Finnish president asks for reversal of trend of waning multilateralism

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto asked for efforts to reverse the trend of waning multilateralism, and asked states to have good faith in international affairs.

“Precisely when the demand for global solutions is rising, our ability to provide them is weakening,” Niinisto told the General Debate of the UN General Assembly in a pre-recorded statement on Wednesday, Xinhua news agency reported.

“Multilateralism suffers from inward-looking nationalism and great-power competition alike. The institutions that we have built together over decades are under growing pressure. International agreements, norms and principles are increasingly challenged and interpreted in ways which weaken both their potential and their legitimacy,” he noted.

Ultimately, if respect for the commonly agreed rules disappears, there will be not much left of a rules-based order, he warned.

“We need to reverse this trend. More than ever, we need effective multilateral cooperation. More than ever, we need the United Nations. It is not only the common responsibility of all of us — the member states — to make it stronger. It should be obvious that it is our common interests, too.”

Niinisto stressed the need for international institutions to adapt to changing circumstances, but advised against the dismantling of them.

New actors and new technologies create new kinds of challenges. Old structures and old instruments alone will not be sufficient to respond to them. But discarding existing frameworks would create a dangerous vacuum, he warned, giving the example of nuclear disarmament.

“With one agreement after the other lapsing, we soon risk losing even the last elements of nuclear arms control. It would be of fundamental importance for the nuclear weapons states to find a way to build mutual understanding and trust.”

At 75 years of age, he said, the UN Charter remains a remarkable blueprint for the future — for a more peaceful, a more sustainable, and a more just world. But the promise comes with an important condition: states must engage in good faith.

He cited Article 2 of the UN Charter as stating: “All Members, in order to ensure to all of them the rights and benefits resulting from membership, shall fulfill in good faith the obligations assumed by them.”

As much as the environment has changed over time, this principle continues to be true. Only fulfilled obligations lead to rights and benefits, he said.