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Multilateral Diplomacy in the 21st Century Proposal


The current unilateral challenges that face the world necessitate the need for multiple relations among different nations. Some of the challenges and problems of the 21st century include human rights, environmental issues, labor rights, and humanitarian assistance (Muldoon 62).

A research on the need for multilateral diplomacy in the 21st century is significant in enabling all nations to forge a common goal in addressing the aforementioned problems. The essence of multilateral diplomacy can be seen in the move that aimed at convincing North Korea to abandon attempts to develop nuclear weapons, as well as the recent proposal by the US to Syria on withdrawal of chemical weapons (Dayang par. 4).

With high technological development, the world has become a global village, hence the need to coalesce under an international body like the United Nations. Here, challenges that confront a state are addressed from a global perspective, and not from the national level. The highly fragmented world needs to embrace multilateral approach in order to solve global concerns.

Therefore, the research project will seek to explore and investigate the following:

  1. The extent to which multilateral diplomacy contributes to peaceful coexistence among nations of the world
  2. To identify economic gains that member states receive from multilateral engagements
  3. To examine the need for multilateral diplomacy in addressing environmental problems in the 21st century


Over the years, countries have coalesced around some regional blocks in order to get solutions for common problems like international trade agreements and climatic changes. The Kyoto Protocol is an example of an international agreement among different countries to engage in environmentally friendly practices to reduce global warming.

Given the dynamism in the world of technology, as well as similarity of problems facing different countries, a research on this topic is necessary to help in coming up with strategies of addressing the pertinent issues at a low cost.

From a historical perspective, previous researches have shown that bilateral diplomacy presents dictatorial challenges and mostly implements interests of a powerful partner. Multilateral diplomacy is appropriate in order to address these shortcomings. A research on the essence of multilateral diplomacy will unearth benefits that such cooperation can have to society.

Aim of the Research

The purpose of this research is to reveal the need for multilateral diplomacy in the 21st century albeit different ideologies and opinions that countries hold concerning international groupings.

Literature Review

For weak nations, a proposal to have a multilateral diplomacy will be advantageous since they will be able to push for their national interests. Notably, issues of global security are handled better at multilateral negotiations than at bilateral negotiations. Multilateral diplomacy guarantees a leveled playground to all participating states that may have different economic and political strengths.

The beginning of multilateral diplomacy can be traced to the 1815 Treaty of Vienna and went on to blossom after the Second World War with the formation of the UN in 1945 (Adegbite par. 3).

As opposed to bilateral diplomacy where powerful states can make decisions that favor their selfish interests, multilateral diplomacy will work towards keeping checks and balances on the powerful states, hence forming a leveled negotiation field for all members.

For instance, in the UN, the five veto states make it difficult for one veto member to outvote an idea due to selfish intentions. The presence of three or more members in a conference, or committee qualifies the grouping as multilateral. In this type of diplomacy, the tyranny of the powerful states is under supervision from other members.

Putting in place a multilateral diplomacy promotes formation of beneficial regional groups, such as the EU, Latin Americans, and Africans. These coalitions are formed from the United Nations grouping based on the geographical and regional factors.

With universal understanding, countries that have the same economic backgrounds can cooperate to promote their own interests with little or no influence from the powerful states. Regional bodies are helpful in developing the economies of nations that would have remained underdeveloped without multilateral diplomacy (Moore par. 7).

ASEAN member countries are examples of nations that have been able to use the regional body to navigate through the economies that economic giants like China and India have dominated (Dhanapala and Rydell 35).

Others like Organization of the Islamic Conference (57 members), Non-Aligned Movement (118 members), and Group of 77 (130 members) care for issues that affect a member state even if the member state is less concerned with the situation.

For economic development, multilateral diplomacy provides a better ground for economically weaker nations to forge regional groupings that can aid their development. Multilateral diplomacy provides forums that can help in addressing transnational issues and harmonizing policies of nations (Cooper 53).

In this aspect, member countries come up with internationally accepted foreign policies that address issues of climate change, global security, human rights, and international trade.

For example, in the case of Syria where the UN demanded that President Assad gives up its chemical weapons, helped in protecting the rights of innocent civilians. In this situation, the world almost witnessed a military showdown that could also resulted in World War III were it not for the multilateral diplomacy approach.

