The multilateral system’s contribution to peace and security


What does recent analysis suggest about the contribution of the multilateral system to international development goals on peace and security?


The literature broadly suggests that:

  • As a result of the increasingly complex conflict environments, individual actors are unable to achieve goals on peace and security by themselves.
  • More joint operations are occurring in order to overcome the challenges posed by complex conflict environments, with joint multilateral action seen to promote more effective and efficient operations.
  • Organisations such as the EU have stated their commitment to effective multilateralism to address peace and security goals.
  • Multilateral cooperation between the UN and regional organisations benefits both parties, as regional organisations gain legitimacy and support from a UN mandate, and the UN gains partners that can fill in gaps in its missions and who often know the context in greater detail.
  • EU-UN cooperation in Kosovo, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Mali are held up as successful examples of such cooperation; as well as joint action in Libya between organisations such as the UN, EU and the Arab League.

However, the literature also highlights a number of challenges faced by the multilateral system in contributing to international goals on peace and security. They include:

  • While top-level cooperation has become increasingly institutionalised this has not necessarily translated into effective coordination on the ground.
  • Tensions exist in the relationship between the UN and regional organisations, especially the African Union. There is some suggestion that the EU is selective in its support for multilateral operations and that its lack of personnel in UN peacekeeping operations undermines the sustainability of the relationship. In addition there are some fears that working with the UN would undermine other organisations efficiency and capability. There are some fears that the UN would be negatively impacted by associating with some other multilateral organisations such as NATO, as a result the perceived political nature of some of NATO’s actions.
  • Information sharing remains challenging, especially in relation to sensitive information.
  • Differences in organisations’ cultures, interests and planning rules; and inter-institutional rivalry, competition and misunderstanding around mandates and roles, make cooperation and coordination challenging.