This 21st century is confronting us with the need to restructure our way of international relations and cooperation.
1. Never in our history, humans have been confronted with so many existential challenges: artificial intelligence, biodiversity, China as an additional key player, climate change, cyberwar, migration, pandemics, populism, shift from hydrocarbons to renewables, social inequality, terrorism, (un)social media …
2. It is easy to agree that the answers will not be possible on a national level, but on a global one – multilateralism instead of unilateralism.
3. Our understanding of “multilateralism” is that different nations are working together hand in hand. Recent years have shown that that is more effective than America’s first and similar approaches – but the subject of such cooperation stays always the “nation”.
4. In a certain way, we are in that respect a sort of mental slave of the 1648 Westphalia Peace Treaty, where Western nations (not the indigenous one’s) were recognized as the sole subject of international law and of the 1815 Vienna Congress – leading to the export of that notion of a nation all around the globe with all the conflicts about borders and the emergence of nationalism.
5. The beginning of this century shows us that we have to overcome the understanding that it is not enough that “Nations should work together” – something more inclusive, involving especially civil society, has to replace the narrow definition of multilateralism.
6. The German philosopher Immanuel Kant might show the adequate way when he looked already in 1797 for a Universal Peace (Weltfrieden) by using omnilateral (from omnibus in Latin for all and by all) to express a constellation which is “derived from the particular wills of all the individuals”.
7. In case we would develop and progress the term multilateralism to “omnilateralism”, we would show by such a naming that not only nations are included, but also Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) as well as private actors and civil society at large: all with the aim to contribute together to the advancement of the common global good.
8. The reality in our 21st century has already developed towards first steps of omnilateralism:
– at the Paris Climate Conference of the parties (COPS), the number of non-state actors (especially NGOs, academics etc) has always been higher than the number of state actors,
– the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) as a mechanism aimed at increasing direct democracy by enabling EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies,
– the work of “Citizen Spring”, calling on citizens to put the future in their own hands by building citizen-led initiatives to tackle key challenges,
– Macron and his experiment in participatory democracy with the “Citizens’ Climate Convention”,
– the creation of an independent self-organised citizen-driven EU-wide 2021 “Conference on the Future of Europe”.
9. Such an inclusive approach might assist us to overcome as well some Western-Asian tensions and to adapt democracy along with non-Western ideas and practices in order to solve common global issues.
10. All of this is not only applicable exclusively on the global level – such an inclusive approach on ther local level might as well result in an enhanced democracy, where citizens can contribute in decision making and rule-setting.