The multilateral diplomacy proposal meant that the US was not to go alone in the Syrian civil war, thus involving key members of the UN. Evidently, the move by the UN to eliminate chemical weapons from the Syrian regime presents a great milestone in the benefits of multilateral diplomacy.

Handling such situations through a bilateral diplomacy can easily lead to confrontations and continued destructions in the targeted countries, as evident in the Iraq’s situation (Schaefer par. 5).

The ASEAN+3 helped the Asian Tigers to engage North Korea effectively. Notably, Japan, China, and South Korea are major rivals in the East, but through the regional block, they were able to solve diplomatic issues in North Korea (Kissinger and Billington par 4).

The current global world needs multilateral diplomacy in order to give opportunities to other nations as have been seen in the leadership of the UN. South Korean former foreign minister Ban Ki Moon became the UN Secretary General. This opened up the region to the outside world for economic developments.

Theoretical Framework

Since countries hold different positions on multilateral diplomacy, an open-set approach will help in gathering information on the research question. Even though multilateral diplomacy is worth implementing, there is need for determined investment in the whole process in order to address global challenges.

At the same time, since the grouping is large, faster decision-making becomes difficult (Kapur 77). Players in multilateral diplomacy have to give their opinions on certain issues affecting the globe. Negotiations among member states consume time, but result in productive resolutions. Member states have to involve extra cost in maintaining the services of multilateral engagements.


Research on this topic will involve organizations spread across the globe, sample of countries, and businesses. In acquiring information and deducing conclusions on the essence of multilateral diplomacy, data collection will be done using both primary and secondary methods.

Questionnaire surveys and interviews will help in collecting primary data on the need for multilateral diplomacy in the 21st century. Member countries of key international organizations will help in providing such data. Secondary data will assist in forming background information on the research topic.

Research design and method

In data analysis, random probability sampling will be applicable to represent the entire population. In handling the groups, a small sample size will be considered, of which 50 to 200 countries will be appropriate. This will help to minimize weaknesses of the design process. For interviews, most participants will include businesses and local organizations in different nations.

Questions that may rise from the research include the following:

  1. Is diplomacy important?
  2. What are the advantages of forming large organizations to an individual and a country?
  3. What are the challenges of such international groupings?


During the research, participants will not be allowed to know the views of their colleagues in order to enhance information privacy. Similarly, the level of engagement will not attempt to influence reactions of the respondents.

Contribution to the Study

Although multilateral diplomacy consumes time and requires extra engagements among member states, implementing the idea has more benefits than demerits in the 21st century (Williamson 31). Powerful nations should move forward to convince other nations to join international groups in order to address universal challenges from one point.

For instance, climate change is a factor that requires collective responsibility in addressing ways of mitigation, thus the need for a multilateral diplomacy in order to get strong commands from member states.

Works Cited

Adegbite, Saheed. International Relations and Diplomacy, The Advantages and Disadvantages of Pursuing a Multilateral Approach to Negotiations Designed to get North Korea to Abandon Efforts to Develop Nuclear Weapons. N.p., 5 Aug. 2009. Web.

Cooper, Andrew Fenton. The Oxford Handbook of Modern Diplomacy. Oxford, U.K.: Oxford University Press, 2013. Print.

Dayang, Juan. When is Multilateral Diplomacy More Rewarding than Bilateral Diplomacy?. Reflective Diplomat. N.p., 11 Mar. 2011. Web.

Dhanapala, Jayantha, and Randy Rydell. Multilateral Diplomacy and the NPT an Insider’s Account. Geneva, Switzerland: UNIDIR, 2005. Print.

Kapur, Ashok. International Nuclear Proliferation: Multilateral Diplomacy and Regional Aspects. New York: Praeger, 1979. Print.

Kissinger, Henry, and James H. Billington. Does America Need a Foreign Policy?: Toward a Diplomacy for the 21st Century. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001. Print.

Moore, Jack. Multilateral Diplomacy in a Post-9/11 World, The risky shift. N.p., 5 Aug. 2012. Web.

Muldoon, James P.. Multilateral Diplomacy and the United Nations Today. Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1999. Print.

Schaefer, Brett D. Role and Relevance of Multilateral Diplomacy in U.S. Foreign Policy. The Heritage Foundation. N.p., 8 Feb. 2011. Web.

Williamson, Richard S.. Toward the 21st Century: The Future for Multilateral Diplomacy. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Dept. of State, Bureau of Public Affairs, 1988. Print.

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