“THE future we want, the United Nations we need: reaffirming our collective commitment to multilateralism” is the theme of the 75th United Nations anniversary commemorated by the global institution last September 21, 2020.

Stressing Multilateralism, which is commonly understood to mean “an alliance of multiple countries pursuing a common goal”, the U.N. clearly sees this as the rising imperative for the global community which is facing the COVID-19 pandemic among many other crises arising in the world today.

The 75th UN anniversary is marked by both the discomforting crisis of a pandemic but at the same time the bright and high hopes of an institution that has promoted global cooperation and averted any major global war through all these difficult and arduous three-quarters of a century.

Another crisis that has reared its ugly head the past few years is the rise of unilateralism from one of the great powers of the world today, the US which under President Donald Trump has been drumming up its slogan “America First” and seemingly considering every other nation lasts.

President Duterte spent the major part of his 22:30 minutes speech on the issues of COVID-19 and the need for global cooperation to defeat the microscopic nemesis in which he boldly put out that, “We are at a crossroads in handling the pandemic and how we address COVID-19 will define our future”.    

In almost equal parts, the “weaponization of human rights” which should not be “Business as Usual” as the President quoted. Climate Change, where he reiterates the participation of the Philippines in the Paris Agreement for Climate Change.

Migration issues in which the President boasted the long history of opening its doors to the refugees from the White Russians (1917 Revolution), the Jews (World War II) the Vietnamese (late 1960’s), and to the Iranians displaced by the 1979 revolution and only one minute on the South China Sea controversy which seemed like “Consuelo de bobo” to those that the fool’s gold held in their double grasp.

In the concluding part, President Duterte returned to the main item of the great gathering of 193 nations’ leaders, after identifying the myriad challenges to Mankind he says: “To this end, we rededicate ourselves to multilateralism. The UN remains humanity’s essential Organization. But it is only as effective as we make it… Let us empower the UN – reform it – to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow. Let us strengthen it so it can fully deliver its mandate to maintain peace and security, uphold justice and human rights, and promote freedom and social progress for all.”

The other star of the UN show was certainly China’s President Xi Jinping who emerged as the shining leader of global multilateralism in the grand occasion. Standing out in President Xi’s speech was his reaffirmation of $ 2-billion donation to the UN and WHO efforts and reiterating that China’s vaccine when ready will be a “global public good”.

Xi emphasized the need for multilateralism in facing the challenge of Climate Change, trade and commerce, avoidance of Cold or hot wars, but in particular, China’s president reiterated China’s recurrent and historic call for the world to come together in a “Community of Shared Future for Mankind”.

A brief recap of Xi’s speech highlights is: the COVID-19 virus will be defeated by courage, resolve, and compassion of Humanity; the history of human society is a history of struggle against challenges and victories over them; no country can gain from others’ difficulties; economic globalization is inevitable; warnings from Nature must be heeded; global competition must hue to standards; China will never seek hegemony.

Xi’s final and concluding paragraph re-issued China’s declaratory vision: “The world now stands at a new historical starting point. Let us renew our firm commitment to multilateralism, work to promote a community with a shared future for mankind, and rally behind the banner of the UN to pursue greater unity and progress.”

The UN celebration saw 193 countries’ leaders scheduled for virtual speeches but only about half a dozen made it to the headlines, among them our very own President Rodrigo R. Duterte, and Asia’s President Xi Jinping. The other star speaker didn’t appear as schedule and it was thought he boycotted, but Trump eventually spoke but with a spirit contrary to the theme.

US President Donald Trump faced the international audience as if he was facing his townhall red neck and “deplorable” (not my term but Hillary Clinton’s) constituents in the US, spewing ad hominem at the “China Virus” and the WHO he says is wholly under the control of China (without realizing he’s insulting 192 other countries in saying this).

It is no wonder now that the American social survey firm PEW Research in recent September 15, 2020, headlined on its report “US Image Plummets Internationally as Most Say Country Has Handled Coronavirus Badly”.

This was a 13-nation Pew Research Center survey, showing how the US reputation has declined further over the past year among key allies and partners. (https://www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/09/15/us-image-plummets-internationally-as-most-say-country-has-handled-coronavirus-badly/)

To remind our readers, I wrote about another survey a month or so ago for this same space. That is the German Dalia Research survey which surveyed 53 countries of which only 3 though the US did well in managing the COVID-19 crisis while 50 countries believed China did very well in controlling the outbreak.

As for the UN, with the spirit and vision of Humanity’s good and progress prevailing over the cynicism and pessimism of the declining Western power, the future for the global multilateralism body looks well as it moves on to the middle of this century with reform and revitalization from countries like the Philippines and China.

The Philippines is fortunate to have President Duterte leading the country out of the 20th century neo-colonial status of the Philippines and dependency on the US into the new Asian Century when our region and its leading country China has begun its rise and ascendance. Even if a large part of the country is still backward in understanding the new global and geopolitical realities, President Duterte has kept the nation apace with the real developments.

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