The principles, values, and institutions of multilateralism, including the United Nations, are under sustained scrutiny and assault. Their performance and effectiveness are questioned, as are their decision-making procedures and their representation according to 21st-century standards of accountability and democracy. All this has a corrosive effect on their legitimacy.
This research brief explores the systemic, hegemonic and normative sources of the challenges to multilateralism, and assesses the implications of these challenges for the viability and legitimacy of multilateral arrangements. In conclusion, it argues that only fundamentally new thinking about multilateralism will allow us to envision values and institutions which are appropriate for the post-Westphalian 21st-century.