only exacerbating the situation and could paralyse the UN. It is encouraging, however, to see France and Germany, and other countries in their wake, join forces within the Alliance for Multilateralism and reaffirm the need for international cooperation. By supporting the UN while at the same time calling on it to reform, Europe must act with its own values as a bridge between the United States and China in the service of democracy.”