By Ioan Voicu*
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres published before the current 76th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) his much anticipated report: Our Common Agenda.
Around 400 reports are issued annually in the Secretary-General’s name. But Our Common Agenda is an exceptional document, as it sets out a comprehensive vision for a better, more sustainable and peaceful future, as well as for more effective, inclusive and networked multilateral diplomacy.
We will refer in these lines to the value of solidarity as reflected in this highly programmatic document. There are 42 substantive references to solidarity leading to the conclusion that it must be recognized as a cardinal value in contemporary world. However, as realistically indicated in the report “Increasingly, people are turning their backs on the values of trust and solidarity in one another – the very values we need to rebuild our world and secure a better, more sustainable future for our people and our planet”.
The report reminds in this context that “Humanity’s welfare – and indeed, humanity’s very future – depend on solidarity and working together as a global family to achieve common goals”.
In specific terms, the report asserts that now is the time to re-embrace global solidarity and find new ways to work together for the common good. This must include a global vaccination plan to deliver vaccines against COVID-19 into the arms of the millions of people who are still denied this basic lifesaving measure. It must also include urgent and bold steps to address the triple crisis of climate disruption, biodiversity loss and pollution destroying our planet.
While everything proposed in this report depends on a deepening of solidarity, the document makes clear that “Solidarity is not charity; in an interconnected world, it is common sense. It is the principle of working together, recognizing that we are bound to each other and that no community or country can solve its challenges alone. It is about our shared responsibilities to and for each other, taking account of our common humanity and each person’s dignity, our diversity and our varying levels of capacity and need”.
Life itself demonstrates that the importance of solidarity has been thrown into sharp relief by COVID-19 and the race against variants, even for countries that are well advanced with vaccination campaigns. “No one is safe until everyone is safe”. What happened in the absence of solidarity ?
The report offers a realistic answer :” we have arrived at a critical paradox: international cooperation is more needed than ever but also harder to achieve “.
What is to be done ? The report says :” Through a deeper commitment to solidarity, at the national level, between generations and in the multilateral system, we can avoid the breakdown scenario and, instead, break through towards a more positive future”.
According to the report under consideration, “renewal of solidarity between generations should extend not only to those currently alive but also to their children and grandchildren…..Decisions made today will shape the course of the planet for centuries”.
We cannot present in detail the whole doctrine of solidarity developed in a 76 pages report , but it is recommendable to remind that by its content the report is a continuation of earlier diplomatic efforts to promote solidarity as a fundamental global value. We will quote just one example. The final Declaration of UNCTAD X (Bangkok, 19 February 2000) says :”Solidarity and a strong sense of moral responsibility must be the guiding light of national and international policy. They are not only ethical imperatives, but also prerequisites for a prosperous, peaceful and secure world based on true partnership”.
Romanian diplomacy has been actively present in the process of advancing the value of solidarity .On 28 September 1993, Teodor Melescanu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania, in his national address before the UNGA stated :” One of the most original contributions the United Nations could make during the current United Nations Decade of International Law would be to define the legal content of the “duty of solidarity” which should be implemented in consonance with the universally accepted principles of jus gentium, democracy and human rights. In our view solidarity should become one of the central strategic values of the new world order”.
It should be specified that the “duty of solidarity” was clearly linked in the Romanian proposal with the fundamental principles of international law and is a future -oriented concept. That aspect was taken into account in the UN Council of Human Rights which has on its permanent agenda the item Human rights and international solidarity. In the most recent resolution on this item dated 12 July 2021 the Council “reaffirms that international solidarity is not limited to international assistance and cooperation, aid, charity or humanitarian assistance; it is a broader concept and principle that includes sustainability in international relations, especially international economic relations, the peaceful coexistence of all members of the international community, equal partnerships and the equitable sharing of benefits and burdens. “In the same document, the Council recognizes that international solidarity shall be “a new foundational principle underpinning contemporary international law.”
It may sound over-optimistic. On that we join the opinion expressed by a distinguished American professor , Richard A. Falk , who wrote :”We cannot know the future, but we can know that the great enhancement of global solidarity would underpin the future we need and desire. Although this enhancement may currently seem “impossible,” we know that the impossible can happen when the historical moment is conducive”.
As announced during the 2021 Annual Meeting of Romanian Diplomacy, our country wishes to be elected member of the UN Council of Human Rights for the period 2023-2025.During this mandate the Romanian representatives would have the professional opportunity to contribute to the promotion of solidarity as one of the central strategic values of the new world order.
In 2020 the UN conducted a global listening exercise to mark its 75th anniversary. Over 1.5 million people and 60,000 organizations from 195 countries took part in this “largest ever global conversation” sharing their priorities for the future and ideas on strengthening multilateral diplomacy. The report Our Common Agenda benefited from this global conversation which dealt also with the value of solidarity and calls for a Summit of the Future to be held in 2023.
In conclusion, we may express the hope that UN Member States will support the recommendations contained in the report and will take action to move forward on an active intergovernmental process culminating in 2023 with a successful diplomatic event during which positive results would have to be reported about the implementation of Our Common Agenda, – a programmatic document which proves to be highly cogent during the current era of global vulnerabilities, perplexities and discontinuities.
Meanwhile, multilateral diplomacy needs to deploy more robust efforts to contribute to the success of the difficult test confronting the world community of nations in practicing global solidarity. The promotion of this fundamental value remains a widely open topic for future debates, consultations and diplomatic negotiations at the multilateral level, as well as for a fruitful and continuous exchange of doctrinal views on the matter.
*Dr Ioan Voicu was a Visiting Professor at Assumption University in Bangkok (2000-2019).