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New School of Multilateralism – Viennese Circle

Sharpening senses for a contemporary security thinking. (Thomas Greminger)

International order in motion: While science is taking huge steps towards solving global problems, one gets the impression that there is no comparable agreeing on and solving common objectives in the multilateral sphere and—making the situation even more precarious—that an end of talks may be expected. The independent Viennese Circle on the Future of Multilateralism (ML) under the chair of Ursula Werther-Pietsch focuses on the topic as a way to meet global challenges.

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Challenges of the present

An immense loss of trust and credibility as well as an enormous polarization in the international system characterize the status quo ML1 – why?

  • Logic of rivalry. China – Russia – West – new “Non-Aligned” states. Global systemic competi-tion and a reconfiguration of regional centres of power are eminent or emerging.

  • Realpolitik and deterrence dominate the security policy discourse. Polarization, alliances and rearmament obscure the wide range of possible points of view.

  • Slow death of democracy. The map of governance is currently being rewritten. IDEA Stock-holm published a study in 2023, according to which 72% of the world's population already lives in autocratic systems compared to 46% ten years ago.2

Idea of the WorldNetOrder

Fundamental normative questions. In view of the divergence of life-worlds and the dysfunctionality of multilateral forums, fundamental normative questions such as the consensus on universal human rights or the inclusion of non-state actors are becoming increasingly urgent: Can we ultimately secure peace by means of a new model characterized by systemic complexity, aiming to balance legitimate interests? In other words: We are faced with the task of developing proposals for a new form of ML to eliminate or limit the violence it enables and to (re)engage in conversation.

Networked ML. An answer to this question may lie in a World Net Order (WNO)—a differentiated, rule-based, and open-minded ML that disposes of a two-stage conflict resolution mechanism. Flex-ibility in the norm setting ("nodes") requires more transparency, but also gives more room for adapted solutions ("networks"). To the extent that state and non-state actors participate in shaping the future, their responsibility also increases, and hence can be demanded. Complexity is used in the World Network Order (WNO) for inventing a new balance.

Multilateral systems thinking3 follows three axioms:

  • Freedom to regulate by multipolar (net)structures as a basic rule in a complex system4;
  • Problem solving through procedural justice – for more autonomy and self-determination5,
  • Use of a two-staged peace mechanism to optimize sustained peace between actors.

Answers we can anticipate

Dynamic Neostructuralism. In order to be effective, a new "Agenda for Peace" must build on existing
structures but complement them in an innovative way. What can we redesign? The following steps
are seen as a package:

  1. eGovernance Center as "rulemaker operator": In the WNO, power is contained through plurality: decentralized inclusive networks where only some actors are affected, global approaches in the case of global public goods. All interest-driven networks require greater vertical control and transparency. To do this, we need a control element for ML: the eGovernance Center, which monitors global normative development.
  2. Sharpening the Telos – Peace and Security Consensus: Due to the flexibilization through networking, a global peace consensus is necessary as a unifying umbrella, which could focus on a universal individual right to peace as the "lowest common denominator". This core of the WNO in the interest of all ("repacked universalism") is to be renegotiated following the example of the "Helsinki 2.0 principles"6
  3. Regional Peace & Security Hubs and Independent Early Warning Centres: In the area of peacekeeping, this results in a call for decentralisation: establishment of a two-tier system increases the strategic competence of emerging regional powers through a "cooling off" mechanism equipped with robust means upstream of the global level with rotating chairmanship with i.a. the involvement of permanent members of the Security Council. Independent regional early warning centres including international members serve as a "democratic" corrective.

Push for more empiricism: Strategic forethought is essential

A key to effective ML lies in recognizing, formulating, and bringing in common global interests. This presupposes an increased interweaving of practice-oriented research and science-based policy, since, due to increasingly complex issues, policymaking requires more strategic competence based on shared visions. 

The Ideas Lab is a discussion process and a "work in progress". The results will be fed into the runup to the UN Future Summit in 2024.

Click here for the final document and NSM papers: and



1 Definition see NSM Paper 1 Martin KREUTNER, What is Multilateralism.

2 IDEA Report 2023, released on 5 July 2023,

3 NSM Paper 2 Ursula WERTHER-PIETSCH and Florian WEINREICH, Multilateral Systems Thinking.

4 NSM Paper 4 Velina TCHAKAROVA, Dividing the World in Two?; NSM Paper 5 Heinz GÄRTNER, Ways Out.

5 NSM Paper 3 Michael STAUDINGER, ML as a Response to the Climate Crisis.

6 NSM Paper 6 Thomas GREMINGER, Sharpening Senses for Human and Cooperative Security; NSM Paper 7 Bea AUSTIN, Transformative Peacebuilding.

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Benedikt Zanzinger

Portrait Benedikt Zanzinger

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