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Multilateralism is essential in tackling our shared challenges

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In his keynote speech at the One Young World 2022 Summit in Manchester on 8 September 2022, Ban Ki-moon emphasises the essential value of multilateralism in tackling our shared challenges.


Read Ban Ki-moon's speech

Greetings, One Young World. While I could not be with you in person today, it is a pleasure to be addressing you virtually.  

In our interconnected world, the most urgent threats we face are global in nature. The colossal challenges of the climate crisis, pandemics, and the risk of nuclear conflict do not affect one nation alone. They transcend borders. And so, our solutions must do the same. 

Throughout my life, I have been a determined champion of multilateralism. In essence, this word represents collaboration, inclusion and solidarity. It asks us to look beyond state interests and recognise that we are all part of a shared, international community. Multilateralism, both within international institutions and civil society coalitions, has a long history of maintaining and defending peace, justice and human rights. To me, it has always been one of the greatest expressions and enablers of our shared humanity.  

During my time as Secretary General of the United Nations, I witnessed important victories for diplomacy and global justice when countries came together to work towards common goals. The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement and Sustainable Development Goals represent two historic, recent achievements. Both continue to direct critical policy decisions today.  

It is true that multilateralism is not always a story of success. In recent years, the rise of nationalism and authoritarianism has undermined effective decision-making, particularly at the UN Security Council. Conflicts remain unresolved from Ukraine to Syria, Yemen to Myanmar, climate change continues, and the coronavirus pandemic showed the limitations of states acting only in their own interests. 

In encouraging common responsibility, accountability and cooperation, multilateralism remains our greatest hope for averting catastrophe and safeguarding our collective future. This is in every person’s best interest. It is why securing a functioning and effective rules-based multilateral system must also be a priority for all nation states. 

In the face of ongoing and intersecting global concerns, we must ensure that all voices and all generations are represented within these systems. Young people have unique perspectives and insights, and I commend all the young leaders at the One Young World Summit here today.  

We must not give up on the multilateral frameworks that represent our greatest achievements, nor on the values enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Where necessary, we must enhance and reconfigure these frameworks to address our greatest contemporary threats. The energy and enthusiasm of youth is vital to this, and I call on all of you lead the defence of multilateralism for your generation.    

All of us are connected. We must remember that. We must stand in solidarity with those facing injustice in all its forms, and we must all step up to become true global citizens. In remembering our common humanity and working together, we can broaden and deepen multilateralism to create a more stable, fair and peaceful world for today and for all future generations.

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