Security Council Open Debate: Strengthening Multilateralism and the Role of the United Nations

Statement by H.E. Lise Gregoire-van Haaren,
Deputy Permanent Representative of the Kingdom of the Netherlands to the United Nations

New York, 9 November 2018

Mr. President,

On behalf of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, let me express our sincere thanks to China for organizing this debate on such a timely and important topic, with great relevance to build a safe, just and prosperous future for all.

I like to thank the Secretary-General and the briefers for setting the scene for this important debate. The Kingdom of the Netherlands aligns itself with declaration to be made by the European Union.

On the 11th of November, we will commemorate the end of the first World War. The horrors of that war, and also World War II that followed it, still resound today. The lessons we have drawn from these wars, have become part of our shared European history and are at the basis of our common endeavor to prevent global conflict at all costs.

I will center my intervention around three issues:

  1. Multilateralism
  2. UN Reform
  3. The importance of upholding international principles and rules.

1. Multilateralism

Multilateralism is the only credible answer to the challenges we face today such as climate change, migration, transnational crime and terrorism.

We cannot address these challenges unilaterally or bilaterally.

We need to tackle them together, by using those international organizations and fora that we created for this purpose and by finding common ground.

However, we are witnessing a trend, including in this Council, where the multilateral approach is being challenged and undermined.

This is a worrisome trend.

When the multilateral system becomes paralyzed, especially in the context of international peace and security, it is innocent people who suffer.

Too often, this Security Council fails to act: in Syria, in Yemen, in Myanmar. In the absence of action, ordinary citizens become victims and impunity reigns.

The situation in Syria has been a stark reminder of a crisis of respect for the hard-won gains in international law. From the Geneva Conventions, to the Charter of the UN, to the Chemical Weapons Convention.

In Syria, all of these norms were trampled upon.

In such a case, the primary responsibility rests with this Council.

In the event of mass atrocities, a paralyzed Security Council by the use of the veto will lead to circumvention of this Council, weakening its position and weakening the multilateral order. Therefore we support French-Mexican initiative. It is our obligation as UN member states to make sure the multilateral system works. This brings me to my second point: UN Reform.

2. UN Reform

The Kingdom of the Netherlands strongly supports the efforts of the Secretary-General to reform the UN in order to make the organization fit to meet the challenges of today’s rapidly changing world. Throughout the three pillars of the United Nations: peace and security, development, and human rights. Agenda 2030 is an important guide in that regard. The overall aim is to strengthen the role of the UN where possible, and to renew our commitment to the UN Charter continuously, in particular in the Security Council.

In order to deal effectively with peace and security challenges, all members should shoulder their responsibility.

We are convinced that the world stands to gain from a Security Council that is more agile and effective in its operations and its composition is a better reflection of today’s world.

On peacekeeping reform we strongly support the Secretary General's initiatives to make the UN's delivery more effective and efficient on the ground, such as through the A4P initiative, with its emphasis on performance.

Constructive multilateralism can also entail supporting new initiatives and forms of cooperation, such as, working closer together with regional organizations such as EU and AU.

Building on their resources, expertise and legitimacy, the UN can strengthen its role in dealing with crises throughout the conflict cycle from prevention before conflict to sustaining peace after conflict.

3. Upholding international principles and rules

The Kingdom of the Netherlands has always championed, and will continue to champion, the rules-based international order and multilateral cooperation – especially on security matters and other issues of shared concern. 

Upholding the Rule of Law, ensuring accountability, promoting and protecting international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that binds us all, are vital to the legitimacy of the UN and multilateralism.

There can be no lasting peace without justice.

Multilateral cooperation on peace and security requires cooperation across the board of the whole UN, including on human rights and the Human Rights Council, on fighting poverty and climate change, and on international law and Courts.

I would like to end with a quote of the speech my Prime Minister Rutte made at the start of this General Assembly.

“We should believe in the power of principle and not in the principle of power.”