Trent: A Canadian’s advice for Joe Biden on foreign policy

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All this has been multiplied by Donald Trump’s disastrous attacks on multilateralism and his undermining of the United Nations. He has insulted the organization many times in his speeches and he has quit UNESCO, the Paris Climate Accord, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran, and the Human Rights Council. The U.S. is $3.6 billion in arrears on its contributions to the budget of the UN. And to top it off, Trump quit the World Health Organization at the height of the coronavirus pandemic. He has denigrated his allies in NATO and the European Union at the same time as he has made cosy with the world’s worst autocracies in Russia, China and North Korea. He has pointedly supported nationalism and populism as opposed to globalization. His undermining of the institutions of American democracy is notorious.

No, the world is not ready for “American leadership.” What we do want is American partnership. In  a world where China and Russia are seeking ways of building new hegemonies, and a whole slew of nationalist-populist leaders strides about the international scene, it is more necessary than ever for a coalition of large, middle and small liberal powers to rebuild an effective multilateral system focused on the UN.

The building blocks are already in place. In 2019-2020, the first steps were taken to launch The Alliance for Multilateralism. It was initiated as a network of states cooperating on common objectives, pursuing shared goals based on agreed principles. Its foreign ministers met at the 74th and 75th UN General Assemblies. The momentum came from the Germans and French in the belief that a rules-based international order is the only reliable guarantee for international stability and peace. They were joined from the outset by Canada, Mexico, Chile, Singapore and Ghana. Many other states have acceded to the network and it is open to any country that shares the belief that common challenges can best be solved by common action. It would include cooperation to come to the aid of hard-pressed international institutions and advancing their reform. The Alliance wants to act through concrete initiatives in fields such as climate, health, digital technology, rethinking arms control and the Paris Peace Forum. It intends to reach out to non-state actors.

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