Global Unity Tested as Leaders Convene amid Rising Conflicts at the United Nations

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The age of apocalypse seems imminent. Unity seems to be a far fetched dream in a world characterized by constant bickering. Yet human beings from every corner of the globe refuse to give up. They assemble under a common roof, working tirelessly, attempting to resolve conflicts through dialogues and processes, and endeavoring to paint the next chapter of a shared vision.

In the arena of the United Nations, the term “multilateralism” stands as a significant goal. On the other hand, the struggle for a coherent storyline that amalgamates the ideas of all 193 member states is equally crucial. However, these twin aspirations often find themselves pitted against each other when leaders convene each September at the United Nations – an edifice whose name itself suggests a paradox.

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In the current societal and political climate, “the narrative” holds significant value. It is a tool employed to penetrate through the noise, ensuring that the message is conveyed and subsequently influences actions as per one’s desire. However, the challenge lies in establishing that coherent narrative when countless nations, each wielding its individual voice, compose the equation.

As we stand amid the 21st century, it unfolds complex quandaries and conundrums. Fractures and fragmentation seem the indisputable norm. In such times, one ponders whether the world can be governed? The response lies in the notion that it can be governed to an extent that it has always been governed – minimally. Echoed by Jeffrey Martinson, an eminent political science scholar, the reality of this statement is evident in the speeches delivered by global leaders during the first two days at the UN General Assembly. Their addresses can be categorized best as an international carnival of conflicting demands, needs, grievances, all with topics such as climate change, war, public health, and social inequality at their nucleus.

For instance, Wavel Ramkalawan, president of the Seychelles, stated that the world is on the brink. This sentiment reflects the primary challenge encountered every year at the United Nations since World War II: how to strike a balance between optimism and harsh reality. Over recent years, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has set a grim tone with his yearly warnings. His narrative featuring darkening clouds gets gloomier each year, climaxing with his statement this year, “Our world is becoming unhinged”, eventually heightened further with his remark at a UN climate conference, “Humanity has opened the gates of hell.”

Against this backdrop, Antonio Guterres, despite his bleak linguistics, proposed ways to navigate the storm. His solution hinges upon the creation of a world that is “multipolar” and multilateral – the same pillars that built the United Nations.

But what does being multilateral signify? It symbolizes shared responsibility, ideas, and collective paths forward. However, differences within individual nations often hinder such cooperation.

The assumption of a singular governing body that can cater to and comprehend the needs and ambitions of each nation is proven to be illusory. According to sociologist and political scientist Andrea Molle, the international relations system is inherently anarchic. The attempt to converge under one roof and form a family of 193 member countries is bound to descend into chaos. Unfortunately, the aim to delineate a unified vision yet embracing diversity remains an elusive quest for the United Nations.

Nevertheless, hope persists. In a hall filled with leaders, deputy leaders, ministers, and diplomats who have traveled thousands of miles to a patch of land in New York City, the silver lining is evident. Amid the chaos, they sit down together, listen to each other, and make an earnest attempt to find ways through the pandemonium. Perhaps, the persistence of this effort is the essence of it all. While the endeavor to achieve governance and a unified narrative may seem ambitious for an organization like the United Nations, their remarkable record in creative problem-solving and inclusion offers some comfort.

Maybe, in the most complex era of human history, this is what governance eventually looks like. Perhaps the act of collaboration, the willingness to sit down among all contentions and ego, and the relentless effort to resolve issues is the primary step towards governance. The most significant victory could be that we refrain from ravaging each other. And sometimes, as exhibited this week, we come together to work things out. In the end, maybe the act of trying becomes the entire purpose.

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Melinda Cochrane is a poet, teacher and fiction author. She is also the editor and publisher of The Inspired Heart, a collection of international writers. Melinda also runs a publishing company, Melinda Cochrane International books for aspiring writers, based out Montreal, Quebec. Her publication credits include: The art of poetic inquiry, (Backalong Books), a novella, Desperate Freedom, (Brian Wrixon Books Canada), and 2 collections of poetry; The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat, (Backalong Books), and She’s an Island Poet, Desperate Freedom was on the bestseller's list for one week, and The Man Who Stole Father’s Boat is one of hope and encouragement for all those living in the social welfare system. She’s been published in online magazines such as, (regular writer for) ‘Life as a Human’, and Shannon Grissom’s magazine.