Friedrich Ebert Stiftung


30 Nov 2017, Berlin


“Crisis of Multilateralism? Peace politics in the age of authoritarianism, nationalism and populism”

Conference and podium discussion

Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Hiroshimastr. 17, 10785 Berlin

Authoritarianism, nationalism and populism all over the world are putting multilateral peace and security policy to the test. If populists and autocrats from the left and right of the political spectrum have one thing in common, it is their contempt for democratic and international institutions that constrain the sovereign exercise of power conferred on them by the people. In a world marked by nationalism and authoritarianism, international institutions and rules agreed upon by countries are shunned, at best only being held to apply to other states. If institutions of the liberal world order have offered at least a modicum of predictability and reliability, the emerging order of antagonistic nationalisms herald an epoch of volatile complexity.

Sustainable peace politics presupposes a willingness to compromise, assume responsibility and an international commitment - predicates that are incompatible with an "our country first" attitude. The election of Donald Trump, which puts a preliminary end to the heyday of the global governance architecture of the 1990s and 2000s, is more of a symptom than cause of global upheavals. Violent societal and international conflicts have increased dramatically over the last few years, with expenditures on arms surging to new levels year after year. Conflicts in Europe that were thought to have been resolved have rekindled, even casting doubt on the viability of the European security architecture. National, ethnic and religious conflicts of identity are mobilising the masses in many regions of the world. All of these developments go hand in hand with a desire for strong leaders and national isolationism.

The organs of multilateral politics have themselves no doubt also contributed to their demise: Technocratic institutions were able to avoid urgently needed reforms in the direction of more transparency, effectiveness and accountability for too long - this also goes for the United Nations (UN) and the European Union (EU). Nevertheless, multilateralism based on values is and remains a precondition for sustainable peace to which there is no alternative: How else can the various transnational conflicts like the ones raging in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria or Ukraine otherwise be resolved if not through rules that are jointly legitimised and enforced? Yet, the UN, the most important forum for the establishment and enforcement of global rules, and other regional cooperative alliances are only as effective as their members allow. Against the background of a re-nationalisation of politics, it is therefore not surprising that the UN and the European peace architecture face similar profound crises.

In this year's Tiergarten Conference, high-level international guests from the fields of politics, science, civil society and media will discuss the challenges and future prospects of multilateral peace and security policy. If it is true that in times of (neo-) authoritarian isolationism "the post-war order and the quarter century following the fall of the Berlin wall are history" (Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Federal President of the Federal Republic of Germany), what notions of order will prevail in the 21st century? What societal alliances are conceivable that could promote an effective brand of multilateralism based on norms and values to counter isolationist and unilateral policies?