| | Opinion

The imperative of a new multilateralism – enhanced by science

You don’t need me to tell you that we are living in a really troubled world. 

Covid-19 has indeed revealed, and in many cases reinforced,  the dramatic failures of our societies and has highlighted in very stark ways the stress that multilateralism is now under, and the very serious consequences that abandoning a collective management of the affairs of our planet is having, and will have, on people across the globe.

And yet – despite all of this – I want to sound a counter-note of optimism.

Before the pandemic struck, I often asked people the following question: If you could choose any moment in history in which to be born, and you did not know whether you were going to be male or female, which country you were going to be from, or what your status would be, which time would you choose?

You would have a hard time justifying choosing anything other than the present. Because if you chose today, you would be less likely to be living in poverty; less likely to be illiterate; less likely to confront intolerance and oppression; and less likely to be killed in a war than at any other time in human history.

All of this progress is a relatively recent phenomenon that coincided with the establishment of a multilateral, global structure with the United Nations and its partners at its heart.

It is multilateral action that diminished poverty; that defeated diseases; that increased educational levels; that defused conflicts; that brought the world together; that gave us levels of peace, rights and well-being never experienced before by humankind.

But now, as we see entire regions set back years in a matter of a few months by the pandemic; as millions of people may be pushed into extreme poverty – does all of that still hold true?

I am convinced that it does. If anything, Covid-19 reinforces the imperative need for a renewed and more effective multilateralism. The temporary failure of our governance systems we are living right now lies in the absence of multilateral actions defined by an increase in nationalistic, inward-looking, defensive postures. The operative word here is temporary. Because we simply have no choice but to revert to international cooperation and solidarity if we want to ensure a healthy future for our planet.

We have the tools, resources and instruments we need to overcome the current massive existential challenges. We just need to strengthen our collective will.

With the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, our global and common roadmap, we have an enduring and unifying vision; a framework to guide our decisions and actions as we look to respond, recover and move forward.

From the awakening that this crisis is triggering, we have a chance, and a collective responsibility, to reinvent and create an inclusive, networked, more collaborative and effective multilateralism in which everyone can and must play an active part.

And International Geneva is at the heart of this crucial undertaking. It is the operational center of the international system. The extraordinary number of diverse actors in this vibrant ecosystem, covering all aspects of human activity, are already providing the proof-of-concept for a more integrated, de-siloed, cooperative way of working, with greatly improved impact where it counts – on the ground, in people’s lives everywhere, in the communities that need help the most, and on the big existential challenges of our time.

The community of scientists spanning our planet increasingly stand out for their ability and desire to collaborate across geographical and political divides. This has clearly come to light as we witness collective approaches to dealing with climate change and the current massive health crisis.

The importance of science and technology in how we manage the problems of our world and, more importantly, in how we shape our future, is becoming more evident than ever.  GESDA, the Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator, was created to help ensure that the technologies of tomorrow are shaped to maximise their benefits to humanity and, in doing so, to provide tangible proof that truly collaborative, multilateral approaches to problem-solving have the best chances of success.

The difference between the SDGs slipping out of reach or becoming a tangible and impactful reality – that difference is all of us - by living the values and objectives of the United Nations every day, by staying actively engaged, by spreading the word, and by taking responsibility.

Together – and only together! – can we turn these existential challenges around and ensure that we leave no one behind, come out of this stronger and make our world a better and more sustainable place for our children.

In other words: a world that is much less troubled!

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