Guest post submitted by: Michael Møller, Director-General, United Nations Office at Geneva.
100 years ago this year, the League of Nations was created in Geneva. The end of the First World War marked a watershed in many ways, and one of them was the bankruptcy of the old idea that balance-of-power politics could ever be a guarantor of peace. Clearly, an alternative international order was needed and in this vacuum emerged the idea of modern multilateralism.
The League itself may not have survived, but the idea it represented has proven remarkably successful. Think about all that multilateralism is: it is about much more than the avoidance of war among nations. Rather, multilateralism touches every aspect of the human experience: it is about countries coming together to fight hunger; to eradicate diseases like smallpox; to boost literacy; to promote prosperity and trade across borders. In fact, it is even about things like street signs or the dialing codes we use to call friends and family abroad – all of that is multilateralism in practice.
Geneva, the birthplace of modern multilateralism, has long been the operational center of the international system. Today, it pioneers a multilateralism fit for the 21st century – networked, inclusive and integrated. Home to over 100 international organizations, some 400 non-governmental organizations, representatives of 180 states, a vibrant private sector and world-class academic institutions, Geneva’s unique ecosystem enables partnerships, facilitates cooperation, and fosters innovation.
Looking at any of the many challenges we face – whether it’s climate change, refugee flows, rampant inequality, or armed conflict – our approach to resolving them must recognize how inextricably connected and mutually reinforcing they often are. The only sensible way to address them is by pursuing a global, holistic, multilateral and preventive approach focused on root causes.
That is what the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – our common roadmap to realize a better future for everyone, everywhere – is all about; and Geneva is the place where it is put into practice. 100 years and counting!