Students carry the flags of UN member states to mark International Peace Day. New York, September 21, 2016. (Laura Jarriel/UN Photo)

Students carry the flags of UN member states to mark International Peace Day. New York, September 21, 2016. (Laura Jarriel/UN Photo)

The past 18 months have seen a number of multilateral triumphs: among them the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Paris Agreement on climate change, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on financing for development, and the “sustaining peace” resolutions for revitalizing United Nations peacebuilding passed by the Security Council and General Assembly in April. These successes point the way forward for responding to the multitude of challenges facing the international community.

Flawed as it may be, the multilateral system still has the capacity to deliver. Indeed, in an age of multiple crises—complex and interlinked in nature and global in scope—cooperation among states and other stakeholders is more needed than ever. This is the key message of Pulling Together: The Multilateral System and Its Future. The report is the result of an extensive process of consultation and review by the International Peace Institute’s Independent Commission on Multilateralism (ICM), spanning two years and five continents.

It is evident that states are under stress in many parts of the world. Pressure is coming from both external factors and internal vulnerabilities. Universal values are under siege or are being sacrificed in the pursuit of narrow self-interest. Challenges such as human displacement, terrorism, climate change, cybersecurity threats, and pandemics know no borders.

Too many states and peoples have responded to these problems by unilaterally using force or by turning inward, building barriers instead of bridges, and stifling dissent, under the guise of fighting external threats. Dialogue is being replaced by belligerent monologues. Intolerance is on the rise. Mistrust within and among nations is increasing. Read more