ROME, Italy — The Vatican’s foreign minister said Pope Francis is “very committed to multilateralism” and “believes in the multilateral system,” in an interview published Monday.
The pope is a firm believer in multilateralism even if “he believes in a reformed and renewed multilateral system, more responsive to the challenges of the 21st century,” Archbishop Paul Gallagher declared in an interview with the Jesuit magazine America.
“We’ve got to try and make our multinational, multilateral institutions work better,” Archbishop Gallagher stated. “We have to try and get the United Nations to be incisive in confronting and resolving some problems in the world.”
“And if necessary, maybe these institutions have to be reformed,” he added. “For example, here in Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation is more or less paralyzed. We have to work at this, I think, in some way, making them more efficient and proactive.”
Throughout his pontificate, Pope Francis has been a vocal advocate for multilateralism as a remedy to what he sees as a dangerous resurgence of nationalism and populism.
Vatican Secretary for Relations with States (Vatican foreign Minister) British Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher arrives at the Paul VI Hall private studio as President of Cuba Raul Castro meets Pope Francis on May 10, 2015 in Vatican City, Vatican. (Franco Origlia/Getty Images)
“Trust in dialogue between people and between nations, in multilateralism, in the role of international organizations, in diplomacy as an instrument for comprehension and understanding, is indispensable for building a peaceful world,” the pontiff said in a 2019 video message.
Interview: Archbishop Gallagher on Vatican diplomacy, Ukraine and the threat of World War III https://t.co/HUgEB2iE46
— America Magazine (@americamag) July 18, 2022
The following year, the pope addressed the U.N. General Assembly and insisted the world stands at a crossroads between multilateralism and an ominous rebirth of nationalism.
The world must embark on a path to enhance “multilateralism” and “globally co-responsibility” in order to build on the values of justice, peace, and the unity of the human family, Francis asserted.
“The other option gives priority to self-sufficiency, nationalism, protectionism, individualism, and isolation,” the pope declared, “which leaves out the poorest, the most vulnerable, and the inhabitants of the existential peripheries.”
The pope also said that the role of the United Nations is fundamental to building up this multilateral response, highlighting in particular the mission of the U.N. Security Council.
“Our world in conflict needs the U.N. to become an increasingly effective laboratory for peace,” he said, “which requires that the members of the Security Council, especially the permanent ones, act with greater unity and determination.”
In his address, Francis warned that the erosion of multilateralism poses a graver risk because of the development of new forms of military technology, such as lethal autonomous weapons that he said have “irreversibly changing the nature of war, separating it even further from human action.”
Again in 2021, Francis launched an impassioned appeal for multilateralism during a visit to Athens, Greece.
Today, “we are witnessing a retreat from democracy,” the pope told Greek political leaders. “Democracy requires participation and involvement on the part of all; consequently, it demands hard work and patience. It is complex, whereas authoritarianism is peremptory and populism’s easy answers appear attractive.”
The international community needs this universal cooperation “in order to open up paths of peace through a multilateralism that will not end up being stifled by excessive nationalistic demands,” he declared.
“Politics needs this, in order to put common needs ahead of private interests,” he stated.
The pope’s advocacy for multilateralism has won him accolades from U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who has praised the pope’s “strong voice” on multilateralism.
“Through his work, the pope is contributing to reaching many of our objectives, including the Sustainable Development Goals, combating climate change and promoting a culture of peace,” Guterres said in 2019.
“Contrary to what is often said, we need greater international solidarity and more multilateralism,” he said. “We need to work together to address issues of peace and security, to promote sustainable development, to advance human rights, to reduce inequalities and to avoid a climate catastrophe.”
“We need a universal system that respects international law and is organized around strong multilateral institutions. But this multilateralism needs to adapt to the challenges of today and tomorrow,” Guterres added.