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UN multilateralism crisis Eskinder Debebe/UN Photo/Handout/Xinhua via Getty Images

Will Multilateralism Survive?

The rules-based international order established after World War II is sliding into dysfunction – just when cooperation to tackle multiple global threats is arguably more essential than ever. Would a change of leadership in the United States reinvigorate the United Nations and other multilateral institutions, or should efforts to strengthen international collaboration be focused elsewhere?

In this Big Picture, former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urges world leaders to remain true to the hopes of the organization’s founding generation by recommitting to global cooperation. To this end, Josep Borrell, the European Union’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, pledges the bloc’s continued support for the UN, arguing that a world without the body would endanger everyone.

But Richard Haass of the Council on Foreign Relations thinks the UN is flawed beyond salvation, and argues that multilateralism and global governance will – for better or worse – have to take place largely outside the organization. Similarly, former NATO Secretary-General Javier Solana doubts that the UN can live up to its first headquarters’ nickname and function as a true “peace factory” that effectively addresses future international threats.

Like Ban, however, José Antonio Ocampo, a former UN under-secretary general, defends the organization, citing its historic contribution to social and economic development. More broadly, the Brookings Institution’s Kemal Derviş and Sebastián Strauss call on internationalists to counter populist narratives that demonize the UN and other multilateral forums by clarifying what global solidarity really means.

Finally, former Spanish foreign minister Ana Palacio takes a middle path, urging political leaders to keep the current flawed multilateral system alive in the hope that the US will soon resume global leadership.

Featured in this Big Picture

  1. Ban Ki-moonBan Ki-moon
  2. Josep BorrellJosep Borrell
  3. Richard HaassRichard Haass
  4. Javier SolanaJavier Solana
  5. José Antonio OcampoJosé Antonio Ocampo
  6. Kemal DervişKemal Derviş
  7. Sebastián StraussSebastián Strauss
  8. Ana PalacioAna Palacio

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