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MULTILATERALISM: THE BASIS OF A NEW WORLD ORDER

Armenian News Network / Groong
March 25, 2003

By His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of Cilicia

ANTELIAS, LEBANON


The events of September 11th brought into question the conventional
understanding of power. They demonstrated to the world that arrogance
of power and vulnerability of power are intertwined. September 11th
happened against the background of a world characterized by terrorism,
religious extremism, ethnic conflict, neo-racism and neo-militarism,
and it remains a tangible and painful reminder of a world that is in a
state of disorientation, and disintegration.

After September 11th the world changed. Peoples, nations and
governments felt and continue to feel insecure, threatened. This
prevailing situation and war on Iraq point to the crucial need for a
new way of conflict resolution. Unilateralism does not lead to
security and peace. Unilateralism imposes its own agenda, pursues its
own interests and leads to confrontation. The new way of conflict
resolving and peace-making must be built on a code of conduct based on
multilateralism. In fact, multilateralism redefines power relations
and security. It creates a new model of relationships between
countries and within a country, and among the actors of civil
society. It affirms democracy and democratic processes, and sets the
foundations for a more secure world. It does so for the following
reasons:

1. Multilateralism promotes democratic processes. Any society that is
not built on democratic values becomes a source of injustice and
oppression.  Real democracy ensures the active participation of all
its constituent members and bodies. It also respects and encourages
diversity. Democratic principles should respond to concrete realities
and situations, the people of a given country should appropriate them,
and the system must be transparent. Imposed democracy becomes a
dictatorship.

2. Multilateralism aims at consensus. Multilateralism respects
plurality and diversity, and aims at mutual understanding through
consensus. Consensus building is neither a process of `giving in' or
`giving up' of one's view or conviction. It is a responsible and open
process of reaching a mutually agreed strategy. Hence, consensus is
not a passive attitude, but an active engagement that does not create
stagnation but dynamic interaction for the sake of peace and security.

3. Multilateralism promotes common peace with justice for all.
Security is inseparable from justice and justice sustains real peace.
This is no mere concept, but a lesson of history and a fact of
life. Peace-building requires justice-generating policies. Any
dichotomy or separation between justice and peace is unacceptable.
Peace is not the absence of war; it is a state of being where the
rights of all for security, freedom and dignified life are fully
respected. Therefore, any threat to the establishing of justice to all
is a threat to peace for all. In unilateral relations, justice and
peace are always conditioned and determined by narrow strategic
interests. It is not hard to identify concrete examples.
Multilateralism will, on the contrary, endeavor for a peace that is
built on justice: a peace that embraces a broader political or
geographical scope.

4. Multilateralism enhances people's power. In many societies the
people's power is often sacrificed for state power, people's economy
for national economy, people's security for national security.
Multilateralism empowers the actors of civil society to protect
people's interests. True democracy is based on people's interests, on
people's participation. We cannot ignore the people in decision-making
processes. In fact, recent popular demonstrations and different forms
of protests were living indicators of people's rejection of
unilateralism. Indeed, by saying `No' to war, the civil society and
many nations and states said `No' to unilateralism. It is vitally
important that the civil society become a proactive force.

5. Multilateralism provides the tools for conflict resolution and
nation-building. When nations act unilaterally in a conflict
situation, they often rely on force to attempt to resolve the
conflict. But as we have seen again and again, force does not resolve
conflict; it deepens the conflict and often causes religious and
ethnic turmoil particularly in fragile regions. Multilateralism on the
other hand, discourages the use of force; it provides tools for
conflict resolution: public awareness, education, monitoring,
mediation and diplomacy. It encourages nonviolent means of conflict
resolution grounded in international law.

6. Multilateralism strives for common security. A common and
comprehensive concept of security is based on the legitimate interests
and concerns of all nations, and opposes national security
doctrines. In a globalized world, no nation can pretend to be secure
so long as the rights of others for security are neglected. Security
for all must become the strategy of the new world.  Common security
cannot be achieved through military means, or by economic might. It
can only be achieved by protecting the rights of all people and
respecting their dignity. Multilateralism can ensure a more secure
future to humanity.

7. Multilateralism builds mutual trust. Lack of trust is at the root
of many conflicts. Trust-building is a crucial factor in conflict
resolution and peaceful coexistence. Multilateralism generates trust
and dialogue, and leads to mutual understanding. Unilateralism cannot
build trust; rather, it causes mistrust and fear.

Multilateralism should become the cornerstone of a new world order.
Multilateralism carries with it shared human values that are grounded
in religious values and moral principles. These values and principles
should transcend the narrow interpretation of religious beliefs and
should challenge narrow definitions of national and strategic
interests.  Multilateralism by definition means listening to all
actors in civil society, and acting on the basis of consensus. The new
world order should uphold the judgments passed by civil society,
because the people are the holders of real power. Multilateralism
means common responsibility and accountability by all. Multilateralism
means reconciled nations and communities.

The United Nations is the multilateral instrument by which we secure
world order and peace through global governance. It provides the
global forum and the context where nations meet, talk, debate and
decide. There can be no other alternative to the UN. It is a painful
reality to recognize that the role of the UN is being questioned, its
resolutions not being implemented and its recommendations not being
taken seriously by its member states. The integrity of the UN must be
protected, its credibility must be safeguarded, and its authority must
be strengthened.

With the fall of Soviet communism, a new model of world governance
based on international law would emerge, a model that would make an
impact on the way decisions are made within such multilateral
instruments like the United Nations. The politics of power relations
of the past months has shown that this is not happening. The debate on
Iraq in the UN was not a debate on war versus peace. It was
essentially a debate on multilateralism versus unilateralism. I pray
and hope that multilateralism will prevails as the new world order of
power sharing and decision-making.


--
His Holiness Aram I is the Armenian Catholicos of Cilicia and the
Moderator of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches.

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