Multilateral diplomacy

Multilateralism is introduced in a recent history of diplomacy and has been practiced commonly nowadays. It is the diplomatic system in which between three or more states gather and conduct the diplomatic negotiations, arrange a conference to discuss and work in concerns on given issues in such situations like that participated countries involve in the coalition such as NATO, or form a union like EU. John Ruggie defined multilateralism as “an institutional form which coordinates relations among three or more states on the basis of ‘generalized’ principles of conduct . . . which specify appropriate conduct for a class of actions, without regard to particularistic interests of the parties or the strategic exigencies that may exist in any occurrence.” (1)


As an example of the recent episode of multilateral negotiation, Kyoto Protocol is an internal agreement linked to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) The protocol’s main target is for state parties to set binding targets on the reduction of  the emissions of greenhouse-gas in the commitment period from 2008 to 2012. As of 11th of December 1997, Kyoto protocol was adapted and put it into force on 5th of February 2005. The negotiation had taken place very slowly due to the fact that the climate change is a complicated global problem and also it had to be accepted politically. it ultimately took years to turn something what we should do into what we are forced to do. Even when the agreement was made in 1997,  It deemed its necessary to conduct the further negotiations.


Now that we somewhat have basic understanding of what multilateralism is and how this form of diplomacy entails. Let us identify the importance and the limitation of it that are essential to raise.

In comparison to the old style of diplomacy which is known as bilateral or unilateral diplomacy, multilateral diplomacy is far more complicated and challenging. There might be no consensus at the end of negotiations but states have to compromise to some extent to  bring as best outcome as possible for all. One could certainly say that it is fair for all of us in regards to the treatment. Multilateral system can give a voice and opportunities to vote to smaller states thus it protects them which is a good thing for long term success. It also helps prosper  the global economy as cheaper goods become more available widely.

In terms of limitations, as noted before, negotiation can take longer, at times, years and bringing it to the stage of the agreement is very difficult, such as trade deals or the discussions on the matter that entails global contribution. therefore it lacks efficiency. Not to mention the difficulty in identifying the key issues and interests that each nation possess.



  1. John Ruggie, “Multilateralism: the anatomy of an institution,”International Organization, 46:3, summer 1992, pp 561-598.


  1. Oberthur S, (1990) The Kyoto Protocol: International Climate Policy for the 21st Century (International and European Environmental Policy Series)”  Springer, Berlin, Germany
    1. Ruggie G, J (1993) Multilateralism Matters: The Theory and Praxis of an Institutional Form (New Directions in World Politics) Columbia University Press, New York

2 thoughts on “Multilateral diplomacy

  1. ratatalmu December 18, 2016 / 4:52 pm

    Would you agree if I said that multilateral diplomacy might not be the right answer to all conflicts’ resolution or agreements-making?

    Of course, multilateral diplomacy for its nature of being comprehensive of different points of view (i.e. states and non-state actors) is a strong asset for diplomacy; yet, nowadays it seems that multilateral diplomacy is lacking in effectiveness and speed in dealing with global worming, the refugees’ crisis, international security and more…
    For example, regarding the Paris Agreement of Climat Change, Erik Solheim (UNEP director) said that the agreement made is not enough and not quick enough to make a change. Also, leaders have met again in Marrakesh in November to re-set 2030 Agenda basically restating their will of cooperation and change.
    Cop20, Cop 21, Cop 22, all these meetings and yet all that’s left seems to be words.

    Climat change is quite a difficult topic to deal with w/o multilateral diplomacy, but what if, for example, China and USA made a bilateral agreement on reducing their CO2 emmissions, wouldn’t it be a more efficient way, perhaps?


  2. 28071985moniz December 26, 2016 / 8:34 pm

    would you agree if multilateral diplomacy will create peace?
    in fact that nowadays many countries are suffering from war for example in middle east country.


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