Home // UNESCO Chair... // Events // Multilateralism Webinars

Multilateralism Webinars


 Is There a Future for Multilateralism?

The Challenges of Global Governance in the 21st   Century


Two webinars organised under the auspices of the UNESCO Chair in Human Rights at the University of Luxembourg.


It has become commonplace to speak of a crisis of global multilateralism, decrying the erosion of the structures of international cooperation. We must recognise that the current situation is not unique. Indeed, as we celebrate the 75th   anniversary of the United Nations in 2020, it is difficult to recall a time when there were not vigorous discussions around a ‘crisis’ of the UN system, or at least of the imperative need for its ‘fundamental reform’.

Nevertheless, the compounding of crises in the current period gives rise to legitimate concerns. The post-Cold War period has witnessed the global extension of what was historically a ‘Western’ model of multilateralism, but in terms that lack the underlying cohesion or social purpose of that initial model translated to a wider stage.  In the past decade, the financial crisis has led to a progressively deeper questioning of the ‘Washington consensus’ and the dominance of forms of neo-liberal public policy, but without (as yet) giving rise to a more inclusively defined and comparably shared policy paradigm  Both the climate crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic have underlined the heightened need for international cooperation, while at the same time starkly pointing to the persisting, if not growing obstacles to the realisation of meaningful multilateral solutions.

It is thus against this background that these two webinars seek to engage a discussion around the future of multilateralism, bringing together expert commentators, students from across the University of Luxembourg, and wider publics to debate the direction, possibilities, and limits of global cooperation.


Session 1 – The UN System and the Structures of Global Governance

Thursday 22 October, 4-5:30 pm

The opening session will address the current state of the UN system and the wider structures of global cooperation for which it acts as a hub. Our discussion will take as its point of departure the often-repeated stricture of UN Secretary-General António Guterres that the future development of multilateralism must be both better ‘networked’ (bringing together diverse regional and international organisations in more structured forms of cooperation) and ‘inclusive’ (drawing on and in a wider range of NGOs and other civil society actors). This session will explore the classic UN Treaty bodies, as well as more innovative forms of international ‘soft’ governance (such as in the area of business and human rights).

Moderator: Prof. Robert Harmsen, UNESCO Chair in Human Rights, University of Luxembourg


Dr. Basak Baglayan, Postdoctoral Researcher, Department of Law, University of Luxembourg

Luc Dockendorf, Counsellor for Human Rights and International Organisations, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, Luxembourg

Dr. Christopher Lilyblad, Policy and Strategy Specialist, UNDP/UNICEF/UNFPA Joint Office, Cabo Verde

For a summary of the event, please click here.


Session 2 – The Geopolitics of Multilateralism

Wednesday 18 November, 4-5:30 pm

It is sadly self-evident that the current state of international relations is not such as to hearten ardent multilateralists. The United States, under the Trump administration, has withdrawn from its post-war role as the guarantor of key structures of multilateral cooperation, at times appearing to question the very foundations of the international order that the country played such a central role in establishing. Relations between China and the wider West have significantly deteriorated, with a substantial ‘decoupling’ prompted by a growing range of economic, human rights, and other issues now assuming an air of inevitability. Elsewhere, Russian foreign policy too poses fundamental challenges to the existing structures of international order, while insular nationalisms appear more generally to be gaining ground in many parts of the globe. This session will examine this daunting set of challenges in the immediate aftermath of the US presidential election, probing the state of ‘great power’ relations, the possible role of the EU, and wider projects to create an ‘alliance for multilateralism’ or ‘league of democracies’ as an anchor for a renewed liberal international order.

Moderator: Prof. Robert Harmsen, UNESCO Chair in Human Rights, University of Luxembourg


Prof. Josip Glaurdic, Head, Institute of Political Science, University of Luxembourg

Prof. Sebastian Heilmann, Professor for the Government and Political Economy of China, University of Trier

Dr. Sergiu Vintila, Policy Analyst, European Parliament and Visiting Fellow, Institute of Political Science, University of Luxembourg

For a summary of the event, please click here.