China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and others are seeking support for a coalition to defend the United Nations Charter by pushing back against the use or threat of force and unilateral sanctions, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Thursday.
Other founding members of the group are Algeria, Angola, Belarus, Bolivia, Cambodia, Cuba, Eritrea, Laos, Nicaragua, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Syria and Venezuela, and the Palestinians.
The move comes as US President Joe Biden’s administration boosts its multilateral engagement with allies, reversing former president Donald Trump’s unilateral “America First” approach.
Biden has also pledged to take on China at the UN, where Beijing is pushing for greater global influence in a challenge to traditional US leadership.
The “Group of Friends in Defence of the Charter of the United Nations,” in a note seen by Reuters, states that multilateralism “is currently under an unprecedented attack, which, in turn, threatens global peace and security”.
A senior European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, responded: “These so-called friends are the ones who have done most to breach the charter. Maybe they should start by respecting human rights and fundamental freedoms in their own countries.”
The Group of Friends stated that, “The world is seeing a growing resort to unilateralism, marked by isolationist and arbitrary actions, including the imposition of unilateral coercive measures or the withdrawal from landmark agreements and multilateral institutions, as well as by attempts to undermine critical efforts to tackle common and global challenges.”
Under Trump, Washington announced plans to quit the World Health Organization, pulled out of the UN Human Rights Council, Unesco, a global climate change accord and the Iran nuclear deal.
However, Biden has rescinded the withdrawal from WHO, returned the US to the climate agreement, and re-engaged with the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.