International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace

On 24 April 2024, a well-attended conference took place at the United Nations Office in Geneva to commemorate International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace, a tradition that goes back to the adoption by the UN General Assembly of Resolution 73/127, which reaffirms the UN Charter and the purposes and principles of the UN, especially the commitment to settle disputes through peaceful means (Art. 2(3) of the Charter) and the determination to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war[1].

In the light of the ongoing war in Ukraine and the genocide being perpetrated by Israel in Gaza with the complicity of the United States, Canada, UK, France, Germany and other States, the holding of this conference was particularly relevant.  The conference was attended by two dozen Ambassadors, numerous academics and representatives of non-governmental organizations.

I had the opportunity to speak on the subject of “Navigating the present: The Vital Role of International Law in Today’s Global Landscape.” I stressed that the UN Charter is akin to a world constitution, the only rules-based international order that is universally recognized, notwithstanding the fact that some powerful states systematically ignore it. Such disregard of the Charter and of fundamental principles of international law has had a detrimental impact on the authority of the United Nations, whose credibility is in decline since the demise of the Soviet Union and the brazen display of a “winner takes all mindset” by the United States in the spirt of Francis Fukuyama’s The End of History [2].

Unilateralism became the rule after the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact.  The unipolar world enforced submission to the will of the United States.  The then-almighty dollar was instrumentalized to control international finance and trade.  Dependence on the dollar effectively hollowed out the sovereignty of many states.  Multilateralism discretely disappeared.

It did not have to be like that.  In the spirit of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the world could have flourished through disarmament, including nuclear disarmament.  Civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights could have been promoted worldwide and extreme poverty could have been eliminated. Military-first economies could have been converted into human security economies, and millions of jobs would have been created in all fields of human activity[3].  The funds released by slashing military budgets worldwide would have made the Millennium Development Goals[4] of 2000 and the Sustainable Development Goals[5] of 2015 easily attainable.

This dream of disarmament for development was smashed by President Bill Clinton, who preferred “soft” and hard US power to advance the interests of the military-industrial-financial-media-digital complex, which was also served by academics and ideologues like Zbigniew Brzezinski, whose book The Grand Chessboard[6] reflected the jubilant mood of the self-serving and self-deceiving hegemon.

The world has evolved since the 1990’s and the unipolar fantasies have been gradually dissipating.  One can see light at the end of the tunnel, since the days of unilateralism are coming to an end.  The crimes of unilateralism, however, have multiplied, accompanied by numerous military interventions and coups d’état throughout of the world.

It seems that the global majority is waking up.  BRICS, the Belt and Road Initiative and other geopolitical developments prove that a multipolar world order is emerging.  Indeed, multilateralism is necessary to sustain this process and ensure that the promises of the UN Charter are realised.

In this context I cited from General Assembly Resolution 73/127, adopted on 12 December 2018 by a recorded vote of 144 in favour, 2 against and no abstentions.  This resolution, submitted by the Non-Aligned Movement, declared 24 April “International Day for multilateralism and diplomacy for peace.”

The voting record of States in the General Assembly and the Human Rights Council illustrates which countries are in favour of multilateralism and peace, and which countries are against.  The only two votes cast against Res. 73/127 were those of the United States and Israel.  The self-same two countries were also the only objectors to the adoption of the nearly universal GA Res. 78/7 condemning the illegal US embargo against Cuba.  This was the 31st such resolution, and all of them have been violated by the US in total impunity.

GA Resolution 78/202, which condemned unilateral coercive measures (UCMs, falsely referred to as “sanctions”), was adopted by 131 votes in favour and 53 against.  Here it was not only the US and Israel who voted against, but also many European countries and their vassals who also participate in this illegal practice of imposing UCMs that by now have a long history of causing suffering and death in numerous targeted countries.  Indeed, UCMs demonstrably kill. On 25 March 2024 these issues were extensively discussed at an Arria Formula Meeting at the Security Council[7], about which I already reported in Counterpunch.[8]

Chapter 8 of my book The Human Rights Industry[9] is devoted entirely to an analysis of the voting record of States, and it proves that some countries have not abandoned their animus dominandi, their preference to bully, give orders, impose UCMs, and their refusal to settle disputes by peaceful means.

In my presentation I emphasized that the most urgent task of the United Nations is to facilitate ceasefires and peace negotiations in a spirit of compromise. Secretary General Antonio Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk agree that prevention is better than cure, and that it is the task of United Nations agencies to make constructive proposals to solve grievances before they degenerate into war.  It is crucial to break the vicious circle of crime and reprisal and devise means of coexistence and reconciliation.

I am persuaded that unless our leaders through their provocations and escalations end up causing World War III  — as our ancestors stumbled into World Wars I and II — there will be some kind of settlement of the on-going armed conflicts. There will be a post-war period in Ukraine, Israel, Sudan, Congo, Armenia-Azerbaijan, Niger, the Sahel, Syria, Yemen, and other countries at war.  We must prepare for this post-war period remembering the words of the Constitution of UNESCO That  since wars begin in  the minds of  men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed”[10].

