Guarding against all forms of pseudo multilateralism and sticking to the right path
Four years ago, when world leaders and business titans gathered for the World Economic Forum (WEF) in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, the world was facing a consequential choice between sticking to the path of multilateralism and giving way to unilateralism championed by Washington’s “America First” doctrine.
Four years later, the international community, profoundly challenged by a seething pandemic, an agonizing economic recession, as well as a fleet of other daunting global problems, is facing a new critical test of resisting all forms of pseudo multilateralism and upholding the genuine one.
While the globalist feast of the WEF in 2017 gave an unequivocal support for multilateralism, this year’s forum, an virtual event that opened on Monday, provided a timely venue for the global community to gather greater global consensus to make the right decision once again.
Modern multilateralism can date back to the age when the Peace of Westphalia was negotiated and settled.
It was born to lessen the leverage of the powerful over the weak and to reduce conflicts. In the following centuries, multilateralism has experienced constant evolution to meet the needs of different times.
For instance, the United Nations was founded as one of the pillars of the post-war world order to underpin global peace in the wake of World War II.
The BRICS bloc that groups Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa, was formed when a sustainable global economic growth needs stronger and more coordinated input from the world’s major emerging economies.
However, a genuine form of multilateralism demands far more than a number of countries bundling together for a self-serving purpose. History does not lack painful lessons of some major powers abusing multilateralism as a tool for hegemonic ambitions. The Iraq War in 2003 was such a classic example.
At this utterly challenging crux in human history, it is imperative for the global community to debunk and deny all kinds of manipulations of multilateralism and to stick to the right path.
To begin with, closed-group politics usually takes the camouflage of multilateralism. By gathering together, some wealthy world powers have formed exclusive clubs, seeking to dictate the world’s agenda on key global questions so as to put their interests ahead of common interests of the wider world.
A second pattern of phony multilateralism is found in a handful of countries’ attempt to monopolize the rights to stipulate rules for the world, and impose their will on the entire international community.
The age when the globe could be dominated by one or several major powers has long gone and will never return. For a fairer world order, global affairs should be managed collectively and the world’s rules need to be written jointly by all countries, big or small, wealthy or poor.
Also, the dangerous move of ideologizing multilateralism to forge value-based alliances targeting specific countries should be alerted to. Those divisive actions will only crumble trust among nations and fortify ideological entrenchment that will lead to greater confrontation.
Changes unseen in a century
For centuries, from ending two world wars to terminating the 2008 global financial crisis, multilateralism, even in its nascent stage, has proved to be an effective way to supplant a lack of global governance in an anarchic state of the world, safeguard world peace and promote global prosperity.
The world today is undergoing changes unseen in a century, and the human race needs more than ever multilateralism to vanquish the deadly pathogen, slow down the rising of sea levels, boost collective security and bolster common development. None of those tasks can be achieved single-handedly.
Of course, no one should expect the multilateral mechanisms required in today’s world will stay exactly the same as the ones when the United Nations was founded.
However, such purposes and principles as stated in the UN Charter and other fundamental norms governing international relations, including mutual respect for sovereignty and equality of all countries, should be carried forward.
Washington’s reckless pursuit of unilateralism over the past four years has shown that multilateralism, despite being the wave of the human future, is not something that the world community can take for granted.
The new US administration has extended a welcoming gesture by agreeing to return to the Paris climate accord and the World Health Organization. Nevertheless, for genuine multilateralism to succeed in the future, the world community should always stay vigilant against all fake types.
After all, the danger of a single or a few powers hijacking multilateralism for self-interests is as much destructive as, if not more than, the blunt practice of unilateralism.