Last September, the United Nations marked its 75th anniversary in somber style, against the backdrop of a once-in-a-century pandemic, a deepening climate crisis, geopolitical tensions and antipathy from its most powerful member. A year on, the United States has returned—for the most part—to the multilateral fold. Otherwise, much remains the same. COVID-19 continues its rampage; global warming and biodiversity loss proceed apace; and great power competition stymies international cooperation.

Into this maelstrom steps U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. As world leaders gather in person and virtually for this week’s annual opening of the U.N. General Assembly, Guterres will seek their support for his vision of a “stronger, more networked and inclusive multilateral system,” as outlined in a sweeping new report titled, “Our Common Agenda.” The report depicts the U.N. as the ultimate foundation for world order,…

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