The purpose of this paper is to highlight how the growing crisis of legitimacy in the relationship between citizens and governance institutions relates to the multilateral system. Given that the essence of multilateralism rests in the state, the efficiency and legitimacy of the multilateral system as a whole is affected when the state finds itself under stress, or no longer constitutes the primary source of political identification. While the United Nations does not traditionally address peace and security challenges internal to the state, its mechanisms—at both the internal and inter-governmental level—continue to be hampered by the reverberations of distinctly “national” problems and their transnational permutations. Its role in this regard is to uphold the norms and rules-based system enshrined in its Charter and to be at the helm of appropriate and effective multilateral responses to these challenges.
The nexus between local, national, regional and global governance requires closer scrutiny. To revitalise its role at the center of multilateral governance, the United Nations must strengthen is capacity to engage with both international and local partners. While the UN remains the best placed and most legitimate vehicle for international action, an emphasis on greater cooperation with regional and subregional organisations, civil society actors, and the private sector, would help bolster its standing as an effective leader in setting norms, coordinating responses, delivering services, and providing assistance when necessary. The reality that regional organisations and powerful member states have at times bypassed the UN can result in the unfortunate perception that the latter is redundant. Such an assumption is ultimately false given that the UN Security Council remains the only instrument mandated by international law to authorize enforcement actions to maintain or restore international peace and security. Stronger engagement and bolstered cooperation would thus be mutually beneficial. While the UN does not have to “be” everywhere, it still needs to be able to rely on functional partnerships and a holistically sound protocol for approaches on regional governance, in conjunction with the national and local level.