Delivered By: Her Excellency Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Youth
At the outset, I would like to thank India for organising this Open Debate, and I am grateful to the Secretary-General, Mr. António Guterres, and the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Csaba Körösi for their briefings. Allow me to also congratulate you and the Indian Mission on a very successful eighth term on the Security Council. Your voice in this Chamber is necessary, and the United Arab Emirates reiterates its endorsement of India’s bid for permanent membership of a reformed Security Council.
Since 1945, the multilateral system, anchored in the United Nations and based on international law, has evolved into a large and complex architecture. To multilateralism’s great credit, our institutions and responses have adapted and expanded over time to address humanity’s emerging needs.
Yet any survey of the global landscape reveals the widening gap between the aspirations of multilateralism and contemporary reality. To begin addressing that disconnect, reform must adapt the multilateral system to three fundamental dynamics:
First, the Global South is severely disadvantaged in multilateral governance. That is particularly stark here in the most consequential UN organ for maintaining international peace and security.
The Security Council’s structure is not reflective of geopolitical reality or the international community’s diversity. As a result, the Arab world and Africa, the regions with the most at stake in the Council’s agenda, are still disenfranchised in both categories of membership.
The same applies to the Bretton Woods Institutions, where an outdated formula to determine voting shares preserves a deeply unrepresentative governance structure, creating a situation where the developing world’s two largest economies are profoundly underrepresented.
Second, rising geopolitical tensions threaten cooperation on pressing global challenges. Inherent in the founding vision of the Council is a notion that pervades the entire multilateral system: regular interaction – and for the major powers, a privileged position – would incentivise peaceful and sustained international cooperation.
However, escalating polarisation is increasingly disrupting critical multilateral processes. Here in the Council, for example, consensus is becoming more difficult around issues that usually produce unanimity, such as vital mandate renewals for peace operations.
Likewise, coordination within international financial institutions is suffering, including with regards to multilateral action on the USD 2.5 trillion debt crisis looming over the Global South.
Third, middle powers, developing countries, and smaller states are increasingly stepping up to ensure continued multilateral dialogue and progress. That was evident in the G20 summit in Bali, Türkiye’s work with the Secretary-General on the Black Sea Grain Initiative, and at COP27 in Egypt, particularly with the historic inclusion of loss and damage as an agenda item.
Similarly, in recent years, elected members of this body have assumed greater responsibility for drafting and negotiating outcome documents. That has helped break deadlock and produced more inclusive and responsive texts and some landmark Council decisions. As the UAE minister responsible for our efforts on the protection of cultural heritage in conflict, I am especially grateful to Italy for its partnership with France on resolution 2347.
The multilateral system is an extraordinary achievement. When the Nobel Committee awarded Kofi Annan and the UN the Peace Prize in 2001, it explained the delay by confessing: “the UN could have won the award so often that in the end, it never did.” In many parts of the world, it has restored peace, rebuilt societies, eradicated disease, and fought hunger.
That is only part of what we lose by not committing to meaningful change. Invariably, the starting point for reform is equitable representation in decision-making and norm-setting. But it is just a starting point.
Beyond that, multilateralism must adapt to a world where nonstate actors influence global processes. Climate change, the pandemic, food insecurity, and the debt crisis all underscore the need for more public-private partnership.
Likewise, civil society organisations reinforce multilateral action around the world with vital work. For example, in Mosul, where the UAE is partnering with UNESCO to restore cultural heritage, I witnessed first-hand just how dependant reconciliation and peacebuilding are on civil society.
Reforming multilateralism will not be easy; concrete outcomes will require us all to make concessions and agree to compromises, whether at the inter-governmental negotiations or the general review of quotas. But, like all of us here, we have heard the growing calls for reform; and we recognise that resisting them means running on borrowed time.
We also know that the UN, and arguably the entire multilateral system, came out of one of the bleakest periods in human history. Today, the world faces what the Secretary-General called “our biggest shared test since the Second World War.”
We must heed his warning with the determined ingenuity that is humanity’s hallmark, and work collectively to ensure that multilateralism is fit for purpose in the 21st century.
Thank you, Mr. President