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Multilateral Diplomacy

by on February 20, 2013





Multilateral diplomacy is the joint negotiation of two or more states that are gathered to deal with issues that are affecting all states similarly. Although not a very old concept, evidence has shown that multilateral diplomacy has been used in the past the Treaty of Westphalia is the oldest examples where multilateral diplomacy was used to solve the issue of war that was affecting all European states. But within the 21st  century the use of multilateral diplomacy has increased, since the end of the cold war states and organisation have used multilateral diplomacy more than bilateral diplomacy to find solutions for problems, the UN and the European Union are big organisation that have been established with members from all over the world and use multilateral ism to deal with problems that is damaging on the international level.

Globalization has had a huge impact on the increase of multilateral diplomacy, the interconnectedness is shrinking the world and countries getting closer than ever.interest are colliding together issues within the international system are crossing borders which means that states and governments across the international system have to deal with similar issues and are having similar problems. Issues such as Terrorism, nuclear proliferation, pollution, economic crises, drug trafficking and many more  have an effect on a global scale causing damage to most states around the world. All issues mentioned don’t recognise borders and damages can be caused anywhere. Multilateral diplomacy can be very effective because its gives a chance for states to gather together and find solutions to problems that are affecting all of them.

ImageGlobal Counter-terrorism Forum (GCTF) is a new multilateral counter-terrorism body with 30 members from around the world. The GCTF is one many organisations that has been estabilished on the bases of multilateral diplomacy. The Obama administration launched this organisation on September 22, 2011 and the aim was to build the” international architecture” for dealing with 21st century terrorism. The organisation aims to present a unique stage for senior counter-terrorism policy-makers and experts from around the world to work together to “identify urgent needs, devise solutions and mobilize resources” addressing key counter-terrorism challenges.The GCTF aims to increase the number of countries capable of dealing with the terrorist threats within their borders and regions.

Terrorism has become a big issues that states all over the world have to with. Terrorist are normally non-state actors which means that none are connected to any region and wouldn’t be afraid to harm innocent people around world. With globalisation terror from these actors can spread anywhere around the world and cause damage on an international scale. Organisation such as GCTF can be very effective in solving problems with multilateral diplomacy. Members gathering within conferences and discussing issues such as terrorism can help develop solutions.Bilateral diplomacy may less effective when it comes to dealing with issues in the era of globalisation.

However multilateral diplomacy has its own problems which affective states internationally. although very effective with multiple players discussing issues together this can be very time consuming, unlike bilateral diplomacy where only two states got together to discuss issues and come with solution and it may take less time. But matters within multilateral diplomacy can be very complex, the more negotiating partners the more difficult it is to identify the foundation of negotiating “sticking points”.




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  1. An interesting theme also seen within multilateral diplomacy is bilateral diplomacy. Even though multilateral structures were designed to combat the disloyalty and distrust created within bilateral negotiation, time and time again multilateral organisations can be seen to be used as a platform for bilateral negotiation e.g. Franco-German relations within the EU
    It is also interesting to see that bilateralism has seen somewhat of a re-emergence but within multilateralism to combat the negative aspects of multilateral negotiation you highlighted at the end.

  2. christianatham permalink

    The Global Counter-terrorism Forum as a multilateral organisation has limitations because multilateral diplomacy can be inconclusive and fragmented. Unlike Bilateral diplomacy which is flexible and can therefore is effective. This is because it is usually diplomatic discussions between two states that share a common value. Indeed, some of the issues you have raised in your article about terrorism, nuclear proliferation, pollution and economic crises will continue to have effects on a global scale because of the damage it causes to most states around the world.
    Terrorism is a coercive intimidation that is meant to cause fear and it is often claimed as the instrument of the weak. But this is not always the case as it is also employed as instrument of the strong as the final resort. Therefore, if a bigger state attacks a small state for whatever reason, it could be an act of terrorism as all states are sovereign and recognised as legitimate under international law.
    The GCTF will need to work hard to understand the cultural and aims of countries or groups committing acts of terrorism and work with victims of it. The perceived clash between the west and Islam has been controversial since the end of the cold war. But resent survey in Pakistan and Indonesia shows that some Islamic countries recognises that militant Islam is as much threat to their society as it is in the west.
    The Global Counter-terrorism Forum says its mission is “Overarching and long-term goal is to reduce the vulnerability of people everywhere to terrorism by effectively preventing, combating, and prosecuting terrorist acts and countering incitement and recruitment to terrorism. It provides a venue for national CT officials and practitioners to meet with their counterparts from key countries in different regions to share CT experiences, expertise, strategies, capacity needs, and capacity-building programs. It prioritizes civilian capacity building in areas such as rule of law, border management, and countering violent extremism.”
    The mission sounds impressive but the definition of the term terrorist is subjective based on the individual or group defining on their belief, background and values.
    Therefore, the organisation will need to identify these terrorist groups who might be operating outside the 30 member countries of the GCTF and work with them.
    It is true multilateral diplomacy can be effective as it enable states to come together to discuss issues but as a result of the usual high number of members, finding solution might be difficult even though the member states might have the same interest. What is regarded as a particular concern to one country might not be a bother to another.

    1. Haynes, J (2011) P. Hough, S. Malik, and L. Pettiford, World Politics. Pearson Education Limited
    2. Primoratz Igor, (2004); Terrorism, the Philosophical issues. Palgrave Macmillan Publishers

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