How digital minilaterals can revive international cooperation

Blog by Tanya Filer and Antonio Weiss: “From London to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, calls to “reimagine” or “revive” multilateralism have been a dime a dozen this year. The global upheaval of COVID-19 and emerging megatrends—from the climate crisis to global population growth—have afforded a new urgency to international cooperation and highlighted a growing sclerosis within multilateralism that even its greatest proponents admit. 

While these calls—and the rethinking they are beginning to provoke—are crucial, a truly new and nuanced multilateralism will require room for other models too. As we described in a paper published last year at the Bennett Institute for Public Policy at the University of Cambridge, digital minilaterals are providing a new model for international cooperation. Made up of small, trust-based, innovation-oriented networks, digital minilaterals use digital culture, practices, processes, and technologies as tools to advance peer learning, support, and cooperation between governments. 

Though far removed from great power politics, digital minilaterals are beginning to help nation-states navigate an environment of rapid technological change and problems of complex systems, including through facilitating peer-learning, sharing code base, and deliberating on major ethical questions, such as the appropriate use of artificial intelligence in society. Digital minilateralism is providing a decentralized form of global cooperation and could help revive multilateralism. To be truly effective, digital minilaterals must place as much emphasis on common values as on pooled knowledge, but it remains to be seen whether these new diplomatic groupings will deliver on their promise….(More)”.