States need to work together, but they often aren't sure how. Building an organization makes cooperation seem real -- nothing says multilateralism like an international secretariat and a headquarters with a bunch of flags flying outside. The world now has a dizzying and often confusing array of these multilateral institutions. Sometimes clumsy and sluggish, they are still a critical part of the diplomatic ecosystem.
Multilateralism may be here to stay, but it isn't always easy to understand. Layers of bureaucracy sometimes obscure important debates. Each international forum has its own history, traditions and procedures. Some of them are written: It takes nine votes to pass a U.N. Security Council resolution and 85 percent of votes for the International Monetary Fund to make key decisions. Other "rules" won't be found in any document or treaty: The top job at the United Nations never goes to an American; the World Bank presidency always does.
Through reporting and analysis, The Multilateralist will help its readers navigate this world. It will work to decipher some of its hieroglyphics and to place new developments in a historical context. Whenever possible, it will give readers a view from the inside. Tips and reports from those in the trenches of multilateralism will be a regular feature.
David Bosco is a contributing editor at Foreign Policy and the author of Five to Rule Them All: the UN Security Council and the Making of the Modern World, a history of the world's most elite club. He is an assistant professor at American University's School of International Service and was a senior editor at FP from 2004-2006.
Bosco has followed international organizations closely from several different perspectives. He has reported from Afghanistan and Kosovo on NATO operations, written about the International Criminal Court, and worked for a United Nations project in Bosnia. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Slate, FP, the Los Angeles Times, the New York Times Book Review and other publications.