Event Reports

Crafting an Alliance for Multilateralism

by Sebastian Borchmeyer
The KAS New York Office, jointly with the EU funded Jean Monnet Research Network on EU-UN Relations (EUN-NET) and the German Marshall Fund of the United States hosted a first discussion on the proposed “Alliance for Multilateralism” on May 14th. Opening remarks by the German Permanent Representatives to the United Nations, Dr. Christoph Heusgen started off a vibrant discussion with panelists Edith Drieskens (Leuven University), Maria Gianniou (Athens University of Economics and Business), Robert Kissack (Barcelona Institute of International Studies) and Jake Sherman (International Peace Institute) moderated by Jan Techau (GMF).

The Alliance for Multilateralism is a Franco-German initiative that will be officially launched at the opening of the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2019. The Alliance’s goal is to reinvigorate the values of multilateralism and advocate for a rules-based world order upholding international norms enshrined in the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It comes at a time when the subversion of multilateral institutions – while not new – has acquired a new quality. Established rules and norms, including binding UN resolutions, do not seem to be of value anymore for key international actors. For the moment, the Alliance is still in the making and constitutes an idea rather than a thoroughly defined concept. Therefore, the discussion brought forward a broad range of arguments and perspectives regarding the benefits of such an alliance and the pitfalls it could face.

Taking into consideration the current disregard for multilateral achievements, such a loose alliance could operate along different tracks. One certainly would need to focus on the preservation of human rights and their universality; another could address economic issues between Member States. In order to make it a success further conceptualization and clear definitions of objectives will be needed.

In any case, such an alliance will have to prove that multilateralism works and that it provides solutions to the complex global problems. It will have to fill the gap that the cold shoulder of the US towards multilateral solutions creates. For the role of Europe and the European Union, it will mean that the notion of solidarity has to overcome the trends of favored nationalist and populist solutions. The role of the EU in such an alliance will largely depend on the capacity of the EU to deliver on its own values. The positioning of the Alliance towards the UN needs to be carefully crafted.

An Alliance for Multilateralism might feature as a core-group of like-minded states with concentric or converging circles of thematically allied partners. Its mission will have to be the defense of universal rights, rules and values. It will have to bring in other stakeholders such as the private sector and civil society. For the Alliance it should be especially important to leave the New York bubble, to reach out to societies and to convey the relevance of multilateralism to younger audiences through technologies.

Contact Person

Sebastian Borchmeyer

Sebastian Borchmeyer bild

Senior Program Officer

sebastian.borchmeyer@kas.de +1 (646) 649-3144