Will a Multipolar World Emerge from the Post-Cold War Chaos?
Valdai Discussion Club Conference Hall, Bolshaya Tatarskaya 42, Moscow, Russia

On Thursday, June 21, the Valdai Club hosted a meeting with António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations. Experts of the Club and journalists discussed with the distinguished guest the UN role in the contemporary world and the prospects of emergence of a truly multipolar world order.

Last April, António Guterres said that the cold war is “back with a vengeance.” According to him, the UN Security Council is inefficient, the mechanisms of dialogue do not work, and Russia and the West are embroiled in a serious conflict. At the suggestion of Fyodor Lukyanov, the Valdai Club Research Director, the new cold war became the central topic of the discussion.

According to the UN Secretary-General, there are two fundamental differences between the old cold war and the current one. First, there are no two blocs with clearly defined leadership, which all other states have to join. Many countries, like Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Iran, if it comes only to the Middle East, play their own game. Second, mechanisms of control, which maintained stability of the international system during the cold war, are no longer in place.

Meanwhile, new challenges are emerging, be that global terrorism, climate change, refugee crises, cyberwars or destruction of jobs as a result of technological revolution. All of these issues can only be solved by joint efforts, therefore strengthening multilateral institutions and rules is crucial.

It is clear that the United Nations, as the only global structure with absolute legitimacy and representing the entire international community, is to play a key role. But it is an open secret that its efficiency has been questioned for a long time. A reform of the UN Security Council is long overdue, the Secretary-General admitted, but it is a complex process, which will be decided by the member states, and we are far from a situation where solution is in sight. Nevertheless, Guterres stressed that when the Security Council is able to come together, it leads to a perspective of solution, as is the case with the Korean issue. “The capacity for unity of the Security Council is essential for preservation of security in the world,” he said.

A more realistic task, Guterres said, is a reform of the UN Secretariat, which is currently dominated by a small number of countries representing the global North. There is a need to rebalance it and also to bridge the gender gap to increase representation and make the main organs of the UN more impartial, he said.

Guterres lamented the United States’ withdrawal from UNESCO and the Human Rights Council, saying that this “will be worse for all.” According to him, work should be done to make people understand that the only way to be successful in solving global issues is joining forces.

In spite of the problems faced by the UN, Guterres is optimistic. According to him, after a short global domination of one power, the world became chaotic. However, this chaos is not the “new normal,” but transition to a multipolar world. And the best thing that states can do to overcome this chaos is to jointly work to strengthen the multilateral institutions.