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IPU-UN 2019 Annual Hearing - Emerging Challenges to Multilateralism: A Parliamentary Response 

Editing Office - Geneva 

On 21 and 22 February, the IPU and the United Nations, represented by the President of the General Assembly, will bring together 200 parliamentarians from nearly 40 countries, as well as ambassadors, representatives from UN organizations, and experts for their annual parliamentary hearing in New York. The hearing will focus on the emerging challenges to multilateralism.  

Why multilateralism?  

The IPU was founded 130 years ago as the first multilateral organization in the world. It was also a precursor to the League of Nations, whose centenary will be celebrated this year. The current multilateral system, centred around the UN, was born in response to the devastation of the Second World War to provide the foundations for peace and human development for all. However, with globalization, Member States have realized that governments alone cannot provide the answer to today’s global problems such as climate change, migration and nuclear disarmament. This is compounded by growing popular distrust in global governance that seems too remote from national concerns. Parliamentarians, as representatives of the people, can help change this. They can bring people back into UN processes by ensuring their voices are heard and by turning global commitments into national realities. This can help restore faith in global governance and multilateralism. The IPU, as the global organization of national parliaments, is in a unique position to bridge the democracy gap in global governance by bringing parliaments closer to the UN. This year’s IPU-UN hearing will review the multilateral system to ensure that its underlying rules are still relevant and apply equally to all countries. The Hearing will discuss how national politics and institutions can also help strengthen the multilateral system.


The Hearing will be opened by María Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, President of the 73rd General Assembly, and Gabriela Cuevas Barron, President of the IPU. UN Secretary-General António Guterres will give the keynote address. Speakers include Elizabeth Cousens, Deputy CEO, UN Foundation; Asa Regner, Deputy Director UN Women and former parliamentarian; Susan Kihika, Kenyan MP and Chair of the IPU Forum of Women Parliamentarians; Peter Yeo, President, Better World Campaign; Luise Rurup, Director Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES); David Bollier, author, activist and blogger; as well as MPs from Kuwait, Norway, Pakistan and Turkey.  

Topics on the agenda  

One of the main threads of the discussions over the two days will be how to reform multilateral institutions to make them more effective and inclusive. These include the UN General Assembly, the Security Council, and peacekeeping operations. Participants will also discuss achieving gender equality, not just in the UN and parliaments, but in the world. With internet, 24/7 news channels, and social media, the multilateral system is now under more intense public scrutiny compared with 73 years ago when the UN was created. How can multilateral institutions adjust to the new era of communications? Can national MPs, with their direct link to the people, become champions for multilateralism in their own countries? Funding for conflict prevention is also on the agenda. In the past 10 years, the international community spent USD 233 billion on humanitarian responses, peacekeeping and refugees. This is in contrast with over USD 1.6 trillion in yearly military spending worldwide.

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