Why multilateralism matters

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Lake Chad region has been significantly impacted by the rise of violent extremism and the Boko Haram insurgency – from food insecurity to chronic poverty and displacement. Supported by the EU, Germany, Sweden and UK, the Regional Stabilisation Facility for Lake Chad aims to restore civilian security and improve the delivery of basic services and livelihoods. [UNDP/Aurélia Rusek]

This September, world leaders will gather at the UN in New York to reiterate the need to speed up action on the global promise to build a more equitable and sustainable world, which is the 2030 Agenda and its 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), write Ulrika Modéer and Ahunna Eziakonwa.

Ulrika Modéer is the assistant administrator and director of the Bureau of External Relations and Advocacy; Ahunna Eziakonwa is the assistant administrator and director of the Regional Bureau for Africa, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

Today’s global challenges – be they climate change, poverty and inequality, or migration – are growing and they affect rich and poor countries alike. It is estimated that by 2050 climate change will generate 143 million more migrants in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia alone.

Natural disasters, terrorism, cyber-warfare, and health pandemics are increasing at unprecedented levels.

According to a new UNDP report, more than two-thirds of the multidimensionally poor—886 million people—live in middle-income countries, and about 440 million live in low-income countries. In Europe, 110 million citizens or 22.4% of the total population are at risk of poverty or social exclusion.

These challenges call for immediate and collective action and can be tackled only if we all put our shoulders to the wheel. This is where multilateralism plays a critical role, now, more than ever.

Bringing the world together to defend human rights, sustain peace, and advance sustainable development for all is one of the ways we can secure a better future for the people and the planet.

Unfortunately, multilateralism is facing a crisis. There is a waning of concerted support, growing chauvinism, and protectionism, which are challenging the virtue of international cooperation. These obstacles are deterring the world from solving complex challenges that directly touch the lives of the poorest, particularly in the developing countries.

In the past years, Official Development Assistance (ODA) funding to multilateral development organisations has been on the rise, reaching an all-time high of US$63 billion in 2016. Yet, rising mistrust in multilateralism could lead to a downturn. For most of us who believe very strongly in multilateralism, not all is lost, but more work needs to be done.

That is why the campaign “Alliance of Multilateralism” to be launched by Germany and France during the UN General Assembly in New York to promote global cooperation at a time of rising nationalism and isolationism is very timely. The primary objective of the campaign is to show that countries that support multilateralism and the UN remain relevant in the world.

If the UN has been able to make a real difference in peoples’ lives around the world, it is only because it had the support of many partners who believe in achieving more through collaboration and cooperation.

Many development partners, including the European Union (EU) and its Member States, have been playing a central role in supporting sustainable development efforts, valuing UN’s role to tackle the world’s most pressing challenges.

In 2017, the EU and its member states were the world’s leading ODA provider, with an overall amount of €75.7 billion. Under its current Financial Framework (2015-2020), the EU allocated €26.1 billion of development assistance to Africa while the new Framework (2021-2027) envisages an increase of up to €32 billion.

The EU and development partners are supporting the ongoing efforts to address Africa’s pressing development challenges in sectors such as agriculture, education, health, energy, and emergency response.

In July 2019, UNDP’s partnership with the EU, Germany, Sweden, and UK led to the launch of the Regional Stabilization Facility for Lake Chad, an ambitious multi-million-dollar fund to scale up the range of stabilization intervention in areas of Lake Chad Basin.

Moreover, a post-disaster needs assessment undertaken in May 2019 by the UN, EU, World Bank, and the African Development Bank supported the recovery after Tropical Cyclones Idai and Kenneth ravaged Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe. The nearly $1.2 billion mobilised in pledges allowed to restore livelihoods and rebuild infrastructure.

At the UN General Assembly in 2018, the UN and the EU reaffirmed their strategic partnership and common values through four joint statements promising:

[1] stronger cooperation for multilateralism and a rules-based global order; [2] a renewed partnership to implement the 2030 Agenda; [3] forward-looking priorities for peace cooperation; and [4] crisis management and stronger trilateral cooperation with the African Union.

Earlier in June, EU member states reaffirmed the need for EU action to strengthen rules-based multilateralism, concluding that “effective multilateralism remains the best way to advance national as well as collective interests.”

If we want to deliver on our promise to meet the SDGs and leave no one behind, international cooperation is the way forward to preserve our collective values and make the world a safer and more equitable place for all.

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