Virtual dialogue on “Multilateralism in the time of COVID-19”

Friday, 01 May 2020

Geneva | UNOG | Olga Cheremisina

More than 1500 people watched the virtual dialogue on Multilateralism in the time of COVID-19 on UN Web TV on 24 April. And many more followed the discussion on Facebook Live.

It was organized by the UN Office at Geneva to mark the International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace.

As part of the UN@75 global initiative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the event brought together leaders of international organizations in Geneva and students from the University of Geneva and the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, as well as the Swiss think-tank Foraus.   

In her opening remarks, the Director-General of UNOG, Tatiana Valovaya stressed that the scenario of a return to business as usual was not “realistic”.

Instead, she hoped that this crisis would strengthen international cooperation and solidarity, and lead to a “more inclusive multilateralism” that would allow humankind to face the current and other existential threats such as the climate emergency.

Other panelists spoke and addressed questions from students on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on multilateral cooperation, including Martin Chungong, IPU Secretary-General; Fabiola Gianotti, CERN Director-General; Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General; Houlin Zhao, ITU Secretary-General; Noel Curran, EBU Director-General and Fabrizio Hochschild, Under Secretary-General and Special Advisor on Preparations for the Seventy-Fifth United Nations Anniversary.

Panelists and students discussed the need for global solidarity during and after the crisis, the crucial role of science in guiding decision-making, and the need for transparent and reliable information to counter fake news.

They also talked about the importance of preserving freedoms and individual rights, ensuring equitable access to food, medicine and reliable telecommunications for the most vulnerable (including refugees and informal workers), and the need to for the response to the pandemic also addresses growing inequalities and climate change.

There was particular support - in the panel and among the online audience - for a proposal put forward by a student from the University of Geneva for a Youth Charter and the organization of a Youth Assembly at the UN in 2021.

Mr. Hochschild noted that “lives will be lost, and lives will be saved based on how well we cooperate across borders”. He expressed the hope that we would all “find our way back to the global aspiration” of a reinvigorated and more inclusive multilateralism.

Watch the video replay above or on UN Web TV!