From global pandemics, universal human rights, to nuclear non-proliferation and climate change; multilateral institutions have forged a global consensus on the most fundamental challenges facing humanity. These are remarkable achievements. Through our collective action, we have become collectively stronger.
Our multilateral system includes important institutions that allow us to work together to find solutions to global problems. Organizations like the United Nations. NATO. International financial institutions such as the Asian Development Bank. Climate financial institutions. World Health Organization. International development organizations. International trade bodies. ASEAN and other regional organizations. It is the foundation for a successful, imperfect but enduring international order. It gives a voice to every country in the world. It has helped reach agreements and compromises – even with those we oppose or compete with. And it has served our world well in the 82 years since the St James’ Palace Declaration was signed in London, taking the first historic steps towards creating today’s multilateral system.
The continued success of multilateralism is essential. But it is not inevitable. The world has changed since the multilateral system was formed 80 years ago. New challenges have arisen and more needs to be done to ensure the voices of all countries are heard.
So while we must protect the multilateral system – it is true that we must reform it to ensure it is inclusive and responsive.
UK’s 5 multilateral reform priorities
In a keynote speech at Chatham House a few weeks ago, the UK Foreign Secretary, James Cleverley, made it clear that the UK cares deeply about multilateralism. He offers a view of a reformed and restored multilateral system that is more inclusive and responsive to the most pressing global challenges, including Russia’s serious violation of the UN charter, climate change and the technological revolution. For it to succeed and grow, he set five transnational priorities.
Priority one is reform of the United Nations Security Council. The UK would like to see long-term African representation and membership extended to India, Brazil, Germany and Japan.
Second priority is reform of the International Financial Institutions. The UK wants to make finance, especially climate finance, easier and faster. We also want to see more investment.
Priority three and four are stable and equitable source of tax revenue for developing and middle-income countries And reform of the World Trade Organization to reflect today’s digital economy.
Better enforcement of international tax regulations will make it possible for governments to collect the taxes payable, with the proceeds invested to support their own development.
Trade policy must be free, fair and open. The World Trade Organization needs new rules that reflect today’s digital economy. And a dispute resolution mechanism works so that every country – large or small – has confidence that complaints will be heard and heard fairly.
We know that an open system helps grow the UK economy and makes the world more prosperous. In June 2023, I hosted the launch of the UK’s Developing Countries Trade Program in the Philippines. With DCTS, we are offering simpler and more generous trade arrangements for Filipino businesses, with over 99% of exports from the Philippines eligible for duty-free entry into the UK.
The UK’s fifth reform priority is to support a multilateral approach to technology regulation. Our global architecture must adjust to the digital age. We want to be able to harness the benefits of rapidly evolving new technologies, including AI, for global prosperity while minimizing risk. This week, our Foreign Secretary chaired the first United Nations Security Council discussion on Artificial Intelligence and the Prime Minister will host the Global Summit on AI Regulation in the UK next year.
Let us reform, that we can preserve
The UK occupies a privileged position in many multilateral institutions. It is our interest and our obligation to enhance the effectiveness of the multilateral order.
Of course, we can only make reforms if we work with others. Multilateral cooperation is also about compromise and ensuring that different points of view are heard and decisions are made. One of the most important aspects of my role as UK ambassador to the Philippines is listening – to find common ground for our common good.
Multilateralism does not contradict national sovereignty and democracy. Its purpose is to protect and strengthen them. In a globally integrated world, our commitment to peace, prosperity and development hinges on respecting fundamental laws and institutions.
Let us work together to strengthen a dynamic and open international order in which all can thrive. If we can get it right, the prize of a safer, fairer, healthier and more prosperous world will be within our grasp. We have an obligation to future generations to make this a reality.