What is multilateralism?

Simply put – cooperation among multiple players on the basis of sovereign equality. It entails adherence to a common political project based on the respect of a shared system of norms and values.  Multilateralism is based on founding principles such as consultation, inclusion and solidarity.  It requires goodwill, good faith and a commitment to respect and enforce legal rules.  When legal rules are violated with impunity, when judgments and rulings of the International Court of Justice are ignored, when Security Council and General Assembly resolutions are not implemented, the whole system suffers.  There is too much lip service for the concept of the rule of law, but it is being eroded domestically and internationally.

It sounds like a platitude, but it is obvious that global problems require global solutions, which cannot be imposed by one country but must be negotiated.  The world urgently needs solutions for climate, food, energy and financial problems. We must be ready to address pandemics and natural disasters, including an asteroid impacting on Earth.  We are all in this boat together. It is the function of diplomacy to facilitate solutions through multilateral give-and-take, through common sense compromises that may render a win-win arrangement.

The 25 Zayas Principles of International Order serve peace and security

My seventh thematic report to the Human Rights Council, presented in March 2018 (A/HRC/37/63), formulated principles of International order, which summarized my theoretical and practical approach to the subject in the light of the empirical experience of administering the mandate.  These norms of international law and practice derive their legal basis from the Principles and Purposes of the UN Charter, key General Assembly resolutions (notably resolutions 2131 (XX), 2625 (XXV), 3314 (XXIX), 39/11, 55/2 and 60/1), core UN Conventions, inter alia the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic and Consular Relations and other universal treaties such as the Geneva Red Cross Conventions and Additional Protocols.  They reflect the progressive development of international law as created and applied by the United Nations and its specialized agencies, and propose a vision of a peaceful, democratic and equitable international order based on the cooperation of all stakeholders – both States and non-State actors, sovereign countries, inter-governmental organizations, transnational enterprises, peoples and minorities striving for self-determination, indigenous peoples, religious institutions and civil society.

These guiding principles should be understood in a holistic way, rejecting any kind of “fragmentation” of international law into “stand-alone” legal regimes in competition with each other.  The authority and credibility of the system of international law depends on its internal coherence and on rules of interpretation that recognize a logical hierarchy as well as a horizontal mutual reinforcement. Admittedly, these standards encompass not only hard law but also soft law and general notions of ethics and justice.  Like Virginia Dandan’s Draft Declaration on the Right to International Solidarity,[11] the UN Declaration on the Right of Indigenous Peoples,[12] the Commission on Human Right’s Declaration on the illegality of forced population transfers,[13]  and John Ruggie’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights,[14]    the Zayas principles on international order are not exhaustive and are intended to serve as useful criteria or standards to evaluate and better understand the complexities of the evolving international order.  One should also keep this caveat in mind:  Principles and norms are not self-executing.  Indeed, as the Bible has not resolved the problem of sin, and the UN Charter has not ended aggressive war and exploitation, these principles shall not eo ipso guarantee a democratic and equitable international order in the 21st century. Realistically speaking, even if all of these principles and declarations one day were to become UN treaties, they would still need political will, good faith, and an effective enforcement mechanism in order to make a difference.

The first principle reads as follows:

The paramount principle of international order is Peace.

The Preamble and Articles 1 and 2 of the Charter stipulate that the principal goal of the Organization is the promotion and maintenance of peace. This entails the prevention of local, regional and international conflict, and in case of armed conflict, the deployment of effective measures aimed at peace-making, reconstruction and reconciliation. The production and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction constitutes a continuing threat against peace.[15] Hence, it is necessary that States negotiate in good faith for the early conclusion of a universal treaty on general and complete disarmament under effective international control[16].  Peace is much more than the absence of war, and necessitates an equitable world order, characterized by the gradual elimination of the root causes of conflict, including extreme poverty, endemic injustice, privilege and structural violence.  The motto of the International Labour Organization deserves being recognized as the universal motto for our time:  si vis pacem, cole justitiam (if you want peace, cultivate justice). Moreover, peace must be recognized as an enabling right, a pre-condition to the enjoyment of civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights.[17]

The wars in Ukraine and Gaza

I went on to address issues arising from the War in Ukraine, which I explained was eminently avoidable.  It was the unilateralism of the United States, the non-stop provocations by NATO and the refusal of Ukraine to implement its treaty obligations under the Minsk Agreements that finally led to armed conflict.  The intransigence of the US and NATO have made a ceasefire and multilateral peace negotiations impossible, notwithstanding the mediation of Turkish President Erdogan and the former Israeli Prime Minister Bennett.

