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Multilateralism: solving global problems together

Multilateralism: cooperation between states

Multilateralism: cooperation between states, © Thomas Koehler/photothek.net

15.09.2019 - Article

“Join together”, not “my country first”: multilateral cooperation is a success story. International cooperation is more important than ever today when it comes to resolving the most urgent issues of our age.

The UN General Assembly: multilateralism in New York

The world is set to meet in New York at the end of September. One hundred and ninety-three countries will come together when the UN General Assembly, which comprises all of the member states, convenes for the 74th time. This is an important meeting. From the conflict in Syria to the political transition in the Sudan to the situation in Yemen, the General Assembly addresses current political situations and issues that can only be resolved if all countries pull in the same direction.

The process referred to in foreign policy as multilateralism, in which multiple countries coordinate their policies with one another and act together on an equal footing, becomes particularly apparent at the UN. Multilateralism literally means “many-sided” and is formed of the Latin words “multus”, many, and “latus”, side.

Shared rules are to everyone’s advantage

In the field of foreign policy, multilateralism means that states refrain from pursuing their own interests with no regard for other countries. This is not something they do out of a sense of charity, however. They do this because they know that, ultimately, all states reap the greatest gains if they work together and agree on rules. Such cooperation relies on certain principles and values being shared by all parties.

An alliance for multilateralism

Foreign Minister Maas has therefore initiated an alliance for multilateralism, a new network of countries working together in a wide range of policy areas that is committed to preserving and further developing our rules-based order. The aim is to bolster the values of the UN, strengthen cooperation, enhance the legitimacy of fair rules and tackle the challenges of the future together.

The UN: the Charter lays down the rules of the game

The UN Charter lays down the rules according to which states cooperate and is therefore a key foundation of multilateral cooperation today. With the overarching objective of maintaining international peace and security, the member states undertake “to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character” (Article 1 (3) of the UN Charter).

Joint success story

This cooperation is a success story. From environmental policy to the protection of human rights and peacekeeping, it is clear that problems can only be resolved by working together — through agreements and practical cooperation between countries.

This is demonstrated in a fundamental way by the UN Charter, which lays down the rules of the game for all countries and establishes that conflicts must not be resolved by force. The European Convention on Human Rights acknowledges the same fundamental rights for all Europeans and establishes the right to enforce them in court. People from different countries work side by side in UN peace missions in order to put an end to conflicts.

Crises know no borders

In the age of globalisation, almost all countries on Earth are interconnected. Conflicts raging thousands of miles away may have a direct impact on people’s lives in Europe. Phenomena such as climate change cause problems that do not stop at any borders, which is why multilateral cooperation is more important than ever today.

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