Suriname president urges global community to embrace multilateralism in battling COVID-19

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Suriname president urges global community to embrace multilateralism in battling COVID-19

Thursday, September 24, 2020

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UNITED NATIONS (CMC) — Suriname’s new President Chandrikapersad Santokhi on Wednesday urged the international community to embrace multilateralism as “an effective way” to win the battle against the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In his maiden address to the United Nations General Assembly Debate, Santokhi also said that multilateralism is the “best defence against future global threats, and to continue seeking effective means to support small and vulnerable nations”.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is, apart from the human toll, turning food supply chains upside down, paralysing economies and eroding consumer purchasing power,” he said virtually, alluding to the United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) mid-2020 report that “has confirmed what we as leaders and communities have experienced — that the pandemic has unleashed a health and economic crisis unprecedented in scope and magnitude”.

But, despite considerable progress made in global discussions on a variety of matters — from climate change, sustainable development, migration, refugees, terrorism, cyber-warfare to nuclear proliferation, Santokhi said “we have experienced that multilateralism has occasionally come under attack”.

Since the founding of the United Nations 75 years ago, he said the geopolitical field has changed drastically, stating that the UN Security Council membership and its working methods need “a structured evaluation”.

“Can you imagine that we have been elaborating for more than two decades about reform of this main organ?” the Surinamese president asked.

“It is, therefore, fitting to ask ourselves if this organ is still relevant in its current form. Does it answer to the questions of today’s challenges and aspirations?

“I hope that we don’t have to ask ourselves this question again in 75 years,” he added. “It is, therefore, of utmost importance that multilateralism adapts to these changing times.”

Santokhi, therefore, called on the international community to embark on a strategic assessment of the existing multilateral framework.

“Let us, based on the current realities and challenges, dare to create a new multilateralism that fundamentally focuses on peace and prosperity of all nations, and allows for the increased efficiency in the supporting institutional framework,” he urged.

He said it should be a multilateralism that “acknowledges all nations, irrespective of their size and development level and place in the global order, as equal and with respect; a multilateralism where compliance by every state with international law and internationally accepted principles forms the bedrock of our interactions; a multilateralism, based on international cooperation to confront the many global challenges and seizing the common opportunities that promotes a culture of inclusiveness and equality.”

Noting that unilateral actions have “always proven counterproductive and will never lead to achieve any defined objective,” the Surinamese leader appealed to the international community to always strive for “dialogue and the active involvement of all countries, taking into account international principles”.

“More importantly,” he said, it should be “a multilateralism that necessitates us to recommit to the vision of the UN Charter”.

In this regard, Santokhi called for the lifting of what he described as “the longstanding, unilateral economic, financial and commercial embargo” against Cuba.

He also said that while the focus of the international community is currently on managing and containing the further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the international community should continue to dedicate attention to other challenges “of equal or even greater impact on the sustainable development of countries and the entire planet”.

“Addressing the impact of climate change is one of these challenges,” he said. “As a country with 239 miles of a low-lying coastline, Suriname is among the top 10 of most vulnerable countries with respect to the disastrous effects of sea-level rise as a result of global warming.”

Despite this position, Santokhi said Suriname has taken the lead, as the country with the highest forest cover and low deforestation rate, to advocate for the mobilisation of financial resources in support of the country’s sustainable development, “while making a significant contribution to mitigating global warming”.

He said, while national commitments may only serve particular domestic concerns, to maximise their impact, “strong international engagement is necessary with ambitious and attainable targets”.

Santokhi said participation of developing countries, especially the small economies, in the global financial and trading system is “one of the long overdue reforms that has to take place” in the United Nations.

“I believe that global strategic collaboration and complimentary financial – economic approaches are required,” he said, stating that these can be achieved through closer partnerships between the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Moving forward, Santokhi urged developing countries and nations in the South not to be passive in their quest for development.

“Consequently, South-South cooperation, not to the exclusion of North-South relations, should be further explored and expanded in articulating and promoting the collective economic and business interests,” he said. “This is in essence what our people elect us for. This is what the international community expects of its leaders – to be examples of inspiring leadership and vanguards of hope for our common humanity.”

“It is the same hope that allows us to break down walls of mistrust, which may take the form of intolerance, fear or violence,” he added. “It is the same hope that leads us to strive for peace and prosperity as our predecessors did.”

“It is particularly this hope that will give the upcoming generation of leaders the strength to elevate this global Assembly of world leaders to a place where, collectively, the nations of the world should find ways to make a better life possible for all of the global community for the next 75 years,” Santokhi continued.

“I congratulate all of us with reaching this milestone anniversary,” he said. “Let us all in unity, respect and solidarity strive to make the next 75 years even better and save for our future.”

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