In the period between the two World Wars, “populist and nationalist demands proved more forceful than the activity of the League of Nations”: “The reappearance of these impulses today is progressively weakening the multilateral system, resulting in a general lack of trust, a crisis of credibility in international political life, and a gradual marginalization of the most vulnerable members of the family of nations”. This is the alarm raised by Pope Francis in his address to the Diplomatic Corps, in which he cited Paul VI, the first Pope to deliver a “memorable” address to the United Nations Assembly on “the purpose of multilateral diplomacy, its characteristics and its responsibilities in the contemporary context”, and on “its points of contact with the spiritual mission of the Pope and thus of the Holy See”. The Pontiff went on to recall the hundredth anniversary of the League of Nations, established by the Treaty of Versailles, signed on 28 June 1919, calling it “the beginning of modern multilateral diplomacy, whereby states attempt to distance their reciprocal relations from the mentality of domination that leads to war”. “The experiment of the League of Nations quickly met with those well-known difficulties that exactly twenty years after its birth led to a new and more devastating conflict, the Second World War”, the Pope remarked. “Nevertheless, that experiment paved the way for the establishment in 1945 of the United Nations Organization. Certainly, that way remains full of difficulties and obstacles, nor is it always effective, since conflicts persist even today, yet it cannot be denied that it provides an opportunity for nations to meet and seek common solutions”. According to the Holy See, an “indispensable condition for the success of multilateral diplomacy is the good will and good faith of the parties, their readiness to deal with one another fairly and honestly, and their openness to accepting the inevitable compromises arising from disputes”. “Whenever even one of these elements is missing, the result is a search for unilateral solutions and, in the end, the domination of the powerful over the weak. The League of Nations failed for these very reasons, and one notes with regret that the same attitudes are presently threatening the stability of the major international Organizations”.
Hence it is important that “today too there should be no lessening of the desire for serene and constructive discussions between states. It is clear, though, that relationships within the international community, and the multilateral system as a whole, are experiencing a period of difficulty, with the resurgence of nationalistic tendencies at odds with the vocation of the international Organizations to be a setting for dialogue and encounter for all countries”. “This is partly due to a certain inability of the multilateral system to offer effective solutions to a number of long unresolved situations, like certain protracted conflicts, or to confront present challenges in a way satisfactory to all”, the Pope explained. “It is also in part the result of the development of national policies determined more by the search for a quick partisan consensus than by the patient pursuit of the common good by providing long-term answers. It is likewise partially the outcome of the growing influence within the international Organizations of powers and interest groups that impose their own visions and ideas, sparking new forms of ideological colonization, often in disregard for the identity, dignity and sensitivities of peoples. In part too, it is a consequence of the reaction in some parts of the world to a globalization that has in some respects developed in too rapid and disorderly a manner, resulting in a tension between globalization and local realities”. “The global dimension has to be considered without ever losing sight of the local”, Pope Francis warned. “As a reaction to a ‘spherical’ notion of globalization, one that levels differences and smooths out particularities, it is easy for forms of nationalism to reemerge. Yet globalization can prove promising to the extent that it can be ‘polyhedric’, favouring a positive interplay between the identity of individual peoples and countries and globalization itself, in accordance with the principle that the whole is greater than the part”.