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Understanding United Nations reform. Ten theoretical clues: (4) New partnerships

Published on 14 February 2015
Updated on 05 April 2024

The need for more governance at global level poses new problems for all non-state entities, which go beyond the usual scenarios of rise and fall. Many such entities have acquired considerable international stature and have a brand name and a constituency of their own. Taken together and assisted by the advance of information and communication technologies, they are a real force in international relations. The United Nations (UN) cannot but strengthen its credibility and influence, if it fosters the best conditions for partnerships with such forces.

The past practice of international cooperation does not offer sufficient solutions for adjustments to the current transnational paradigms and to the great diversity of non-state protagonists. The world’s reality is more complex than ever and implies a more emphatic recognition of the reciprocity of common interests and concerns.  This pre-supposes that all participants will engage in trade-offs of principles and ideas, learn from one another, exchange resources, and adapt their roles in accordance with the dynamics of globalisation. This new dimension of global awareness is unavoidable in any reformative strategy.

Therefore the traditional conceptualisation of the structure of, and processes in international relations should be revisited. Multilateral diplomacy is called to respond to an environment in which pressures from within and without states erode the capabilities of governments in many respects. At the same time, given the planetary dimension of most issues on the UN agenda, this call does not mean that the organisation should be attributed exclusive responsibilities for each issue and all together.

Indeed, the opportunities for interaction between intergovernmental multilateral institutions, transnational companies, and global social movements are increasingly numerous. Yet, the exchanges among them in fact make the preservation and exercise of the autonomy of protagonists more difficult. They also require valorisation of their comparative advantages with respect to resources, access to knowledge and expertise, as well as legitimacy.

And so exists the imperative of marshalling strategies in which all parties add a combination of resources in services of common projects. In the absence of such projects, neither can objectives be achieved, nor conflicts settled. Briefly, a substantive direction of reform would be an emphasis in mobilising and catalysing a new generation of partnerships.

See: Multilateral diplomacy course


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