Power of Multilateralism

Session Report
Prasangana Paul

IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi conducted an Online International Autumn School Program, a One-Month Immersive Online Certificate Training Course on Diplomacy and Foreign Policy in November 2023.

This Course, spread over a month, introduced the participants to the complex world of global affairs, understanding principle and practices of diplomacy, international negotiation, defence and foreign policy formulation. It initiated dialogue on the fundamentals and core values of diplomacy and foreign policy and gave an insight to the participants on complex international relations.

On the 3rd Day our speaker, Professor Sanjukta Bhattacharya, retired Professor of International Relations, Jadavpur University, Kolkata, West Bengal opened the discussion by talking about Multilateralism and the UN.

Overview of the Presentation:

Professor Bhattacharya, presented a ppt on UN and the evolving Multilateralism. Her PPT gave a holistic summary on What is Multilateralism, Challenges to Multilateralism in the UN, Evolving Multilateral Institutions, Preferred level of involvement of UN in Countries across the World and reform in the UN needed on an urgent basis.

What is Multilateralism?

Prof. Bhattacharya initiated the session by shedding light onto the concept of dimension of the UN and evolving multilateralism. She made a point by showing the relevance of UN in the autumn of 2023 where 2 destructive wars are raging, one of them over a year and a half and another one a major split in a conflict that has been raging for over a decade now. In both the situation UN has failed massively. While explaining about multilateralism prof, briefed us about internationalism as well as pluralism.

Challenges to Multilateralism in the UN

Professor Bhattacharya stated that domestic goals cannot be accomplished without coordinated multilateral action, however, when it comes to national interest every country is driven by its own self interest in mind, hence it will be difficult for a realist to explain extended cooperation, not tied to specific identifiable goals. Professor also cleared that when it comes to national interests and security, there has been very little multilateralism in practice, except in sending peacekeeping forces to largely Third World Countries.

There is a rise in populist, racist and nationalist narratives. Crisis of legitimacy, little collaboration between the UN and government, private sector and civil society. She stated example of Israel-Hamas War. Hence, she inferred by saying that No Country- no matter how powerful- can face, by itself, global challenges like Climate Change, the global problem of drugs or transnational organized crimes.

UN and Collective Security

UN collective security system has failed to prevent wars, look at the Korean divide, Vietnam war, Indo-Pak border disputes etc. A group of countries join to prevent conflict, or if conflict occurs, to look for a solution to end.

Evolving Multilateral Institution

Professor Sanjukta Bhattacharya enlightened us on evolving multilateral institution by stating Multilateralism maybe weakening in the UN, but the need for multilateralism is growing. Countries with common interests have been grouping together to further the economic and political aims and objectives, these can be regional organisations like the European Union (EU), African Union (AU) or ASEAN. Other countries that lack representation on critical issues within the existing system are also grouping together for example BRICS, G-20.

While the un’s failures may mean that multilateralism may not replace the national interests of sovereign states, it doesn’t mean that multilateral cooperation has not been beneficial for humanity.

Reform of the UN needed on an urgent basis

Structural and other reforms are needed so that multilateralism can meet the need of contemporary international relations. For example the Veto Power is restricted to only 5 countries that makes it dicey to pass any security resolution concerning global affairs. Professor Bhattacharya talked about reforms in UNGA, UNSC etc.


Professor Sanjukta Bhattacharya wind up the session by taking questions and said that the United Nations (UN) plays a pivotal role in shaping and adapting to the evolving landscape of multilateralism. As global challenges become increasingly complex, the UN serves as a platform for diplomatic cooperation. The future of multilateralism hinges on the UN’s ability to navigate these changes and foster a more inclusive, resilient and equitable global governance system.

Posted by Riya Kumari Shah, a research Intern at IMPRI.

Read more event reports of IMPRI here:
Soft Skills and Diplomacy
Nuts and Bolts of Diplomacy


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