Multilateralism for Chronic Risks
UN75 Global Governance Innovation Perspectives series
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Multilateralism is not an end in itself. It is considered a more efficient and legitimate means towards enhanced human development. This premise is under threat when global cooperation has ebbed to new lows and human security and planetary boundaries are at risk. Nevertheless, we can still drive international cooperation on specific issues of common concern. The form and functions of the United Nations developed against the backdrop of two global conflicts. Now, the 75th anniversary of the United Nations gives us an opportunity to reorient multilateralism towards the most pressing challenges of our time. Today’s most serious threats are no longer states or non-state terror groups. The gravest concerns are about tail-end risks, which have low probabilities of occurrence but can be catastrophic. With growing environmental and health stresses, such calamitous events are likely to happen more often and overlap with one another, potentially overwhelming the capacities of communities, governments, and international organizations. As new forms of international cooperation emerge, we must focus on chronic risks outcomes that all countries would want to avoid. We all have an interest in avoiding pandemics, climate change-induced extreme weather events, or a collapse in agricultural output. Renewed drive for collective action can come from the way we organize multilateral institutions to respond to shocks. Assessing the vulnerability and capacity of countries to deal with environmental stresses and shocks is crucial in this context. Hence, multilateralism for chronic risks should rest on two pillars: transparency and risk pooling. Towards that end, this paper recommends a Climate Risk Atlas for developing countries and a Global Risk Pooling Reserve Fund.
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