The Stanley Foundation
Seeking a secure peace with freedom and justice, built on global citizenship and effective global governance.

Multilateralism and the Shifting Global Balance of Power
January 2010

Leading experts from a wide range of specialties recently weighed in on the future implications of shifting global power dynamics on international cooperation at a recent Stanley Foundation conference at Princeton University.

The global balance of power has been shifting with the rise of countries like China and India. Asia has become critically important to future peace and prosperity. And the solution to any contemporary problem requires the involvement of many different stakeholders: affected nations, nations contributing to problems, key powers, civil society, the private sector, etc.

The conference sponsors—the Stanley Foundation, the Woodrow Wilson School’s Project on the Future of Multilateralism, the International Institutions and Global Governance Program of the Council on Foreign Relations, and the Centre for Global Governance Innovation—perceive a growing disjunction between our inherited multilateral institutions and the daunting scope and complexity of today’s global governance agenda. How will the world community deal with all the difficult problems on the agenda?

One answer is to acknowledge that international cooperation will be spread across multiple institutions, institutional types, and levels. The task will be to use these various multilateral pieces to the best effect, rather than trying to draw a clear organizational diagram for the international system. Experts have started calling this "messy multilateralism."

The key, then, is a clear understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different multilateral mechanisms. If we know what an institution does best—and what it does less well—then their efforts can be combined in a complementary way.

With the Princeton conference taking place just a few weeks after the vexed UN climate change summit in Copenhagen, participants were mindful that despite intensified globalization and interdependence, there has not been a commensurate shift in international political dynamics.

I was reminded of President Obama’s address to the UN General Assembly last fall, in which he described this very problem:

Meeting in this hall, we come from many places, but we share a common future. No longer do we have the luxury of indulging our differences to the exclusion of the work that we must do together.

We have to hope that the world’s leaders overcome these differences and, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has put it, "turn commonality of interests into common action." Such cooperation is the best hope for a peaceful and prosperous future.

David Shorr   

Share: Email Facebook Twitter
2017 International Women Authors Event 2017 International Women Authors Event
Pulitzer Prize finalist Laila Lalami, author of “The Moor’s Account,” will be the featured speaker at the 2017 International Women Authors event on November 9 in Rock Island, Illinois.

Courier Courier
As summer winds down, take a look at the new issue of Courier from the Stanley Foundation. The Summer 2017 issue delves into topics including the transition away from coal in Germany, the increased role of cities in global governance, and the crisis in Venezuela. Also in this issue, read about the increased capabilities of 3D printing, and oversight over emerging technologies. Summer 2017 PDF (1,151K) Subscribe for FREE.

Stanley Foundation Annual Conferences Stanley Foundation Annual Conferences
The Stanley Foundation holds two annual conferences, UN Issues and the Strategy for Peace Conference. These bring together experts from the public and private sectors to meet in a distraction-free setting and candidly exchange ideas on pressing foreign policy challenges.

Divided into roundtable talks, the cutting-edge discussions are intended to inspire group consensus and shared recommendations to push forward the debate on the foundation’s key policy areas.

A Climate for Conflict: Stories from Somalia A Climate for Conflict: Stories from Somalia
The Ground Truth Project, New America, and the Stanley Foundation are hosting a Screening of “A Climate for Conflict” and discussion with the creators followed by a panel discussion on Climate Security and Societal Resilience on May 30, 2017.

Somalia today is at a crossroads between a deepening crisis and a path to stability. Photographer and filmmaker Nichole Sobecki and writer Laura Heaton spent 18 months documenting personal stories of Somalia, creating a film, photography, and reporting that vividly illustrate the human consequences and security risks of a changing climate. Read more.

Follow the conversation online with #AClimateforConflict.

Stanley Foundation at 60
On December 12, 1956, the Stanley Foundation was certified as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Iowa, bringing to life an organization dedicated to creating a world in which there is a secure peace with freedom and justice. Sixty years later, the organization continues to pursue and advance that vision as a thriving nonpartisan operating foundation. Moreover, it remains an organization with a professional staff and the involvement of family members who have an ongoing role in shaping its strategy and core values. More.

Receive Materials Receive Materials
The Stanley Foundation publishes policy briefs, analytical articles, and reports on a number of international issues. To reduce our carbon footprint and cut waste, we almost exclusively, use electronic distribution for our publications. Sign up to receive our resources via e-mail.

the latest the latest
Our bimonthly newsletter is filled with resources to keep you up to date with our work at the Stanley Foundation. Each edition includes news about recent publications and stories as well as features our people and partners.

You will also find many extras, from upcoming events to multimedia resources. Sign up for the latest to stay engaged on key global issues.

Watch and Learn Watch and Learn
Stanley Foundation events, talks, video reports, and segments from our Now Showing event-in-a-box series can now be viewed on YouTube. To receive regular updates on our video posts, please subscribe today.