In a world facing complex and interconnected challenges such as climate change, poverty, inequality, biodiversity loss and pandemics, no country can solve them alone. We need to work together across borders, sectors and stakeholders to find common solutions and implement them effectively. This is the essence of multilateralism: the cooperation among multiple actors to address global issues and achieve shared goals.

What is multilateralism?

Multilateralism can be defined as the process of organizing relations between groups of three or more states or other entities on the basis of generalized principles of conduct. It involves the participation of multiple actors in decision-making and implementation, such as governments, international organizations, civil society, private sector, academia and others. Multilateralism can take different forms and levels, from global to regional to local, and from formal to informal.

Why is multilateralism important for sustainable development?

Sustainable development is the development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. It has three dimensions: economic, social and environmental. To achieve sustainable development, we need to balance these dimensions and ensure that no one is left behind.

Multilateralism is essential for sustainable development because:

  • It enables collective action to address global challenges that affect everyone, such as climate change, which requires coordinated efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to its impacts.
  • It fosters dialogue and cooperation among diverse actors with different perspectives and interests, which can lead to more inclusive and effective solutions that respect human rights and diversity.
  • It promotes solidarity and mutual support among countries and regions, especially between developed and developing countries, which can enhance their capacities and resources to achieve their development goals.
  • It strengthens the rule of law and the respect for international norms and agreements, which can create a more stable and predictable environment for development.

What are some examples of multilateralism for sustainable development?

There are many examples of multilateralism for sustainable development in action, such as:

  • The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which is a global framework adopted by all UN member states in 2015 to guide their actions towards achieving 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
  • The Paris Agreement, which is a landmark agreement adopted by 196 parties in 2015 to combat climate change and its impacts by limiting the global temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
  • The Bridgetown Initiative, which is a regional initiative launched by Barbados in 2020 to foster cooperation among Caribbean countries on issues such as disaster risk reduction, renewable energy, digital transformation and ocean governance.

How can we support multilateralism for sustainable development?

We can all play a role in supporting multilateralism for sustainable development by:

  • Raising awareness and advocating for the importance of multilateralism and its benefits for everyone.
  • Engaging in dialogue and collaboration with different actors across sectors and levels on common challenges and opportunities.
  • Holding ourselves and others accountable for our commitments and actions towards achieving sustainable development.
  • Celebrating and sharing good practices and lessons learned from multilateral initiatives and partnerships.

Multilateralism is not an option, but a necessity for sustainable development. Let’s work together to make it happen!