Rising nationalism, weakening multilateralism

In his traditional New Year’s greetings to the ambassadors from 183 countries that maintain diplomatic relations with the Holy See, Pope Francis warned that the rise of nationalism and the weakening of the multilateral approach to resolving problems are among the most serious challenges facing the world today.

Jan 18, 2019

By Gerard O’Connell
In his traditional New Year’s greetings to the ambassadors from 183 countries that maintain diplomatic relations with the Holy See, Pope Francis warned that the rise of nationalism and the weakening of the multilateral approach to resolving problems are among the most serious challenges facing the world today.

He denounced a new arms race, especially among states that possess nuclear weapons, and emphasized the urgent need for a unified, global response to climate change and the migration crisis. He appealed to the international community to bring an end to the conflict in Syria and denounced attempts to stoke up enmity between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East.

His annual address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See is considered the most important of the year in geopolitical terms. It is closely monitored by states worldwide because of the moral authority of the pope and the diplomatic role of the Holy See. In a speech that lasted almost an hour in the Vatican’s Sala Regia, Pope Francis offered an overview of how he and the Holy See understand the situation in the world today and for the first time before this important audience spoke about the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church.

He recalled that the modern multilateral diplomacy, “whereby states attempt to distance their reciprocal relations from the mentality of domination that leads to war,” began with the establishment of the League of Nations in June 1919, but the difficulties that experiment in global governance encountered led to the Second World War. Nevertheless, the league paved the way for the establishment of the United Nations in 1945, which, despite “difficulties and obstacles,” continues to provide “an opportunity for nations to meet and seek common solutions” to problems.

Francis reminded the ambassadors and the governments they represent that “an indispensable condition for the success of multilateral diplomacy is the goodwill and good faith of the parties, their readiness to deal with one another fairly and honestly, and their openness to accepting the inevitable compromises arising from disputes.”

But, he said, “whenever even one of these elements is missing, the result is a search for unilateral solutions and, in the end, the domination of the powerful over the weak.”

He recalled that the League of Nations failed for these very reasons and noted with regret that “the same attitudes are threatening the stability of the major international organizations” today.

“The reappearance of some populist and nationalist impulses today is progressively weakening the multilateral system,” the pope said, “resulting in a general lack of trust, a crisis of credibility in international political life and a gradual marginalization of the most vulnerable members of the family of nations.”

He underlined the importance of “respect for law and justice both within their national communities and within the international community” and said “reactive, emotional and hasty solutions” by political leaders “may well be able to garner short-term consensus, but they will certainly not help the solution of deeper problems; indeed, they will aggravate them.”

Multilateralism promotes the “defence of those most vul- nerable,” Francis said, citing the Church’s efforts to help people suffering in eastern Ukraine because of “the conflict that has now lasted for almost five years and has recently seen troubling developments in the Black Sea.”

He noted with sadness that “in these years, Syria and more generally the whole Middle East have become a battleground for many conflicting interests” and said that “in addition to those of a chiefly political and military nature, we should not overlook attempts to foment hostility between Muslims and Christians.”

Francis appealed to the international community “to defend not only refugees but also migrants” and “to provide assistance to all those forced to emigrate on account of the scourge of poverty and various forms of violence and persecution, as well as natural catastrophes and climatic disturbances, and to facilitate measures aimed at permitting their social integration in the receiving countries.”--America Magazine

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