AT the United Nations in September, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad offered a sobering analysis of challenges confronting the international community.
With more than 20 years of experience in government and foreign affairs, Dr Mahathir is a veteran in multilateral diplomacy.
In his characteristically frank way, he articulated Malaysia’s position on a range of topics before the UN General Assembly, 15 years after his last appearance there.
Amid a range of pressing domestic social, political and economic concerns, some may question the relevance of dialogue and debate on global issues through platforms such as the UN.
A dispassionate survey of the history and overarching purpose of this organisation, however, provides ample justification for Malaysia’s sustained engagement with its organs.
Since its inception following the end of World War 2, the UN has facilitated the development of key norms and principles governing the behaviour of states and other actors on the world stage, contributing to the maintenance of international peace, security and prosperity.
Notwithstanding its imperfections, the rules-based order, which the UN system is designed to uphold, is an invaluable as-
set in which all nations are invested.
In 1957, Malaya was admitted as the 82nd member state of the UN, reflecting the unequivocal recognition of its sovereignty and independence by the global community.
Our fledgling nation benefited from technical assistance and expertise provided by the UN, which complemented national efforts aimed at socio-economic development.
Over the course of the intervening decades, Malaysia’s commitment to multilateralism has never wavered.
Issues deliberated on by the UN, which comprises 193 member states, are often cross-cutting in nature, implicating the values and interests of nations.
This is why they cannot be resolved through the actions of individual states.
Through political and economic networks, the modern world is indeed becoming smaller.
The independence of states in certain areas is balanced by their interdependence in others.
Emerging challenges transcend national boundaries, and if not addressed, will threaten the security, wellbeing and survival of mankind and the planet.
This is all the more so given the proliferation of new technologies, not always for benign purposes.
Under such circumstances, the dividing line between domestic and foreign affairs, and their spheres of policy, is increasingly difficult to discern.
For a relatively small, developing country like ours, commitment to multilateralism is essential in enabling us not only to advance our national interests, but also to set forth principled positions on broader subjects.
For example, Malaysia has consistently advocated a two-state solution to the question of Palestine, primarily through the UN.
During its most recent term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, Malaysia played an important role in the adoption of Resolution 2334, a significant milestone in advancing the Palestinian cause.
Ultimately, nearly everything that happens in any part of the world can affect us all.
Poverty, inequality, terrorism, cybersecurity, climate change and humanitarian crises are but a handful of issues necessitating collective attention and action.
Indeed, this realisation underpins the theme of the current session of the General Assembly, “Making the UN Relevant to All People: Global Leadership and Shared Responsibilities for Peaceful, Equitable and Sustainable Societies”.
In the face of rising protectionist trends and unilateral action, it is imperative for Malaysia to continue playing its part in strengthening multilateralism, especially the UN.
Mohd Hafiz Othman, Malaysian foreign service officer, now on secondment to the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly as political coordinator and senior adviser
Shivanand Sivamohan, Foreign service officer and member of the Malaysian delegation to the recent 73rd UN General Assembly session