Multilateralism in the 21st century

PRIF's annual conference on 20th September

Conflicts and cooperation among new and old great powers are this year’s topic of PRIF's annual conference on 20th September.

Themed "Multilateralism in the 21st Century", renowned international experts discuss threats and opportunities a new balance of great powers provide for the international system, which has undoubtedly changed: The economic – maybe as well as the political ­– dominance of the USA is deteriorating, new powers are striving for a superior role in world politics – or have already gained more importance.

Facing this multipolar world and the looming power transition, international society has to cope with exciting but maybe also dangerous times: Traditionally, conflicts and wars among great powers do relatively often arise in situations like these. However, in today‘s circumstances this could result in devastating consequences. That’s why it is even more important today to develop a framework in which great powers cooperate instead of compete with each other.


PRIF’s annual conference deals with the opportunities multilateral cooperation can offer. Experts, including international researchers from Russia, China and India, will discuss how cooperation among great powers can bring about a more peaceful and secure world. The discussion also draws attention to the question which insights can be gained from former cooperative approaches like the European "Concert of Powers" in the 19th century. These questions are directly linked to PRIF’s research project "A twenty-first century concert of powers".


The first conference panel explains why conflicts between great powers emerge frequently from historical and theoretical perspectives. Participants debate the value of specific concepts such as the European concert of powers and its impact on multilateral cooperation. Professor Matthias Schulz (Geneva), Professor Andrew Hurrell (Oxford) and Professor Reinhard Wolf (Frankfurt) contribute to this panel.


The second panel focuses on the new, non-western emerging and existing great powers and discusses the attitudes these state have towards multilateral great power cooperation. Professor Alexander Nikitin (Moscow) talks about Russia’s self-conception as a regional great power and stresses the role of regional organizations, which in his view, can have a significant effect on great power cooperation. In order to be successful, such cooperation must be based on values such as fairness and equality, as Professor Pang Zhongying (Bejing) argues. Professor Kanti Bajpai (Singapore) closes the panel by explaining India’s role as an emerging great power and its self-conception as a pioneer of multilateralism.


The conference is organized by Professor Harald Müller, head of Research Department I "Policies for Security Governance of States". The department examines and compares states’ security policies and asks for their inherent normative orientations and justice claims. May differing approaches lead to conflict and which ones contribute to a peaceful world order? These questions are analyzed in the empirical fields of non-proliferation, armament- and military policy, deployment of military forces and national security discourses.



Peace Research Institute Frankfurt

Baseler Straße 27-31

60329 Frankfurt a.M.



Conference Programme 

(PDF download)


2:00-2:10 pm

Welcome address and introduction

Harald Müller

Executive Director, Peace Research Institute Frankfurt


2:10-3:40 pm

Panel 1: Cooperation and Conflict among Great Powers – Theory, History, Concepts

Chair: Tanja Brühl, Goethe University Frankfurt


Matthias Schulz, University of Geneva

Andrew Hurrell, University of Oxford

Reinhard Wolf, Goethe University Frankfurt


3:40-4:00 pm

Coffee break


4.00-5:30 pm

Panel 2: Non-Western Great Powers and their Position towards Multilateralism

Chair: Simone Wisotzki, Peace Research Institute Frankfurt


Kanti Bajpai, National University of Singapore

Alexander Nikitin, Moscow State Institute of International Relations

Pang Zhongying, Renmin University of China, Bejing


5:30-5:40 pm

Closing remarks

Harald Müller



5:40-6:00 pm



6:00-7:00 pm

Ernst-Otto Czempiel Award Ceremony