Vatican Chief: Multilateralism Is ‘Privileged Way to Promote the Common Good’

Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, speaks during the presentation of the book 'Ordres et decorations du Saint-Siege' in the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican on October 2019. (Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP) (Photo by FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images)
FILIPPO MONTEFORTE/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin underscored the importance of “multilateral action” Thursday, asserting that it translates brotherhood “into courage and generosity.”

A multilateral commitment “is a privileged way to promote the common good of the human family and to develop original ideas and innovative strategies,” Cardinal Parolin declared in an address to a virtual event on Fraternity, Multilateralism, and Peace in Geneva.

Multilateral action through diplomacy, negotiation, and multilateral institutions helps achieve “a truly universal common good and the protection of the weakest states,” he said.

One place this multilateralism is especially important, the cardinal asserted, is the area of immigration.

“Attention to the most needy and those who find themselves in situations of vulnerability, in particular for refugees, migrants and internally displaced persons, is not only a testimony of brotherhood, but an observation of attention to the real need of our sisters and our brothers,” he said.

“In this sense, the Holy See welcomes the basic vision of the Global Compact on refugees, which aims to strengthen international cooperation through a more equitable and predictable sharing of responsibility,” he added, “while recalling that the ideal and most comprehensive lasting solution is to ensure the rights of all to live and thrive in dignity, peace and security in their countries of origin.”

Parolin’s assertion of the primacy of multilateralism over the efforts and good of individual states echoes a recurring message of the pontificate of Pope Francis.

“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 pope said in a 2019 video-message recorded in the company of António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations.

Similarly, Francis told the U.N. General Assembly in 2020 that the world stands at a crossroads between multilateralism and a dangerous resurgence of nationalism.

The world should 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, he insisted.

“The other option gives priority to self-sufficiency, nationalism, protectionism, individualism, and isolation,” the pontiff declared, “which leaves out the poorest, the most vulnerable, and the inhabitants of the existential peripheries.”

The pope said 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,” the pope 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.”

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