Fiji’s Prime Minister Honourable Josaia Voreqe Bainimarama this week joined the United Nations Secretary-General, His Excellency António Guterres, Leaders and Foreign Ministers of Ghana, Switzerland, Singapore, Jamaica, Jordon and other countries for a High-Level dialogue to re-chart the way forward for multilateralism.  

The meeting was convened at the UN via Singapore in its role as the Chair of the UN’s Forum of Small States.  

The High-Level participants discussed a report on the way forward for multilateralism prepared by a Committee of Elders – a committee which was set up by the former President of South Africa, the late Mr Nelson Mandela.   

Singapore’s Foreign Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, in his opening remarks as chair of UN’s Forum of Small States, said the meeting was crucial in reshaping a rules-based international system.   

UN Secretary-General H.E Guterres said that racism, populism, nationalism are eating away at the roots of multilateralism. He added that it took the COVID-19 pandemic to remind us of the only power we have over the deadly virus is the power of cooperation and collaboration.  

H.E Guterres said by working together, we will defeat COVID-19.   Chair of the Elders Committee and former President of Ireland H.E. Mary Robinson said; “This is a time of grief and despair and we need to defend multilateralism and the values that it stands for”.   

“The system of rules and norms that guides the global order cannot be replaced by a system that is based on power. That will simply not work.  Multilateralism is not an option – it is the only path that we have; the only path that will deliver green and a sustainable recovery from COVID -19 that the world needs.”   Foreign Minister for Sweden H.E. Ann Linde contributed to the forum, saying that we must keep the UN charter and law at the core of our cooperation.  

“We must ensure that trust in international institutions cannot be an excuse for backsliding on international law. It is through international cooperation that we will secure vaccines for COVID-19 and be able to make the vaccine and that they are made available as a global public good to all countries-small and large; rich and poor,” H.E Linde said.   Prime Minister Bainimarama, in his remarks, called on the international community to consolidate its support for our multilateral institutions in addressing the challenges of climate change, ocean sustainability and the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“This year was meant to kick-off a decade of action on climate, on oceans preservation and of all the noble aspirations of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. But if the international community mishandles its response to COVID-19, we risk this being a lost decade, one of lasting consequence for our planet and humankind,” he said.   “COVID-19 befell the world in an era of emerging nationalism and eroding public trust in our multilateral system.

Months into this pandemic, we are now reckoning with a once-in-a-generation economic fallout ­­which history tells us is often a kindling for conflict.    “We can prove that global institutions will not buckle under this immense pressure but be strengthened by it.

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