Friday, 14 July 2023 21:15

UN needed ‘now more than ever’: European Commission President

© UN Photo/Miranda Alexander-Webber
Secretary-General António Guterres (left) and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speak to reporters in Brussels, Belgium.

The heads of the European Commission and the United Nations upheld the importance of international cooperation in an increasingly polarized world during a joint press conference in Brussels on Thursday.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is in the Belgian capital to participate in the second high-level dialogue between the global body and the European Union (EU).

The two days of talks will centre around issues that include Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its ripple effects worldwide, climate change, and the promise and perils of the digital revolution.

International cooperation critical

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen expressed the bloc’s steadfast commitment to the strong partnership with the UN in the face of these unprecedented challenges.

“We both know that we can only tackle these through international cooperation, now more than ever. And in other word words, this means that the world needs the United Nations now more than ever,” she said.

Ms. von der Leyen provided an overview of the agenda for their talks, including the “big topic” of Ukraine grain exports amid the ongoing war.

Hopes for grain deal

She thanked the Secretary-General for his tireless efforts to extend the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the UN-brokered deal signed last July that is set to expire within days.

“The world needs it,” she said. “Russia has a responsibility to prolong it, otherwise global food insecurity will be the consequence. So now the ball is in President Putin’s court, and the world is watching.”

She also underlined EU support for the peace plan put forward by Ukraine’s President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy “because it is based precisely on the principles of the UN Charter and every word is deducted from UN resolutions.”

Multilateralism under attack

Mr. Guterres noted that the dialogue is taking place “at a time when international cooperation is challenged at its core.” He thanked the EU for its contributions to UN efforts in areas such as climate action, sustainable development, peace and security, human rights and gender equality.

“We live in an ever more multipolar world, and this calls for enhanced forms of cooperation and multilateral governance, anchored in international law. And the European Union must be an essential pillar of this new global order,” he said.

He underscored the need to work together to bridge political divides and rebuild trust among countries, warning that “we do not have a moment to lose.”

Call for climate action

With sustainable development efforts off-track, Mr. Guterres highlighted how the EU can play a role in transforming the global financial system “so that it works for everyone and fulfills its role as a global safety net.”

On climate change, he also stressed the need for greater international cooperation on both mitigation and climate justice. The UN chief repeated his call for a climate solidarity pact that would see wealthier polluting nations make an extra effort to cut emissions.

He further stressed the need for governments, regional organisations, the private sector and civil society to ensure that technology serves both human rights and the common good.

The initial high-level dialogue between the EU and the UN was held last July just outside New York City.