The World of International Organizations Explained

Paris forum pitches for global governance

The Wall for Peace, a Paris symbol since 2000 that was designed and built by artist Clara Halter and architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte (ARÊTE/Henry Marion)

The Paris Peace Forum wrapped up three days of meetings on Wednesday promoting a message that French President Emmanuel Macron described as a need for “balanced cooperation” among nations to solve the planet’s most pressing challenges.

Confronting the headwinds of anti-globalist ideologies, Macron welcomed more than 80 heads of state and government, senior officials and heads of international and regional organizations. The second annual forum in Paris was intended to boost international cooperation, though Macron noted that reliance on international organizations and treaties does not mean never questioning their efficiency.

“We are experiencing an unprecedented crisis in our international system,” Macron said. “We need truth. Priggishness or hypocrisy don’t work in this day and age, because our fellow citizens see it.”

The French leader, in an apparent reference to U.S. President Donald Trump’s rejection of global governance and multilateralism, emphasized that it is “very risky” for individual nations to go their own way. “We tried that option in the past: it leads to war,” Macron said. “Nationalism is war.”

Macron called on all those at the forum to join together in fighting climate change, economic inequality and a host of other issues. The forum, launched on the centennial of the 1918 Armistice that ended World War I, espouses settling conflicts peacefully through international rules and organizations.

Also welcoming the attendees were United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and the forum’s president, Pascal Lamy, a former director-general of the World Trade Organization. Other leaders appearing at the forum were Ursula von der Leyen, president-elect of the European Commission; Wang Qishan, China’s vice president; and Félix Tshisekedi, Congo’s president.

Wang, whose nation hosted a visit from Macron last week, urged world leaders to join China and France in “safeguarding multilateralism and free trade, as well as building an open world economy” at a time of rising tensions between the United States and China.

Also on hand at the forum in Paris were Guy Ryder of the International Labor Organization; Peter Maurer of the International Committee of the Red Cross; Ángel Gurrí of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development; Louise Mushikiwabo of the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie; and Thomas Greminger of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Guterres, reminding the forum that it was the 101st anniversary of the 1918 Armistice, said at the opening of the forum on Monday that multilateralism must adapt if it is going to succeed and thrive in today’s “chaotic and uncertain” world of persistent conflicts.

“Our world is in turmoil. It is no longer bipolar or unipolar, but it is not yet truly multipolar. Balances of power are constantly shifting,” he said in his prepared speech. “Often, we are not seeing wars between sovereign states, but asymmetrical conflicts in which states are facing non-state groups. With the growing interference of third parties, these conflicts rapidly take on a regional dimension. At the same time, relationships between the major powers are more dysfunctional than ever.”

The dysfunction between the major powers has produced “very unfortunate consequences in the [United Nations] Security Council, which regularly finds itself paralyzed. And even when the council does act, external interference makes implementing its resolutions even harder,” he said.

Each of the 15-nation council’s five permanent members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — hold veto power. The permanent memberships are a frozen reflection of the world’s power structure just after the end of World War II — and a perennial sore topic among U.N. members seeking an updated reflection of that power structure today.

Guterres pointed to the Libyan arms embargo as an example of the council’s paralysis. “Everyone is flouting it, and nobody is even trying to deny that fact,” said the U.N. secretary-general.

Since 2011, the council has backed sanctions against Libya, including an open-ended embargo on the supply of arms and military equipment and a no-fly zone. They were imposed due to human rights violations such as repression of peaceful demonstrators. Some exceptions were later added to allow the transfer of arms to new, transitional Libyan authorities.

Solutions amid ‘a deteriorated international environment’

The solutions to the world’s most pressing problems, including “a worrying comeback” in the threat of nuclear proliferation, “will only be possible through multilateralism,” said Guterres.

“These ideas underpin the reforms that I have initiated at the United Nations,” he said. “They are about putting crisis prevention and mediation at the heart of our activities, and developing a framework to combat violent extremism and strengthen international peace and security, in close cooperation with regional organizations like the African Union and the European Union.”

Guterres said that “five global risks, or widening fault lines” now endanger the world including separate-track U.S.-China economies, a growing deficit of trust between people and governments and inequalities resulting from globalization.

“Diversity is not a threat but an asset. To ensure success, let us invest in social cohesion, so that every community feels that its identity is respected and that it can fully participate in society as a whole,” he said.  “We need a universal system that respects international law and is organized around strong multilateral institutions. We need more international solidarity, more multilateralism. But this multilateralism needs to adapt to the challenges of today and tomorrow.”

Models of that sort of adaptation were on display at a “Space for Solutions” exhibit hall in a Paris cultural center. There, advocates for some 114 global governance projects pitched their initiatives. The projects were selected from among more than 700 submissions in 115 countries.

They were submitted by people working at international organizations, NGOs, companies, foundations, philanthropic organizations, development agencies, religious groups, trade unions, think tanks and universities.

“The Paris Peace Forum continues to demonstrate that in a deteriorated international environment it is still possible to advance governance solutions, scale-up projects and launch new initiatives in peace and security, development, environment, new technologies, inclusive economy, or culture and education,” organizers said.

The world of international organizations explained.

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