The war in Gaza is the result of violations by Israel of countless UN resolutions, including Security Council resolution 242[18], and the failure by Israel to implement any of the recommendations formulated in the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice or 9 July 2004.[19]  The war did not start on 7 October 2023, but already in 1947-48 with the Nakba[20] and the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their home.  Israel is an Apartheid state[21] and the situation of the population of Gaza, illegally sieged by Israel since 2007, makes us think of the Warsaw ghetto in 1943 and the effort by the hapless Jews to break the Nazi siege[22].  They were massacred by the Nazis, as now the Gaza civilians are being massacred by the IDF.

Let us leave it to the International Court of Justice to find that Israel is committing Genocide[23], that the United States, Canada, UK, France and Germany[24] are complicit in the genocide, and make concrete proposals for reparation to the victims.


How can we contribute to enhancing multilateralism and peace?

1) We must win the information war. We are swimming in an ocean of lies about the conflicts in Ukraine, Israel and elsewhere.  We are swimming in fake news, fake history, fake law, fake diplomacy by a media largely in the service of Washington and Brussels.

2) Countries should promote de-dollarization in all fields in order to break the continuing financial and trade blackmail by the US.

3) The international community should insist on proper financing of the United Nations and its agencies – from the regular budget. In particular UNRWA must be properly funded.  The countries that have withheld funding from UNRWA are guilty of complicity in the genocide of innocent Palestinian civilians.

4) The international community must cooperate to prevent future armed conflict by ensuring multilateral negotiations. My 25 Principles of International Order[25] focus on prevention of violations of human rights and strict adherence to treaty obligations, respect for Security Council and General Assembly Resolutions, implementation of judgments and advisory opinions of the International Court of Justice.

5) More States should join South Africa in its ICJ case against Israel.

6) Multilateral pressure on Israel is necessary to ensure an immediate ceasefire and adequate compensation to the victims.

7) States should consider breaking diplomatic and trade relations with Israel. Genocide is the ultimate crime. There is no “business as usual” when a State is committing genocide and other States are delivering the weapons used to perpetrate the genocide.

8) The General Assembly should withdraw the credentials of Israeli diplomats and take away their vote in the General Assembly, as was done against the Apartheid regime in South Africa in 1973.

9) The General Assembly should invoke article 96 of the UN Charter and elevate legal questions to the ICJ for advisory opinions on many pressing issues, including the illegality of unilateral coercive measures, the fact that UCMs destroy the benefits of globalization, sabotage supply chains, generate humanitarian crises.

10) The ICJ should declare that UCMs constitute crimes against humanity, because UCMs kill by the tens of thousands, as documented in submissions to the International Criminal Court, which thus far Prosecutor Karim Khan has apparently put on ice.

11) The General Assembly should adopt the draft Convention on the Right to Development and the draft declaration on international solidarity[26].

12) Countries should refuse to implement UCMs and exercise diplomatic protection on behalf of individuals and enterprises subject to illegal UCMs. Example: Switzerland should prohibit its principal bank UBS to submit to illegal US extra-territorial legislation. Switzerland should defend the rights of its enterprises and push back against illegal US UCMs.  Switzerland should take legal action against the US before the ICJ, the Permanent Court of Arbitration, the WTO Dispute Tribunal and other venues.

13) A multilateral fund should be established to assist weaker countries and enterprises who refuse to implement UCMs and are subjected to penalties by the US and other countries imposing UCMs.

14) Bearing in mind that human rights must be justiciable, juridical and enforceable, the international community must work together to strengthen regional and international adjudication by organs such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights, the African Court of Human and Peoples Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee, the UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, etc.

15) A global pact on education for multilateralism and peace should be established.




[3] See the 2014 Report of the UN Independent Expert on International Order to the UN Human Rights Council



[6] The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Its Geostrategic Imperatives. New York, Basic Books, 1997







[13] Annex to document E/CN.4/Sub.2/1997/23.



[15]  The UN Human Rights Committee regularly issues “general comments” to elucidate the scope of its provisions.  See General Comments Nr. 6 and 14 on the right to life, which condemn the production and stockpiling of weapons of mass destruction that may destroy life on Earth.

[16] See my 2014 report to the Human Rights Council A/HRC/27/51, paras. 6, 16, 18 and 44. The United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons entered into force on 22 January 2021.

[17] Alfred de Zayas, “Peace” in William Schabas (ed.), Cambridge Companion to International Criminal Law, Cambridge 2016, pp. 97-116.




[21] Jimmy Carter, Palestine:  Peace not Apartheid, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2006.  We can have peace in the Holy Land, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2009.


[23]  South Africa v. Israel

[24] Nicaragua v. Germany.

[25] Chapter 2, Building a Just World Order.


Alfred de Zayas is a law professor at the Geneva School of Diplomacy and served as a UN Independent Expert on International Order 2012-18. He is the author of twelve books including “Building a Just World Order” (2021) “Countering Mainstream Narratives” 2022, and “The Human Rights Industry” (Clarity Press, 2021).