Paris Peace Forum: Finding Ways to Make the Environment and Multilateralism Work
In one auspicious act, the 1972 meeting between the American president and the leader of the People’s Republic of China uprooted decades of US-China hostilities and led to an immediate realignment of the Cold War power balance. Present-day analogies to this seismic event do not miss the mark completely — the current war of words on trade barriers between the world’s largest economies is anything but inconsequential. Yet, while bilateral ‘deals’ might address short-term grievances, only multilateral approaches have the potential to solve the long-term global challenges that face us today, such as climate change, cyber security and mass-migration. The Paris Peace Forum provides an excellent opportunity to promote multilateral action.
Evidence of this trans-national, multilateral — and sometimes contradictory — conduct of global governance abounds. During the past six months, students from more than 100 countries organized classroom walkouts to demand climate action, showcasing the power of global mass-mobilization of non-state actors. Significant progress has also been made in negotiations on the Basel Convention to enhance the global regulation of plastic waste. However, more work still remains to be done in finding multilateral solutions at the highest levels. A handful of recalcitrant nations continue to dominate the headlines at the UN climate negotiations by refusing to welcome the latest IPCC report on a 1.5° temperature rise. These cases highlight the fragility of the multilateral process; sometimes satisfactory agreements are achieved, but often negotiation outcomes are sub-optimal and late to arrive — if consensus is reached at all. “One step ahead, two steps back” too often seems to be the prevailing theme.
That is not to say there has not been…