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Foreign Affairs Committee launches inquiry into multilaterals

12 January 2024

Today the Foreign Affairs Committee launches its inquiry into International Relations within the Multilateral System. The inquiry will look at how a broad range of countries are using multilateral organisations, be that through engagement and influencing, working around them or obstruction.

The inquiry will ask how key countries – such as India and Brazil – view their role within the multilateral system and what this means for the UK’s effectiveness within these institutions.

The inquiry will examine the emergence of “minilaterals” – regional or issues-based groups of “like-minded” or “like-interested” countries, such as BRICS and the Quad – and ask whether more are needed to fill gaps in the rules based international order.

It will ask how UK diplomacy can increase the perceived relevance and legitimacy of multilateral institutions, and whether enough progress has been made in strengthening multilaterals, such as Interpol and OSCE.

This inquiry follows on from the Committee’s 2021 report “In the room: the UK’s role in multilateral diplomacy”, which concluded that autocratic states were attempting to aggressively co-opt strategically important multilateral organisations and to fundamentally redefine their founding principles.

The Committee is interested in specific examples and has a particular interest in these countries: Brazil, China, France, India, Turkey, South Africa, Nigeria, Mexico, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Russia, United States and Indonesia

The deadline for submitting written evidence is Monday 26 February 2024.

Chair comment

Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Alicia Kearns MP, said:

“The past few years have brought multiple global challenges: the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, Russia’s renewed illegal invasion of Ukraine, and, most recently, the conflict between Israel and Hamas. The coming year will see key elections around the world as well as significant challenges around conflict and climate change. Global challenges require a global response, yet the rules based international order has been continuously tested.

“The geopolitical landscape has changed considerably and the way that countries interact within multilaterals has shifted. We’ve seen attempts to subvert and undermine the existing multilateral institutions and rival systems set up, in order to challenge the perceived dominance of the West. But we have also seen ‘minilaterals’ step in to deal more quickly and effectively with regional issues.

“This inquiry will ask what the future holds from multilateral institutions, including whether new multilaterals, with a focus on regions and specific issues, are needed. It will ask whether existing multilaterals will retain their relevance in the face of corrosive actors and international challenges.”

Call for evidence

The Committee welcomes written evidence on the following:

  • How do key countries see their roles within multilateral organisations?
  • How does that affect the influence or effectiveness of the UK within multilaterals?
  • Which countries operate outside the multilateral system because they do not see the benefits of participation? What alternative approaches are they taking?
  • Following the renewed illegal invasion of Ukraine and events since October 7, 2023, are there particular groupings or blocs of countries emerging within multilateral organisations? What are the consequences for the UK and its allies? How has the international response to recent conflicts affected confidence in multilaterals?
  • What is driving the proliferation of ‘minilaterals’: regional or issues-based groups of “like-minded” or “like-interested” countries? Are there any further ‘minilaterals’ needed to meet gaps in the rules based international order?
  • Which ‘minilateral’ groups support or complement the work of multilateral organisations, and which have been established to circumvent the multilateral system?
  • How can UK diplomacy increase the perceived relevance and legitimacy of multilateral institutions?
  • What progress has been made by the Government since our 2021 report, In the Room, in strengthening multilaterals (such as Interpol and the OSCE)?
  • What has been the impact of the UK’s proposal to expand the composition of the UN Security Council?

Each submission should be no longer than 3,000 words and contain a brief introduction about the author. Submissions should be in malleable format such as MS Word (not PDFs) with no use of colour, logos or photos. Further guidance is available on our Written Evidence Guidance.

Further information

Image credit: Tyler Allicock/UK Parliament