Delegation of the European Union
to the United Nations - New York

EU Statement: United Nations General Assembly: First informal Consultation on the UN at 75 Political Declaration

New York, 21/02/2020 - 21:11, UNIQUE ID: 200221_19
Statements on behalf of the EU

21 February 2020, New York - Statement on behalf of the EU and its Member States by Ambassador Olof Skoog, Head of the European Union Delegation to the United Nations, at the First informal Consultation on the UN@75 Political Declaration

Mr President, dear co-facilitators,

Thank you for this opportunity to present our first contribution to this political declaration, which I am pleased to deliver on behalf of the European Union and its Member States.

The Candidate Countries Turkey, the Republic of North Macedonia, Montenegro, and Albania, the country of the Stabilisation and Association Process and potential candidate Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Ukraine, the Republic of Moldova and Georgia, align themselves with this statement.

This anniversary takes place at a time of unprecedented challenges for the multilateral system and, at its centre, for the United Nations. This is the time to consider the UN’s achievements, but also reflect on its shortcomings, and on how to best respond to the challenges of the 21st century, to create "the future we want, the UN we need". In this spirit, we look forward to the results of the worldwide consultation initiated by the UN Secretariat which we are committed to support.

Allow me to thank the co-facilitators for their very useful food-for-thought paper and to share our initial reflection on each of the questions you have posed:

1) On the UN’s achievements

For now 75 years, diplomacy and a multilateral approach to crises under the UN umbrella have significantly reduced the occurrence of conflict and mitigated its fall-out. Furthermore, the UN has contributed to the development of important concepts of international law, as a venue for collective action, including the negotiation of multilateral treaties and the law-making that occurs through its organs.

We continue to adhere to the UN's ambitious global agenda for promoting peace and security, human rights and development – the 3 pillars of this organisation. Out of conviction, since international cooperation is deeply enshrined into the EU's DNA. But also because we are deeply convinced that a strong multilateral system is in the interest of all of us.

At the same time, we must constantly adapt this institution and all its organs, making them more democratic, effective, transparent, representative and accountable.

2) Looking ahead

We strongly welcome your proposal to use the 75th anniversary for a genuine reflection on how to strengthen multilateralism and reinvigorate the functioning of global governance. Turning 75 would – hopefully – mean happy retirement for all of us. In the case of the UN, this rather calls for rejuvenation and revitalisation.

We already have the necessary tools, starting with the full implementation of the UN reform agenda, including the regional reform dimension, the peacekeeping and peacebuilding architecture, but also the Gender Parity Strategy.

The EU also attaches great importance to the ongoing efforts aimed at revitalising and streamlining the work of the General Assembly and its Committees, focusing on the key priorities that matter most to our citizens. The full implementation of the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs is a priority in this Decade of Action and therefore we strongly support the process of aligning the work of the GA and ECOSOC with the 2030 Agenda.

But reform should not stop there. The inability of the Security Council to stop some of the worst conflicts of our times and to hold accountable the perpetrators of mass atrocities in conflicts like Syria, should be urgently addressed. The abuse of the veto power by some members has often left the Council paralysed, severely damaging the credibility of this body and the UN as a whole. We therefore encourage all efforts promoting a responsible use of the veto. Good initiatives are already on the table, in particular the one by France and Mexico initiated in 2013, by which permanent members would voluntarily and collectively restrain from using the veto in case of mass atrocities; and the well-received proposal by the ACT group for a Code of Conduct.

We also want the UN to be more inclusive. The fact that only states are members of the UN should not prevent us from listening to all stakeholders before taking decisions directly affecting our citizens. The UN system would benefit from better including civil society, including notably women and youth in all aspects of our work, but also the private sector which more and more plays an important role in achieving the SDGs and fighting climate change. Their voices must be heard and the UN should be the last place where freedom is restricted.

3) Responding to major global challenges

The EU fully shares the SG's assessment of the major challenges as presented a month ago, which we believe should be adequately reflected in the Declaration. We are convinced that those challenges can only be addressed collectively and the EU stands ready to play its role in this respect and further engage as a positive force for change.

First, the climate and environmental crisis represents an increasingly existential one and the most obvious case for multilateral cooperation. The EU is prepared to work with all partners towards making COP26 – and on the way towards it the Oceans Conference in Lisbon in June and the Biodiversity Summit in September here in NY - a success. The European Green Deal aims at making Europe carbon-neutral by 2050, but it also requires a fundamental rethinking of how we operate, how we adapt our entire economic system, which ultimately shall protect our planet, while generating sustainable economic growth. We recommend including a paragraph in the Declaration recognizing this existential threat, committing to both reversing nature loss by 2030 and limiting temperature increase as per the Paris Agreement.

Second, Human Rights: The rights we are defending are universal rights to be upheld everywhere and for everyone. They are also essential components pervading the entire UN agenda, from development to gender equality, from civic rights to the environment. In this context the EU is ready to respond to the Secretary General’s ‘Call to Action’ and proposes that its ambition be fully reflected in the Declaration. We must also work towards reinforcing inclusivity and accountability – including women’s empowerment, youth and civil society engagement. 2020 will be particularly important for the rights of women and girls. CSW is just around the corner to demonstrate our commitment for positive change.

Third, addressing growing global mistrust and rising inequalities: the Agenda 2030 and its SDGs is the perfect umbrella for addressing these challenges. It is up to us to fill the Agenda for Action with concrete meaning. We must step up collectively to meet these targets during the Decade of Action. To demonstrate to our people that this organisation is serious about caring for our people and delivering positive change.

Fourth, the digital agenda. The EU supports promoting a comprehensive approach to global governance in the Digital Age, which seeks to reconcile an approach that aims at maximising the benefits of new technologies while at the same time mitigating their disruptive elements, including those emerging from Artificial Intelligence. One that explores practical ways to leverage digital technologies, including achieving the SDGs, without compromising on privacy, ethics, and values.   

And last but not least, ongoing strategic tensions and conflicts around the world. Dialogue remains the best and least-costly tool to prevent and resolve conflicts. The EU therefore strongly supports the strengthening of the UN’s conflict prevention and mediation capacity. This year also provides a unique opportunity to demonstrate our ambition towards strengthening UN peacebuilding efforts in form of the review of the UN Peacebuilding Architecture.

4) Delivering on commitments

For almost three quarters of a century, the UN Charter has not only served as the legal basis of this organisation but also as an enduring symbol of multilateral cooperation and the rules-based international order. Today it remains as relevant as it was when first signed. In today's interconnected and rapidly changing world, upholding agreed rules and norms is our only reference point. But instead we see the multilateral system being severely tested and widely-accepted treaties and agreements being questioned.

The answer does not lie in side-lining the multilateral system and returning to the rules that pre-date the UN Charter. To the contrary, we should use this anniversary to re-establish the UN as a platform for dialogue, build new partnerships, and uphold the international law and human rights architecture. 

5) Building consensus and mobilising for change

The 2030 Agenda provides us with a compass towards making globalisation a transformation that benefits all, one that would leave no one behind. The EU and its Member States are firmly committed to transforming our societies in line with the letter and the spirit of the 2030 Agenda. Much remains to be done. Building on last September's SDG Summit Declaration, we need to collectively step up our commitments or otherwise will fail the targets. The UN should incentivise and accompany this acceleration so as to steer a real Decade of action and delivery.

The EU and its Member States will spare no effort to support this objective including by maintaining a high-level political engagement and a genuine inclusion of all stakeholders – notably youth and civil society.

Thank you for your attention and we look forward to a fruitful negotiation.