The table wobbles: cities and a faltering multilateral order

Publication date:
Ian Klaus, Senior Fellow, Chicago Council on Global Affairs

Over two years in 2015–2016, United Nations member states adopted four outcome documents that together amounted to a de facto international development agenda. Over the last four years, these agreements and the wider agenda they constitute have come under new pressure. Most notably, nationalist governments have targeted the agenda as a threat to sovereignty. Meanwhile, a number of non-governmental organisations, subnational governments and national governments have noted that the agenda is no longer sufficiently ambitious to address global challenges. Finally, the health, social and economic effects of COVID-19 have recently rendered many of the agenda’s most visible goals more difficult to achieve. Stakeholders have walked a narrow strategic line in the face of these pressures: affirming the agenda while subtly tweaking their policy practice and rhetoric around the agreements according to historic events.