Multilateralism is going through a period of profound and rapid change. Power shifts, new technologies and deep social and economic changes are reshaping politics between and within States. The need for international cooperation to tackle global threats is greater than ever, and many multilateral institutions face unprecedented demands. But designing and delivering collective responses to global challenges is also increasingly complex.
A growing number of actors – ranging from governments to corporations and NGOs – have an essential role to play in tackling today’s challenges. Classic, treaty-based multilateralism is frequently ill-suited to shaping and guiding the coalitions necessary to tackle issues ranging from migration to the impacts of technological innovation. The communications revolution has transformed diplomacy, allowing individuals and interest groups around the world to contribute to – or disrupt – decision-making processes that would once have taken place unobserved in New York or Geneva. Innovations in data gathering give the UN and other institutions opportunities to quantify policy challenges in unprecedented detail.
The UN has evolved a theory of change that links rule of law and respect for human rights to conflict prevention and the sustaining peace agenda. Building effective, transparent, inclusive and responsive rule of law institutions – principally, police, justice, and corrections – is considered crucial for immediate protection in fragile contexts, prevention of escalation of political and other disputes into widespread violent conflict, greater societal resilience, more inclusive governance, and a new social contract. The UN’s rule of law work is thus inextricably linked to the Organization’s peace and security agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions).