Multilateralism: an action principle for the France

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What is multilateralism?

Multilateralism means to unify our forces in a coordinated manner to address issues that involve many actors (peace, climate and environment, the fight against terrorism, health, etc). For the past 70 years, multilateralism has had many objectives.

Multilateralism is a instrument for peace. The international scene is composed of many nations with diverse interests, which may sometimes be conflicting. Therefore, it is essential to “organize” the rivalries that can emerge in order to avoid a situation in which there reigns the power of the most high. Multilateralism is the best way to contain international rivalries.

Specifically, the research has shown that the action of the United Nations in the field of peacebuilding, peacekeeping and conflict prevention was crucial to reducing the number of conflicts observed in the world since the 1990s.

Multilateralism is also an instrument prevention and protection. It is used to resolve crises or addressing global challenges, multilateralism seeks to protect a common heritage, including the peace, the values and public goods such as climate and biodiversity. In the Face of challenges that affect multiple international stakeholders, only the multi-stakeholder approach can provide protection.

For example, the United Nations protect and promote human rights around the world, through the implementation of 80 treaties and declarations. It also defines the environmental agenda and the world and helps countries to implement environmental policies.

Multilateralism is a a practical tool on the ground. The multilateral system as it has been built over the past 70 years has led to the creation of numerous international institutions acting on a daily basis for the common good.

Since the first peacekeeping operation of the United Nations peacekeeping (PKO), more than a million men and women served in 71 of these operations in order to protect the most vulnerable people and save lives. In addition, the United Nations provides food and humanitarian assistance to 91.4 million people in 83 countries. In terms of health, the United Nations helps over two million women each month to overcome the complications of pregnancy and childbirth. They also cover the needs of immunization of 45% of the children in the world.

Multilateralism is also working to improve many aspects of people’s daily lives (phones, air travel, health standards). For example, the international Organization for standardization (ISO) has published over 22 000 international standards. ISO standards, developed by experts from around the world, covering almost all industrial sectors, including technology, food security, agriculture and health, and ensure that products and services are safe, reliable and of high quality.


Why multilateralism is being challenged

The multilateral system as it was designed after the Second world War, going through a serious crisis. The idea that an international system based on rules is the best way to ensure our security and our prosperity is not easy to understand for everyone.

For some, power politics prevails. They believe that it is the best way to protect their interests. The order multilateral, therefore, is in difficulty because of those who believe that “might is right”. For others, the current multilateral system is too costly and inefficient.

Commit to making multilateralism stronger and more effective

The States have not only national interests: they share many common interests.

Most of the challenges that the international system is confronted call for a collective response. These challenges therefore require a multilateralism bigger, stronger, and renewed. Many improvements are necessary with regard to representation, inclusion, and effectiveness.

This means protecting the standards, agreements and international institutions that are currently under pressure on the international scene. This is particularly evident in regard to human rights, international humanitarian law and the fight against climate change.

The global challenges we face can have disastrous consequences in the long term. Multilateralism is therefore the best way to preserve future generations.

“The future we want”

To mark the 75th anniversary of the United Nations, the Secretary-general of the United Nations launched in January an international debate on the role of global co-operation in building a better future for all, in the light of global trends. This debate takes the form of an online survey of a minute which can take part of people all over the world.

The consultation aims to help the united nations to cope with the changes that affect the world to make it a safer place to live, more just, and more sustainable.

Alliance for multilateralism

In February 2019, France and Germany jointly launched the Alliance for multilateralism. This alliance aims to bring together players with like-minded acting to reconcile their national interests and defend the global commons for humanity. Open to all, it includes partners from around the world, democratic powers sharing this multilateral vision.


The Alliance is not a formal institution but a network allowing the constitution of coalitions flexible. It is built around concrete initiatives to achieve its objectives around different themes: human rights, international humanitarian law, cyberspace, future technologies, disarmament, arms control, global public goods and strengthening international institutions.

The Alliance also tends the hand to non-state actors as stakeholders and key partners for the challenges we face.

New initiatives and events that feed into the main currents of action of the Alliance will continue to be developed.

Learn more about the Alliance for multilateralism

(Last updated: June 2020)

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