Does the UN Model Still Work? Challenges and Prospects for the Future of Multilateralism

Découvrez les contributions de nos, 15 décembre 2022, Kim Fontaine-Skronski, Valériane Thool, Michèle Rioux, Henri-Paul Normandin, Guy Saint-Jacques

Éditeur.trices : Kim Fontaine-Skronski, Valériane Thool et Norbert Eschborn

Des de l’IEIM ont participé à la réalisation de cet ouvrage. Retrouvez leurs contributions ci-dessous :


Multilateralism is challenged, in part due to great power rivalry. There is no substitute for states’ willingness to engage productively in multilateral affairs, but while there is no silver bullet to reinvigorate multilateralism, “inclusive multilateralism” holds some potential.

Inclusive multilateralism entails the participation, in different ways, of other stakeholders: civil society, business and other levels of government including cities. The Declaration adopted by the UN General Assembly to celebrate the UN’s 75th anniversary indeed calls for a more inclusive multilateralism; and in this context, the Secretary-General specifically identified cities.

Why are cities increasingly active in multilateral arenas? Because global issues are often local issues, and vice versa. Examples include climate change, the Sustainable Development Goals, migration, biodiversity and COVID-19. In all these areas, and many more, cities are, in effect, actors. And what they do – or don’t do – matters globally. So, cities often manage, in various ways, to “get a seat at the global table” and, in addition to acting on those issues, they influence the agenda. Such involvement, by cities and other stakeholders, will likely contribute to the evolution of multilateralism in the years ahead.

Pour lire le chapitre 5, cliquez ici

  • Chapitre 7 Multilateralism, Interdependence and Globalization par Michèle Rioux


This chapter contextualizes multilateralism historically and in today’s world. It discusses the importance of redefining the concepts of market economy, competition and hidden protectionism. If the WTO should act as an umbrella institution, it is unclear that it can evolve to succeed in this endeavor.

The first part of the chapter will distinguish three historical periods and a new one that is characterized by many new issues. The second part will discuss the role of the WTO and the most important issues that might lead to its marginalization as a core multilateral organization of the world economic system.

Pour lire le chapitre 7, cliquez ici.

  • Chapitre 9 Reframing the International Trade and Investment Framework to Meet the Challenges of the 21st Century par Mehdi Abbas


This chapter explores avenues for renewing the global trade and investment framework, namely the 29 WTO agreements, the 303 regional trade agreements (RTAs) and the 3,291 international investment agreements (IIAs). The crisis into which the WTO, the central institution of this framework, has been plunged will be the common thread of this reflection.

We aim to provide an answer that goes beyond the idea that the WTO crisis is due to the conflicting interests of a large number of members. This view tends to focus attention on issues internal to the WTO: its governance and decision-making procedures. It stresses the behavior of countries, formal decision-making processes or the governance mechanisms of the WTO. It largely confines the debate about the Doha Development Agenda (DDA) deadlocks to issues of institutional design and technical management of the negotiations. We assume a political economy approach. The multilateral trade and investment framework crisis can be explained, first of all, by the fact that it is regulated by agreements negotiated 25 years ago (1995) by the Quadrilateral (United States, European Union, Canada and Japan). China was not a member of the WTO at the time, the BASICs (Brazil, South Africa, India and China) did not represent more than 4.6 percent of world merchandise exports, the internet and digitalization were embryonic, and Asia-Pacific-centric global value chains had not fundamentally changed the global trade and investment system.

We will first examine developments of the global trade and investment system and the possible repercussions of the global health crisis on it. In fact, the global COVID-19 pandemic opens a new sequence in the globalization process, where power rivalries, evident since the 2007–2008 crisis, could lead to a more conflictual global political economy. That would make it more imperative to renovate the international trade and investment framework. Facing a less asymmetric and more state-centric and heterogeneous global trade and investment system, the new framework could open up to (i) more flexibility regarding North – South relations, (ii) more institutional and normative pluralism regarding future trade agreements and (iii) institutional experimentation to improve WTO governance.

Pour lire le chapitre 9, cliquez ici.

  • Chapitre 10 A New Climate Club Is the Best Way to Reduce Global Emissions of Greenhouse Gases par Guy Saint-Jacques


With the election of President Joe Biden and the subsequent announcement that the United States would reintegrate the Paris Accord, there is new hope that progress can be accomplished at the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in Glasgow in November 2021 (COP 26). However, negotiations under the aegis of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have been very contentious in the past as unanimity is required to adopt resolutions. As a result, it is very difficult to agree on binding ambitious plans to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or to agree on measures to adapt to climate change.

This chapter looks at the role of a few players in the international negotiations. For instance, Canada was instrumental in organizing the process in the 1980s that led to the adoption of the UNFCCC at the Rio Summit, but upheavals in domestic politics led to periods where Canada was less active and even opposed to taking strong action. In the last few years, this has changed with more attention and action taking place now to reduce GHG. It is also important to look at the case of China, the world’s largest emitter of GHG, both at the UNFCCC where it leads the G77, and domestically as it has become the country that invests the most in renewable technology. The other big player to look at is the United States, as all indications are that the Biden administration understands the need to take strong action.

It is also important to look at the emphasis now given to climate issues by the private sector (insurance firms, business, etc.) as they understand the priority given by investors to environmental, social and governance (ESG) questions. Finally, possible actions, such as a tax on the carbon content of imported goods, could have a major impact on trade in the future.

Pour lire le chapitre 10, cliquez ici.

Résumé de l’ouvrage

Composed of original articles from academics and policy notes from practitioners, this book attempts to draw up the state of multilateralism through the UN model and identify potential ways to address its challenges and shortcomings. The contributors question the role of multilateralism, sometimes accused of being fragmented, inefficient and unrepresentative, and its impact on global governance, democracy, trade and investment, the environment, and human rights. Since most of the authors are not from the UN system, the content of the contributions provides an external and more neutral assessment of the UN’s ability to continue to function today as a serious actor within a global movement in favor of a renewed form of multilateralism.

Pour citer l’ouvrage

(Eds.). (28 Nov. 2022). Does the UN Model Still Work? Challenges and Prospects for the Future of Multilateralism. Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill. doi:

Pour en savoir plus et se procurer l’ouvrage, cliquez ici.


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