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What is multilateralism?

Multilateralism: cooperation between states

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

12.06.2019 - Article

“Join together” not “my country first”: multilateral foreign policy is more important than ever.

We talk of multilateralism when states coordinate their policies and act together as equals. Multilateral literally means “many-sided” (from the Latin “multus” many, “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. However, they don’t do this out of a sense of charity. They do it because they know that ultimately all states reap the greatest gains if they work together and agree on rules. Such cooperation is underpinned by principles and values shared by all parties, including respect for human rights, democracy, liberty and the rule of law.

The United Nations is the key

The United Nations is a key driving force behind multilateralism. All states meet at equals in its agencies and committees. All member states have pledged to uphold the values laid down in the Charter of the United Nations.

Crises know no boundaries

In the age of globalisation, almost all countries on Earth are interconnected. Conflicts raging thousands of miles away may, for example, have a direct impact on people’s lives in Europe.  Phenomena such as climate change cause problems that do not stop at any borders.

A network of international team players

Foreign Minister Maas is therefore assembling an alliance of multilateralists, a new network of states that want to champion shared values and joint action around the world. The aim is to bolster the values of the United Nations, strengthen cooperation and enhance the legitimacy of fair rules. 

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