The Crisis of Multilateral Institutions:
Future Outlooks of Russia and Europe
By Ulrike Reisner
  • Ulrike Reisner
    Self-employed political analyst, lecturer & journalist, based in Vienna / Austria, political analyst with "Creative Diplomacy" (PICREADI).
  • On June 28, 2019, Austrian and Russian experts organised a joint seminar on "The Crisis of Multilateral Institutions: Future Outlook of Russia and Europe". Mr. Alexander Dubowy, Scientific Director at the Institute for Security Policy in Vienna, contributed as an expert and moderator. The Russian delegation was represented by Ms. Natalia Burlinova, President of Creative Diplomacy and Mr. Alexander Konkov, Head of Rethinking Russia Think Tank.
For the last 40 Years, Vienna has been the seat of various UN institutions. Within this time period, the political framework conditions have changed massively. Europe and its nation states are facing major challenges, both political and military, as well as in the field of security. Traditional alliance patterns are no longer proving themselves or are not sufficient to successfully overcome these challenges. Some experts are already talking about a crisis of the United Nations and other multilateral institutions. In this context it has to be seriously discussed, whether and to which extent the continuing weakness of multilateral institutions gives rise to the risks between nations and thus increases the risk of armed conflicts.
From an institutional point of view, international organisations such as the United Nations and the OECD have been established primarily on the basis of a jointly expressed will. For several reasons this "common will" is increasingly difficult to achieve today. One of the major causes is globalisation in connection with the advancing digitalisation. As a result, political and social systems around the world are becoming increasingly complex and networked. Decision-making in international organisations through negotiation is therefore perceived by political players as a problem rather than a contribution to solving problems. Domestic or bilateral institutions are understood to be more effective.
In addition to the common will, the confidence of the partners in stability and effectiveness is another important prerequisite for the functioning of international organisations. The confidence was repeatedly shaken, firstly because international organisations were again and again (ab)used by major political actors for their power interests. On the other hand, the reliance of state actors on the effectiveness of international treaties has been dwindling for some time. More and more often international treaties are not fulfilled. In addition, non-state actors (such as corporations or finance companies) elude these international treaties.

From the European point of view, the crisis of the international organisations is an expression of a crisis of the world order after the Second World War. The rapid change from an initially bipolar and later unipolar system to a now multipolar system has shaken not only the political structures of the states but also their security structures.
On the other hand, state systems are increasingly confronted with comparable, major challenges that they can no longer cope with using domestic resources only. Demographic developments, migration or the accompanying effects of climate change require cross-border solutions. For the political partners these solutions have to be flexible but also reliable. Particularly in the case of international agreements, a distinction must be made between the short, medium and long-term interests of the partners. International organisations will only be able to make a successful contribution if they take account of these new circumstances.