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Shaping Multilateralism: Principles and opportunities for multilateral cooperation in the UN by Gisela Hirschmann and Cornelia Ulbert

Summary

The dwindling support for multilateral cooperation by major global players is a direct threat to international organisations’ capacity to act. Various initiatives to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations in 2020 aim to restore this capacity. In Global Governance Spotlight 5|2019, Gisela Hirschmann and Cornelia Ulbert identify a number of options such as the flexible formation of coalitions, including the involvement of non-state actors, institutional reforms for more effective problem-solving and better communication to convince societies of the need for a collaborative approach to global challenges.

International organisations, with the United Nations (UN) system at the forefront, have for decades played a key role in multilateral cooperation for global problem-solving. With major global players such as the US increasingly withholding their political and financial support, there is now a direct threat to these organisations’ capacity to act. Various initiatives to mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations in 2020 aim to restore this capacity. UN2020 is one example: this civil society initiative has started a dialogue on “people-centered multilateralism” as a collective response to the challenges that lie ahead. In parallel, the UN initiated a consultation process with member states, the aim being to reaffirm the collective commitment to multilateralism at the UN General Assembly marking the 75th anniversary in September 2020.

Multilateralism is characterised by rules-based cooperation. But which rules and principles can serve as the basis for cooperation in a multipolar world with increasingly divided societies? The first step is to identify ways for governments and civil society to reach consensus on established principles – and new ones; second, to align existing institutions to these principles; and third, to take active countermeasures against rising populism.

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Global Governance Spotlight

Global Governance Spotlight concisely assesses selected international negotiation processes from a global governance perspective.