Redefining Multilateralism

Shaping the future of global governance. A virtual dialogue with Foreign Policy magazine.

- America/New York

In a virtual dialogue co-hosted by UNU-CPR and Foreign Policy on 17 May global thought leaders discussed growing pressures on the multilateral system – and outlined how multilateral organizations and countries could navigate these challenges to secure a more peaceful, sustainable, and equitable planet.  

The dialogue was organized ahead of this September’s Summit of the Future in New York, which the UN has described as a once in a lifetime opportunity to enhance international cooperation, address gaps in global governance, and strengthen existing commitments, including to the Sustainable Development Goals. 

Attendees listened as Guy Ryder, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Policy, outlined growing pressures on the multilateral system: from the climate crisis and economic uncertainty to protracted conflicts and growing geopolitical tensions. 

In response, co-Chairs of the High-Level Advisory Body on Effective Multilateralism (HLAB) – Former President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and Former Prime Minister of Sweden, Stefan Lofven – outlined some of the solutions that Member States could adopt to enhance cooperation and better navigate the challenges the multilateral system is facing. 

The HLAB was initiated by the UN Secretary-General to identify concrete, actionable recommendations capable of transforming the multilateral system; its advisory report, A Breakthrough for People and Planet, was submitted to the Secretary-General’s Office in April 2023, and the ideas it advanced, from the reform of the international finance architecture to a just digital transition and collective security arrangements, featured during the dialogue.  

Former President Sirleaf also stressed the critical importance of political will – and called on powerful nations in the Global North to create a more equitable multilateral system for the twenty-first century that works in the interests of all. 

Elizabeth Cousens, CEO and President of the UN Foundation, looked optimistically at developments already underway – identifying opportunities to secure a more effective multilateralism. Cousens mentioned the mobilization of younger people and their persuasive calls for a safer, better future; emerging leaders across the Global South and the rising influence of cross-regional coalitions; and a new era of “radical honesty” in international politics, ensuring that real consequential issues be placed on the table.  

Watch a recording of the dialogue here


Guy Ryder

Under-Secretary-General for Policy
United Nations

Elizabeth Cousens

President and CEO
United Nations Foundation

Stefan Lofven

Former Prime Minister of Sweden

Ellen Johnson Sirleaf

Former President of Republic of Liberia

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