© UN Photo - Jean-Marc Ferré
One hundred years ago, the seeds for global cooperation were planted with the signing of an international peace treaty. Establishing itself along the shores of Lake Geneva, the League of Nations began to lay lasting groundwork for multilateral diplomacy and to develop methods for peacemaking. Ten years later, the foundation stone was laid for the Palais des Nations, a building that has stood as a monument ever since, representing the benefits and challenges of international cooperation. Through the years, strengthening of the multilateral system has steadily transitioned governments and mindsets away from the untold horrors of war, starvation and destruction to a model where discussion and debate are used to catalyse conflict resolution.
Over the last 75 years, extraordinary progress has been made in overcoming some of the greatest challenges to humankind. Since the end of the Second World War, incredible advances have been made in sustainable development, human rights, and gender and racial equality. The global economy has grown exponentially, and technological innovations have driven the fields of science, medicine, education, communications and work. At the heart of the modern multilateral system, UN Geneva strives to achieve lasting peace, rights and well-being for all humanity. As a result, almost everywhere on the planet, a person born today will be less likely to grow up in extreme poverty, to remain illiterate, to die of diseases or to be killed in a war than at any time in human history. Through collective action, this Organization works to ensure that everyone can benefit from sustainable development.
Despite the numerous accomplishments, there is still a long way to go. We find ourselves in a world where people are more connected than ever before, yet our societies seem to have become more fragmented and polarized. Violent conflict, forced migration, devastating effects of climate change, and lack of confidence in government institutions abound. Increasingly, the entire multilateral system faces challenges.
In some of our most arduous moments, humanity comes together to develop solutions to overcome our greatest obstacles. UN Geneva connects global actors and gives them effective tools and efficient services to address these complex interconnected challenges with multilateral collective action. With the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development as a guide, we must ensure that we maintain the drive to continue working together for a better future.
In these changing and uncertain times, we must emphasize that multilateralism is not experiencing a crisis, but a transition in global order. Instead of tearing it down, we must strengthen the international rules-based system, which has sustainable peace, cooperation, and problem-solving engraved in the Charter of the United Nations. With a century of history and experience to learn from and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to aim for, we must continue to push forward to provide effective responses to the world’s greatest challenges, and in doing so, make this world more inclusive and prosperous for the benefit of all.
Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
Secretary-General of the Conference on Disarmament