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"Stronger partnerships are the building blocks of our foreign policy. All today’s challenges transcend borders and national sovereignties. None of us, alone, can carry the weight of the world on its shoulders." - Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, speaking at the UN Security Council on 6 June 2016
The European Union's commitment to effective multilateralism, with the United Nations at its core, is a central element of the EU’s external policy. Multilateralism is one of the core principles and priorities in the new EU Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy. To respond successfully to global crises, threats and challenges, the international community needs an efficient multilateral system, founded on universal rules and values. The United Nations is a key EU partner and an indispensable global forum for tackling global challenges, within the overall framework of the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
Taking into account the UN’s agenda and global issues, every year the Council of the European Union adopts EU Priorities at the United Nations and the UN General Assembly, which guide the EU’s work for the year to come.
On 18 July 2016, the Council adopted the EU priorities at the United Nations and the 71st United Nations General Assembly (September 2016 – September 2017). The coming year will be focused on consolidation and implementation of the agreements reached over the past year. These include the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the Third International Conference on Financing for Development and the Paris Climate Agreement.
The priorities make clear that the EU remains committed to strengthening the United Nations and to playing an active role at the UN in all relevant areas. The EU priorities also stress key challenges ahead, including the need for global responsibility-sharing on migration and refugees, solving crises, sustaining peace, and tackling terrorism and violent extremism.
Working closely with the UN Secretariat and the various UN Agencies, Funds and Programmes, the EU has established a strong relationship with the UN. Cooperation takes place across a broad range of areas: development, human rights, climate change, peace building, crisis management, disarmament and non-proliferation, humanitarian assistance, fighting corruption and crime, addressing global health concerns, managing migratory flows and labour issues.
The UN General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN. In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted Resolution A/65/276 upgrading the observer status allow the EU to present common positions, make interventions, present proposals and participate in the general debate each September.
As an observer with enhanced status, the EU has no vote but is party to more than 50 UN multilateral agreements and conventions as the only non-State participant. It has obtained a special “full participant” status in a number of important UN conferences, as for example, the UN Conference on Financing for Development or the UN Conference on Women.
Under the UN Charter, the Security Council has primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. Two EU Member States, France and the UK are permanent members of the Security Council. In addition, EU Member States also serve as non-permanent members. Currently Spain is a non-permanent member of the Security Council. As of 2017, Sweden will take a seat for a two year term and Italy and the Netherlands will share a seat for the same period with Italy starting its one year term in 2017. EU Member States on the Security Council keep the EU institutions and other Member States fully informed of the Security Council’s work and, as appropriate, reflect EU positions. Pursuant to Article 34 of the Treaty on European Union, “when the Union has defined a position on a subject which is on the United Nations Security Council agenda, those Member States which sit on the Security Council shall request that the High Representative be invited to present the Union’s position”.
The EU has a wide range of tools available to solve crises, as well as its close work with international and regional partners. For this reason, the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy provides regular updates to the Security Council and the EU is often invited to address issues of concern, such as migration and fight against terrorism. Regular UN Security Council meetings on UN-EU cooperation in maintaining international peace and security are testimony to the importance both place on it.
Statement by the President of the Security Council on cooperation between the UN and the EU in maintaining international peace and security S/PRST/2014/4 made on 14 February 2014
Collectively, the EU and its Member States are the single largest financial contributor to the UN system. The sum of the contributions of the 28 EU Member States amounts to 30.38% of the UN regular budget and 33.17% of the UN peacekeeping budgets. In addition, the EU and its Member States also provide approximately one-half of all voluntary contributions to UN funds and programmes. In 2014, the European Commission, through the EU budget, contributed $2.055 billion to support UN development- and humanitarian assistance-related activities.
The European Union and its Member States retained their place as the world’s largest aid donor in 2014, according to OECD figures. In 2014, EuropeAid’s financial contributions to the UN exceeded €983 million, with most funding going to UNDP (40%), UNICEF (18%), FAO (12%), UNRWA (10%), and WFP (8%).
In 2015, ECHO (European Commission Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection) provided €514 million (an increase from €452 in 2014) to UN agencies, funds and programmes, including €207 million to WFP, €127 million to UNHCR and €108 million to UNICEF.
Effective multilateralism requires an effective United Nations at its core. The EU supports the reform of the UN system, including its bodies and organs, to ensure it is fit to address the complex, multi-sectoral challenges we face today. This should include comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council as well as revitalisation of the work of the General Assembly. The EU supports the notion that the United Nations must be ‘fit for purpose’ as well as increasingly effective and efficient. Successful implementation of the 2030 Agenda requires support from a UN that steps up its efforts to deliver integrated and coordinated policy support.