The 76th UN General Assembly’s high-level session — the general debate, in which the leaders of 193 member states speak on global issues for more than a week — begins on Tuesday, with US President Joe Biden expected to advocate multilateralism in his address on the opening day. This is precisely what the UN currently needs, after having seen its founding role in preventing war and ensuring peace consistently eroded in the last three decades of rampant US unilateralism across the world.
Even though the five permanent members of the Security Council — namely, the US, Russia, China, the UK and France — have the final say in matters of global peace and security because of their veto power, the UNGA, where all member states have equal representation, plays an important role by framing the annual global agenda, deliberating current world challenges and deciding requisite policy options.
Of course, from COVID-19 to climate change, and with so many conflicts burning or brewing, the issues facing the world body are so grave that only a rules-based international order grounded in the spirit of multilateralism can pave the way for their viable resolution. Multilateralism may help in building the necessary global consensus to deal with the effects of a conflict (which the UN does relatively well), but it also needs to tackle its root causes (where the UN is found seriously lacking).