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A New “Alliance for Multilateralism” Seeks to Restore International Cooperation

Germany's Heiko Maas and France's Jean-Yves Le Drian have unveiled plans for an "Alliance for Multilateralism." The German-Franco initiative hopes to gain many nations’ support before its official launch in September, to halt the global tide of nationalism and isolationism.

Early last week, France and Germany announced the joint “Alliance of Multilateralism”, to promote global cooperation in the face of rising nationalism and isolationism. Due to launch this September at the United Nations General Assembly, the German Foreign Minister, Heiko Maas, and his French counterpart, Jean-Yves Le Drian, have since held a joint press conference about their initiative.

Both leaders have reached out to their counterparts in Canada and Japan, inviting them to join their efforts, and are hoping that Australia, India, Indonesia, and Mexico will do so as well. Although it is expected that European states will band together with the initiative, the two foreign ministers have set out to convince as many countries as possible to come on board, before the alliance’s official launch in September, this year.

The initiative was announced after US President Donald Trump cut funding for the United Nations, withdrew from the UN Human Rights Council, UNESCO, and the Paris Climate Agreement, and took  office touting a nationalist “America first” foreign policy. Both Le Drian and Maas stressed that their initiative was not directed against the US, and Maas added that he would be happy to see the United States join the effort.  Nonetheless, the initiative can be read as a veiled rebuke to the current American administration, as members are expected to commit to a rules-based international order.

Maas noted that, “we see multilateralism is under threat,” adding that “all of those who want to join such an initiative (should) also declare themselves to be multilateralists. In the end, everyone will have to decide on which side they’re on.”

“Whoever wants to join us can join us — It is against nobody,” said Mass.

Last September, UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, opened the annual gathering of world leaders at the General Assembly, by declaring global cooperation the world’s best hope, and warning that  “multilateralism is under fire, precisely when we need it most.”

US President Trump’s speech soon after, scorned multilateralism, and he doubled down on his “America first” policy, and rejected  “the ideology of globalism”. The US retreat from the international order, has enabled states like China to advance its agenda, including promoting its controversial Belt and Road investment scheme, as well as allowing Russia relatively free reign in Syria, which has sidelined UN efforts in the region.

Even so, General Assembly President, Maria Espinosa Garces, said at the end of the week-long meeting – during which all 193 UN member nations spoke – that one of its major achievements was strong global backing for the UN and multilateralism.

“If not us, who?” Germany’s Heiko Maas and France’s Jean-Yves Le Drian unveil plans for an “Alliance for Multilateralism.” Copyright: @FranceONU /

The alliance’s first goal would be to prove that countries that “support multilateralism and support the United Nations, remain the majority in the world,” said Le Drian. The second objective would be to establish a network of countries who actively support multilateral cooperation, including working together to combat climate change, inequality, and the moderate social impacts of new technology.

Ultimately, there is no doubt that this alliance is meant to address the breakdown of the post-World War II international order. “We are in a good position to show to the world what could be the consequences of unilateralism and isolationism, and enabling nationalist and extremist speech to flourish,” Le Drian said.

Le Drian noted that while international cooperation is never easy, it remains key to security “because there is security only if it is collective, and it is the best guarantee for long-lasting peace.”

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B. Lana Guggenheim

Lana is a freelance journalist based in New York City. She has a M.Sc. in International Conflict from the London School of Economics and Political Science. She has worked as an analyst, reporter, and editor, covering extremism, culture, economics, and democracy.

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