Multilateralism refers to the efforts of national governments, working together in a cooperative spirit, to solve collective action problems by working together. These problems may concern: (i) the preservation of peace; (ii) international trade policy (the opening of markets and the prevention of counter-productive trade wars); (iii) international environmental challenges (e.g., global climate change!); (iv) the protection of human rights, including labor rights; (v) nuclear and other weapons control; and (vi) any issue on which governments can achieve better results by working together as opposed to working independently in isolation.
Historically, the United States has played a key role in promoting multilateralism and the development of multilateral organizations. Organizations such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, the World Health Organization, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and many others would not exist without leadership shown initially by the US in the aftermath of World War II, supported by the original member states of the European Union, the United Kingdom, and other like-minded countries. The countries involved deserve much credit. The European Union (formerly the European Communities), itself a very important multilateral organization which has made a huge contribution to peace and prosperity in Europe and globally over the past 60+ years, also plays a key role in promoting multilateralism globally. Many other countries, including Canada, Japan, the Republic of Korea, the Nordic countries and others have played important roles in the development and work of multilateral institutions and organizations over the years.
The foregoing does not mean that all international initiatives or agreements should be supported without reservation. Rather, each, in my view, should be evaluated on its own merits. Still, current international challenges such as the preservation of global peace; the prevention of catastrophic global climate change; the enjoyment of the benefits of international trade; and the prevention of costly trade wars, cry out, in my view, for multilateral discussions and, wherever possible, cooperation.
It is hoped that this website can play a very modest effort in promoting/encouraging such efforts.
Following are some books I recommend on multilateralism and related topics.
Lavelle, Kathryn C., The Challenges of Multilateralism (Yale University Press: 2020)
Ikenberry, G. John, A World Safe for Democracy: Liberal Internationalism and the Crises of Global Order (Yale University Press: 2020)
Lissner, Rebecca and Mira Rapp-Hooper, An Open World: How America Can Win the Contest for Twenty-First-Century Order (Yale University Press: 2020)
Benjamin Friedman, Religion and the Rise of Capitalism (Knopf: 2021)