Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the 2020 U.N. General Assembly on Friday that the world is in crisis, “not just because of the last few months” and the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic, but “because of the last few decades, and because of us.”
Trudeau’s gloomy speech portrayed the world as teetering on the abyss, with “not a big chance, but a chance” to come together through multilateral organizations and save the future.
According to Trudeau, the postwar era was a time of commitment to international organizations, such as the United Nations, that people today would be wise to emulate, with necessary updates for modern challenges.
“We had a system, we had a generation, that learned from crisis and set us on a better path,” he said. “In their era, those systems worked. But that was 50, 60, 70 years ago. Today, all those institutions no longer serve us well enough on what they were designed for — defending multilateralism and international law, protecting human rights and open markets.”
“That is what the crisis of Covid-19 [Chinese coronavirus] has shown, beyond a shadow of a doubt: that things have to change, and not just on the world stage, but at home, too,” he insisted.
Trudeau cited the “climate reckoning” as the paramount example of a challenge that requires internationalist, multilateralist solutions.
“We are at this point because of our collective inability, over the past decades, to make the tough decisions and sacrifices needed to fight climate change and save future generations,” he argued. “The pandemic has not changed that. Our shared failures have continued, and our citizens are paying the price.”
Trudeau complained that the “concerted action” needed to address “climate, inequality, and health” is often blocked by “gridlock at decision-making bodies.”
“There are few consequences for countries that ignore international rules, for regimes that think might makes right,” he said, then took pointed shots at Russia and Iran without naming them:
Few consequences for places where opposition figures are being poisoned while cyber tools and disinformation are being used to destabilize democracies.
Few consequences when innocent citizens are arbitrarily detained and fundamental freedoms are repressed, when a plane of civilians is shot from the sky, when women’s rights are not treated as human rights, when no one has any rights at all.
During one of the passages in his speech where he shifted into French, Trudeau also criticized Myanmar for its mistreatment of the Rohingya Muslims, Belarus for its brutal attempts to suppress protests against a rigged election, China for arbitrarily detaining its citizens, various nations of the world for failing to respect the rights of indigenous peoples, and Lebanon for being Lebanon:
The only way to make things right, the only way to build a better future for our children and grandchildren, is to work together. By standing up for each other, regardless of the lines drawn on the maps:
The Rohingya in Myanmar, the protesters in Belarus, the Lebanese people, citizens arbitrarily detained in China, indigenous peoples, Canada and around the world.
In another French passage, he said the governments and institutions of the world, including in Canada, are not doing enough to eliminate systemic racism, homophobia, or sexism.
Trudeau said the world must realize that “putting some people ahead of others does not work.”
“A healthier, cleaner, more equal future cannot be the privilege of a lucky few. It must be the right of us all,” he said.
“Instead of crossing our fingers and hoping that the big powers will figure this out, let’s look at what we can do to make a difference together,” he urged. “Let’s use our shared power not just to get a vaccine, but to get it out to everyone. Let us be inspired by our citizens’ call to restore the global economy while we tackle climate change.”
“If we meet this moment, if we rise to this challenge, I know that, like our grandparents 70 years ago, we will lay the foundations of a better world,” he concluded.