UN Day 2019: 100 Years of Multilateralism

When nations work together, hope prevails and collective solutions can be found.


Thank you for being here this evening to commemorate the United Nations Day. As Resident Coordinator I am delighted to welcome you on behalf of the UN System and to join Minister Darmanović to consider multilateralism and the role it plays in enabling us to address global issues together.

As you have heard, tonight, we can view some of the early correspondences from 1920 between the exiled Montenegrin Government and the recently established League of Nations in Geneva. 

It is always interesting to delve into a moment of history.   The files we view here were originally in the UN Library in Geneva.  In review them, I was particularly struck by the ‘form of communication’ used in the League of Nations compared with ours today.  Paper files moved physically from one officer to the next. Each giving their individual handwritten opinions.  Months lapsed between each correspondence and a final decision.  A far cry from the technology driven world we live in today where instant communications dominate. 

Multilateralism is perhaps more important today than it was 100 years ago.  Addressing common problems together, from conflict and economic downturns to disease and climate change – these problems more than ever require a collaborative global response. As does our collective response to managing technological advances the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, the use of blockchain, this speed of change is our new reality.

When nations work together, hope prevails and collective solutions can be found,” said the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Multilateralism underpins Agenda 2030, and the Sustainable Development Goals.  The 17 Goals - from Gender Equality to Protection of our Seas, from Climate Action to Education for all, from Eradicating Hunger to Decent Work, this is our ‘nations united’ in multi-lateral effort to create a Planet for People to live in in Peace and Prosperity. These 17 Goals, along with the Paris agreement to reduce carbon emission and manage climate change are the embodiment of multilateralism in 21st century.

Montenegro, earning its place as one of the newest members of the United Nations, has been an active member of this multi-lateral organization.  Not only on the joint task team for Sustainable Development that developed Agenda 2030, but in contributing from its small standing army to Peace Keeping forces in Western Sahara and Cyprus. It also chairs the digital innovation working group within the New York based ECOSOC deliberations, and plays host to many regional events and training with UN partners that lead the way on regulation (in for example in waste and pollution and transport), on policy development (in addressing matters such as gender based violence, managing asylum and mixed migration or water catchments) and peace building and cohesion (generating dialogue in the Western Balkans, pursuing regional war crimes, and common systems for the measurement of organized crime).  This is the coal face, if you will excuse ‘climate insensitive pun’, where through the detailed work of technical staff from UN agencies and their counterparts, multi-lateral actions drive change.

Building a UN system fit for the task of today’s challenges was the job given to the Secretary General Guterres by the Member States when he took up his role in 2016. Three short years later, we see a number of very tangible results here in Montenegro from the process.

The joint results groups of the UN and government become key coordination tools on Economic governance, social inclusion, democratic governance and environmental sustainability. 

Through the work of our resident UN agencies and their staff from UNDP, UNICEF, IOM, WHO and UNCHR the UN delivers support on many substantive areas, Digital innovation and administrative reform, Green Growth and the Creative industries, the Rights of the Child, Education and Early Development, managing Migration and protection of asylum seekers, fighting Non-Communicable Diseases to name but a few. 

We welcome to our UN family a full time Human Rights Adviser from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, upon the invitation of Montenegro, who will work on strengthening human rights mechanisms in the country. And this evening we are pleased to have with us the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Human Trafficking Maria Grazia Giammarinaro who is visiting Montenegro to review the situation on trafficking in persons.

But it is also impossible not to wonder at the full scope and range of UN bodies and entities, and how they support Montenegro in numerous ways.

From setting standards of telecommunications regulation and bandwidth management (ITU), to inspiring the country to work towards zero HIV infection (UNAIDS), providing support to poor farmers and women entrepreneurs (IFAD) and advise on business orientated growth (FAO). Tying this work together and aligning it for better support to Montenegro in delivering the SDG is a critical new role for the Resident Coordinator and her office.

Better coordination should make it easier for you, representatives of members states, to know who does what and discuss with the agencies on your issues of interest. Also for you, dear government partners, in knowing that advise you receive across the UN is consistent and focused in most important areas of sustainable development.

More of course remains to be done, and next year we will start new drafting the Cooperation Framework in Montenegro.  But in the meantime it remains a great honour and privilege to lead the UN team in Montenegro and work alongside the Government as a ‘strong advocate’ for multilateralism.

Through the League of Nations created a century ago to the United Nations whose 75th anniversary we celebrate next year, countries strive to work closely together to address challenges that exist across borders.  At its core multilateralism is just that a– joint approach to joint problems that we argue is needed more than ever.  In words used at the closing the Assembly of the League of Nations in April 1946, “The League is dead, long live the United Nations!”[1]. to which we may add long live multilateralism.

Thank you.


[1] Source: https://www.unog.ch/80256EDD006B8954/(httpAssets)/36BC4F83BD9E4443C1257AF3004FC0AE/%24file/Historical_overview_of_the_League_of_Nations.pdf

UN entities involved in this initiative
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
International Labor Organization
International Organization for Migration
United Nations
United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
United Nations Children’s Fund
United Nations Industrial Development Organization
United Nations Office for Project Services
World Health Organization