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Multilateralism’s Crisis Is an Opportunity

Increasingly destructive natural disasters, geopolitical shifts, and glaring inequalities have forced the international community to acknowledge that existing frameworks for addressing global issues collectively are in need of an overhaul. In fact, this may be the world's last chance to get serious about sustainable development.

NEW YORK – When Cyclone Idai hit Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Madagascar last month, it left almost one thousand people dead, and hundreds of thousands more homeless, hungry, and threatened by disease. According to one estimate, more than $1 billion worth of infrastructure could have been lost.

Such catastrophes have become depressingly familiar. Idai was the latest in a series of extreme weather events showing us that the devastating effects of climate change lie not in some distant future, but in the present. Worse, the world’s poorest and most vulnerable communities are being hit the hardest. Mozambique – the country that suffered the most damage from Idai – will have to rebuild with both hands tied behind its back, because it is currently stuck in negotiations to restructure its unsustainable debt.

To address such challenges, in 2015, the international community adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which laid out a path to shared prosperity and sustainability. But the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) will not be achieved unless we overhaul our financial systems in accordance with the United Nations’ Addis Ababa Action Agenda. We need a global financial architecture that will enable us to fund necessary investments (including in resilient infrastructure), respond rapidly to shocks, and put struggling countries on sound financial footing.

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