• by Kaoru Nemoto
  • Director, United Nations Information Centre in Tokyo

  • promotional content

“Our world is becoming unhinged & we seem incapable of coming together to respond. But the UN was created precisely for moments like this — moments of maximum danger & minimum agreement. What we need is determination to heal divisions & forge peace.” United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres posted this message on social media on the day he addressed the General Assembly at this year’s General Debate. 

Kaoru Nemoto
Kaoru Nemoto

We face existential challenges — from the worsening climate emergency, escalating conflicts and increasing threats to use nuclear weapons to the global cost-of-living crisis, soaring inequalities and dramatic technological disruptions. Moreover, the sustainable development goals — our blueprint for peace and prosperity on a healthy planet — are slipping from our reach. Only 15% of the SDG targets are progressing on track. At the halfway point of the 15-year-long implementation program, we are leaving SDGs behind.

This is a time to join and work together. Instead, divisions are growing and tensions are rising. Several factors contribute to these divisions: diverging perspectives on global crises, contrasting approaches to nontraditional security threats, differing strategies toward new technologies and, of course, the consequences of COVID-19 and of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It seems we are entering a multipolar world. History has shown time and again that multipolarity without strong multilateral institutions is no guarantee for stability.

It is clear that we must urgently restore trust and reinvigorate multilateralism. This requires the courage to compromise for the common good, Guterres said. We need to take bold steps toward bold solutions. We must radically rethink our approach to peace and security, our relationship with nature, and the structures of global governance. But we know it won’t happen overnight. Yet we can — and must — take practical action now, with determination.

The United Nations was made for moments like this. The United Nations is the product of hope. The hope — and resolve — following World War II to move beyond global conflict to global cooperation. 

At the SDG Summit held during the General Assembly High-Level Week, member states welcomed the secretary-general’s proposal for an SDG stimulus of at least $500 billion per year to significantly increase affordable, long-term financing for development.

They also supported his call for deeper and longer-term reforms to the international financial architecture, which currently fails to serve as a safety net for all countries and exacerbates inequalities. After tireless negotiations, we now have a rescue plan for the SDGs before us, in the political declaration of the SDG Summit. 

On climate change, the secretary-general put forward a Climate Solidarity Pact in which developed countries provide financial and technical support to help emerging economies promote an equitable and just transition to renewable energy. The Acceleration Agenda was also presented to boost these efforts — with developed countries committing to reach net-zero emissions as close as possible to 2040, and developing countries as close as possible to 2050. 

In July, the secretary-general also presented his vision of a more robust multilateral framework to boost peace and security. He described his vision in the policy brief on a New Agenda for Peace, which is part of the 11 policy briefs produced in the implementation process of his Our Common Agenda report, a response to member states’ request in the UN75 Declaration asking the secretary-general to put forward concrete recommendations on how to address global threats and strengthen multilateralism.

Elimination of nuclear weapons is at the top of the list of 12 proposed actions in this policy brief. These 11 policy briefs are to support the negotiation process of a Pact for the Future to be adopted as an outcome document at the Summit of the Future next September.  

Time and again the United Nations has demonstrated its convening power as a platform for broad-based coalitions and effective diplomacy. Our organization is, and must remain, central to multilateralism. The United Nations will bring the world leaders together at the Summit of the Future next year. This summit will be a unique opportunity to help rebuild trust and bring outdated multilateral institutions and frameworks into line with today’s world, based on equity and solidarity. But it is more than an opportunity. It is an essential means of reducing risks and creating a safer and more peaceful world. 

In our fractured, troubled world, it is incumbent upon states to preserve our universal institution, in which they all have a stake. Japan is one of the important member states that are playing a respectable role to advocate and exercise multilateralism.

Japan’s leadership is notably visible this year because Japan serves as a nonpermanent member on the U.N. Security Council and also holds the presidency of the Group of Seven bloc of industrialized democracies. In January, Japan assumed the presidency of the Security Council to organize two open debates on the rule of law and peace-building and sustaining peace. In May, Japan hosted the G7 summit in Hiroshima to produce outcome documents, including those on nuclear disarmament and generative artificial intelligence. 

But even before that, throughout many years, Japan has been known for leading human-centered international cooperation based on the concept of human security. Addressing this year’s General Debate of the U.N. General Assembly, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stressed the importance of international cooperation, appealing to member states to join forces to strengthen human dignity and build a world where vulnerable people can live safely and securely.

At the halfway point to 2030, the international community looks to Japan to lead the member states’ efforts to help achieve the SDGs.  

So, there is hope. And the United Nations will never lose hope. As the secretary-general wrote in this year’s report on the work of the organization, “The United Nations will never stop fighting for a better future.”

As we mark U.N. Day, let us renew our hope and conviction in what humanity can achieve when we work as one, in global solidarity. The United Nations not only stands with you. The United Nations belongs to you and is you — as the U.N. Charter states in the preamble, “We the peoples.” Let us realize our shared vision of a better world for all.

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