The Future of Multilateralism

Multilateralism is the lynchpin of the UN’s work. It’s what makes tackling humanity’s greatest challenges possible.

So what does this term — often derided for being wonky and clunky — mean exactly?

Simply put, multilateralism is the technical word to describe a universal truth: We are stronger together.

It is perhaps best understood by its impact. Some of humanity’s greatest wins have been the result of coordinated and collective action that transcends borders and geopolitical hurdles. Thanks to multilateralism, the world has eradicated smallpox, helped close the ozone hole, and, most recently, vaccinated the planet’s most vulnerable people against COVID-19.

Yet today’s global challenges are testing the international system in unpredictable ways. From climate change to Artificial Intelligence, the world is facing urgent, existential issues that cannot be tackled by any one nation alone. To meet the moment, we need fresh, bold solutions to strengthen global solidarity at a time of growing polarization, inequity, and distrust. Multilateral systems — both including and beyond the United Nations — need to be reimagined and revitalized to address 21st century challenges through collective, intergenerational action and continue to deliver inclusive, equitable progress for future generations including across the Global South and around the world.

In other words, multilateralism needs an upgrade. As calls for a more inclusive, networked, and equitable international system surge, the UN Foundation is bringing together the work and voices of the foremost thinkers, planners, and doers to spark global dialogue, and create lasting change.

It is time for humanity to rise and redefine what is possible — together.

Key Dates and Milestones


Upcoming Events


September 22-23, 2024
The UN, the UN Foundation and partners from civil society and the private sector will unite at this once-in-a-generation event to reinvigorate multilateralism by addressing critical gaps in global governance and reaffirm our shared commitment to the SDGs and the UN Charter. Learn more and get involved in the process.

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This high-level event will reinvigorate global support for commitments made in the 1995 Copenhagen Declaration on Social Development, while aligning these aims with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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Fourth International Conference on Financing for Development

June 30 – July 3 2025

This conference will address new and emerging issues, as well as the need to fully implement the 2030 Agenda to support international financial architecture reform.

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Related Initiatives

The Secretary-General's Our Common Agenda

As humanity faces the stark choice between breakdown or breakthrough, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ landmark report, Our Common Agenda (OCA), proposes a new global deal to renew faith in international cooperation, reinforce the needs of youth and future generations, and forge a new global deal. Learn more >>

Our Future Agenda

Through Our Future Agenda (OFA), the UN Foundation is tapping the energy, collectivism, and imagination of young people worldwide by creating a platform for youth innovators, entrepreneurs, and champions who are revolutionizing multilateralism for a sustainable 2100 world. Learn more >>


Hosted by the UN Foundation, the Accelerator for Systemic Risk Assessment (ASRA) is an initiative committed to radically rethinking risk to improve global decision-making about the simultaneous, interconnected, and compounding crises the world is facing. Learn more >>

Sustainable Development Initiative

The Sustainable Development Initiatives (SDI) team is fostering an agile and future-fit UN by turbocharging the implementation of the SDGs, amplifying the voices of civil society, and elevating countries in the Global South, leaving no one behind. Learn more >>


The UNMute campaign seeks to strengthen meaningful participation at the UN, leveraging recommendations from civil society. Following an initial list of recommendations prepared by the Permanent Missions of Costa Rica and Denmark in 2021, partners throughout the UN system are seeking to collaborate more closely with their civic counterparts. Stay tuned for upcoming events and ways to get involved.

ReSearch and Resources

Global Digital Compact

The Global Digital Compact is expected to “outline shared principles for an open, free and secure digital future for all”. The compact seeks to address several issues, including digital connectivity, Internet fragmentation, providing people with options as to how their data is used, application of human rights online, and promoting a trustworthy Internet by introducing accountability criteria for discrimination and misleading content.

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The Secretary-General’s Policy Briefs

At the invitation of Member States, the Secretary-General is now issuing a series of Policy Briefs to provide more detail on certain proposals contained in Our Common Agenda and to deliberations ahead of the Summit of the Future. These briefs will include an analysis of the proposals’ impact on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, and will be informed by the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

Read the Briefs

A Breakthrough for People and Planet

In 2022, the United Nations Secretary-General appointed a High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism (HLAB) to identify concrete, actionable recommendations that support a radical shift in international cooperation for the resolution of shared global challenges and the advancement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This report is the result of these efforts.

Read the Paper

Our Common Agenda

Presented at the 75th session of the General Assembly, this landmark report was supported by the United Nations Foundation and outlines UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s vision for the future of multilateralism.

Read the Report

Further Reading

  • Pact for the Future: Following the creation of a zero draft, a revised Pact for the Future has been released and will guide intergovernmental deliberations, with the ultimate aim of adopting an ambitious, concise, action-oriented Pact for the Future, per resolution 76/307.
  • Strengthening Citizen Participation in Global Governance: This challenge paper — “Strengthening Citizen Participation in Global Governance” — argues that the Summit of the Future in September 2024 should be used to move beyond piecemeal approaches to civic engagement.
  • Southern Voice: This evidence-based research is authored by Global South experts.
  • The Road to 2100: Developed by the Unlock the Future coalition, this paper presents a five-year Action Plan designed to empower all young people, particularly the most marginalized and underserved, to help them unlock the full potential of their future.
  • Multilateralism for the Future: New Challenges, New Models, and New Solutions: This paper argues that the G20 should use major global moments to benefit young countries where the majority of future generations will be born.
  • Our Common Agenda: Decoded: With an emphasis on collaboration, inclusivity, and sustainability, these briefs present an inspiring view of what our world could become by 2100.
  • Stockholm+50 Recommendations and Actions for Renewal and Trust: These recommendations and messages are aimed at accelerating action towards a healthy planet.
  • Future Thinking and Future Generations: This challenge paper outlines a global agenda to better understand, take action for, and represent future generations in the multilateral system.
  • The Value of Climate Cooperation: Networked and Inclusive Multilateralism To Meet 1.5°: Co-published with E3G and Climate Analytics, this challenge paper uses scenarios to demonstrate the impact of international climate cooperation.
  • Our Future Agenda: United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres asked a group of Next Generation Fellows to set out their vision and for future generations.

Connect with Us

George Hampton

Executive Director, Global Policy and Multilateral Initiatives

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Harshani Dharmadasa

Senior Director, Global Partnerships and Initiatives

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Julie Garfieldt Kofoed

Senior Director for Sustainable Development Initiatives

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