Pope Benedict XVI told the U.N. General Assembly that strengthening human rights should be the key to solving the world's problems and that nations should guard against a relativistic interpretation of moral principles.
The international community must be "capable of responding to the demands of the human family through binding international rules," Benedict said on his first papal trip to the U.S.
Collective interventions by the international community are needed, the pope said.
Benedict warned against power being concentrated in the hands of just a few nations.
"Multilateral consensus," he said, speaking in French, "continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a small number."
The pontiff praised the United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights, which applies "to everyone by virtue of the common origin of the person, who remains the high-point of God's creative design for the world and for history."
This week has brought celebrations of that document's 60th anniversary.
Pope Benedict also warned that human rights should be protected from becoming "a relativistic conception," which he said would result in rights' definitions varying and "their universality … denied in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks."
Benedict is only the third pope to address the United Nations. His remarks came after three dramatic days in which he repeatedly discussed America's clergy sexual abuse scandal.
Later Friday afternoon, Pope Benedict will make history as he becomes the first pontiff to visit an American synagogue, the 118-year-old Park East Synagogue.
In New York, the pope also plans to visit Ground Zero and to celebrate a Mass at Yankee Stadium.