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New study: Flexible forms of multilateralism as well as partnerships in the Global South increasingly important for Finland and the EU

Government analysis, assessment and research activitiesMinistry for Foreign AffairsPrime Minister's Office
Publication date 28.2.2023 8.45
Press release 93/2023

According to a study published on 28 February, intensifying great power competition increasingly complicates the ability to respond to global challenges through multilateral cooperation. Finland can respond to this transformation by strengthening the EU’s foreign policy capacities and by examining the potential of informal avenues of cooperation as well as partnerships in the context of the Global South.

The new study, published by the Finnish Institute of International Affairs (FIIA), examines the impact of intensifying strategic competition on multilateral cooperation. The many crises of multilateralism itself, combined with increasingly complex global problems, challenge the norms and principles of multilateralism, hamper its practical conduct, and complicate reaching its goals. According to the study, formal multilateral organisations retain their relevance. However, in practice, great powers increasingly opt for alternative avenues of cooperation with informal and more flexible forms of multilateral cooperation.

“Different powers utilise both the UN system, as well as alternative institutions, broad and more narrow-based informal institutions such as the G Groups, and ad hoc formations”, Katja Creutz states.

The study also emphasises the growing significance of the Global South on multilateral cooperation, including its informal forms. The chairmanship of the G20 has recently passed from Indonesia to India, to be followed by Brazil and South Africa.

“In the Global South, heightened expectations are being directed towards the G20. Also, the BRICS continue to regularly convene on the highest political level and have managed to consolidate their position. At the same time, the role of the G7 as a cooperative forum for leading Western nations is increasingly highlighted”, states Juha Jokela.

The study contends that strengthening the European Union and supporting its unity are pivotal goals for Finland, as the EU remains Finland’s key channel for exerting influence in multilateral cooperation. Additionally, Finland should invest in expertise on informal forms of cooperation and support examining potential partnerships with actors from the Global South.

The study arrives at these conclusions through analysing key actors’ views on multilateral cooperation. Multilateralism is examined via the lens of the European Union, United States, China, and Russia. In addition, the report considers the role of multilateral cooperation in managing the Covid-19 pandemic.

The preliminary planning of the research project took place in December 2021. It was yet to be unveiled that by the time of the launch of the project, in February 2022, strategic competition would have transformed into geopolitical conflict and a brutal war taking place on European soil.

“The multitude of effects of Russia’s war of aggression injected additional complexity into the research project. At the same time, such developments highlighted the need for information on the topic”, says Juha Jokela.

The publication is part of the implementation of the Government’s Analysis, Assessment and Research Plan for 2022.

More information: Juha Jokela, Programme Director of the European Union research programme at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Tel. +359 9 432 7730, [email protected] and Katja Creutz, Programme Director of the Global Security and Governance research programme at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, Tel. +358 9 432 7781, [email protected]

The Government’s joint analysis, assessment and research activities (VN TEAS) produce data used to support decision-making, everyday operations and knowledge-based management. They are guided by the Government’s annual plan for analysis, assessment and research. The content of the reports published in the publication series of the Government’s analysis, assessment and research activities is the responsibility of the producers of the data in question and does not necessarily represent the view of the Government. For more information, visit