Multilateralism Index: Pilot Report

Figure 1: Results of the Multilateralism Index (Click for full graphic)

In the past several years, there has been a much-discussed rise in strain on multilateralism. However, there have been few efforts to quantifiably assess the state of the multilateral system. This Multilateralism Index (MI) report is the first known attempt to do so. It focuses on developments in the system over the past decade, providing a snapshot of its relative strength in 2020 compared to 2010. It seeks to answer questions including: What is the state of the multilateral system? What is working? What is not? And how has the multilateral system changed over time?

The MI examines five domains of multilateral coordination: Peace and Security, Human Rights, Environment, Public Health, and Trade. Each domain is evaluated across three dimensions: Participation, Performance, and Inclusivity. Analysis of sixty-five indicators across these domains and dimensions reveals several trends in multilateral cooperation over the past decade:

  • Participation scores for Human Rights, Public Health, and Trade have improved, while the scores for Peace and Security and Environment have deteriorated.
  • Performance scores have deteriorated in four out of five domains.
  • Inclusivity scores have improved across all five domains.

These trends shed light on the nature of the crisis of multilateralism. Rather than decreased international cooperation and widespread exit from multilateral institutions, we are seeing a battle over the nature and purpose of the multilateral system—not decay, but transformation. The MI provides a basis for tracking this transformation and informing decision making on the future of multilateralism.