Kishore Mahbubani: The West Should Work Hard to Strengthen the UN Family of Institutions Instead of Trying To Weaken Them

Kishore Mahbubani, distinguished fellow at the Asia Research Institute of National University of Singapore and former Singaporean Ambassador to the United Nations (UN), delivered a speech at the Yellow River Basin Youth Economic Forum, a main part of the Global Youth Conference 2022 held in Jinan, Shandong Province, on May 13. He opined that facing numerous global challenges, the world needs greater global cooperation. He also called for a stronger role of the UN and other international organizations in global governance.

Kishore Mahbubani

The following is the full text of his speech:

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and gentlemen,

It’s a great honor for me to be invited to deliver these remarks at the global youth conference of 2022. I believe that your meeting today is very timely. It is timely, because our world is facing many challenges simultaneously.

As you all know, we are still struggling to get out of the challenge posed by COVID-19. And just as we thought that 2022 will be a calm, stable, and peaceful year, a major war has broken out in Ukraine.

All this is of course added to the tremendous global uncertainties that people’s around the world are facing. They are struggling with rising inflation. They’re struggling with a slowing global economy. And clearly, what the world needs today is greater global cooperation to deal with all these challenges that we face.

But many people don’t understand why is it we need to cooperate. So to explain why we need to cooperate, I’ve actually used what I call a boat analogy. What is a boat analogy? It’s quite simple. In the past, when 7.8 billion people in the world lived in 193 separate countries, it was as though they were living in 193 separate boats with captains and crews to take care of each boat. And of course in that world, when we live on separate boats, if one boat catches COVID-19, it will not spread to the other boat, because we are in different boats.

But the big lesson that global challenges like COVID-19, or, frankly, like climate change, what this global challenges are teaching us is that the 7.8 billion people in the world today, no longer live in 193 separate boats. Instead, the 7.8 billion people of our world now live a 193 separate cabins on the same boat.

So therefore, what humanity needs to do, therefore, is to change the mindset and understand that if we are going to deal with the problems of the future, we have to come together all of us to do so. And this is why a conference like yours is very important, because it can help to send a signal that the world needs greater global cooperation.

And fortunately, for us, we don’t have to try and reinvent the world order to foster greater global cooperation.

Fortunately, for us, at the end of World War Two, many western countries actually came together to create a family of multilateral institutions under the banner of the United Nations. And that’s why we have the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council. We also have very important organizations like the World Health Organization, the World Meteorological Organization, and other such organizations.

If we want the world to work together, we must find a place for all the countries in the world to come together. And that place clearly is the United Nations. And sadly, what’s happened in the last few years is that the same western countries that had created the United Nations family had been trying to weaken the UN family of institutions.

In so doing, I believe that they are going against their own interests. Because as I tell my friends from the west, at the end of the day, the total population of the west makes up only 12% of the world’s population. The rest of the world makes up 88% of the world’s population. So the west would like to cooperate more with the remaining 88% of the world. The west should now change course instead of trying to weaken the UN family of institutions. The west should work hard to strengthen the UN family of institutions.

I hope that a conference like yours today will also help to share the message that the youth of all the world, including the youth of China, would like to see stronger multilateral institutions.

Thank you very much.

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