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Multilateralism is the world’s insurance policy against existential threats

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The past month should have been one of global celebrations to mark the 75th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations.

Instead, this was a more muted and sombre commemoration, as Covid-19 continues to cause death and suffering across the world, with the normal rhythms of life disrupted at a formidable economic and social cost.

Nevertheless, The Elders believe this is a timely moment to honour the vision and values of the United Nations, and to ask probing questions about the future of multilateralism and how it can reshape the world after Covid-19.

On 26 June, the 75th anniversary of the signing of the UN Charter, we launched a new report on the threats facing multilateralism in an era of populist nationalism and a growing lack of trust in the institutions of global governance.

An effective, rules-based multilateral system is the world’s insurance policy against existential threats from pandemics to climate change and nuclear weapons, and we now know the awful cost of failing to provide comprehensive cover.

The hard months and years ahead will require determined and principled leadership. Multilateralism is not an option: it is the only path that can deliver a green, sustainable and equitable recovery.

For multilateralism to be effective, all states must fully apply and respect international law. Israel’s plans to annex large swathes of the West Bank constitute a flagrant breach of global norms, and threaten to impose an apartheid-style regime where two different sets of laws apply to different peoples living on the same land.

The Elders believe annexation would pose grave threats not only to the prospects of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – something we have supported ever since our founding by Nelson Mandela in 2007 – but also to the global consensus against recognising territory acquired by force.

It is in this spirit that we have written to European leaders including President Macron of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Johnson of the UK and EU Commission President von der Leyen, urging them to stand firm in their opposition to annexation.

We have also consulted closely with Palestinian and Israeli human rights defenders on the ground, together with our friends and partners at The Carter Center. These voices need to be protected and amplified more than ever in these challenging times.

Finally, this month marked the culmination of our “Finding Humanity” podcast collaboration. I am delighted that three of my fellow Elders have joined me in embracing this new platform when we sadly cannot meet in person. We have all been enriched and invigorated by our conversations with dynamic young activists, and look forward to continuing this dialogue in a special webinar that will take place on 17 July, Mandela Day. 

With best wishes and gratitude for your support,

Mary Robinson

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