bilateral and multilateral agreements resolve and prevent conflicts

Multilateral agreements differ from bilateral agreements in that bilateral agreements occur between two parties only. In relationship to international affairs, bilateral agreements often take place between economic trading partners that depend on each other for much or all of the exchange of certain goods and/or services. Bilateral agreements and multilateral agreements can sometimes come into conflict with one another, especially when the terms of a multilateral agreement modify or nullify the terms of a longstanding bilateral agreement

With the increased influence globalization, the actions of one nation bear on other nations more than ever. Multilateral agreements have become an increasingly important means for nations to resolve important issues in a way that establishes common ground and resolves actual and potential points of difference. Multilateral agreements frequently require complex negotiations necessary to resolve the differences between the various parties and bring them into agreement.

Multilateral Agreements

A multilateral agreement is defined as a binding agreement between three or more parties concerning the terms of a specific circumstance. Multilateral agreements can occur between three individuals or agencies; however, the most common use of the term refers to multilateral agreements between several countries. Multilateral agreements are often the result of a recognition of common ground between the various parties involved concerning the issue at hand.

Multilateral agreements are often negotiated to deter the escalation of international tensions by mapping out the terms of an accord between the various parties involved. One example is the Antarctic Treaty, which came into force in 1961. The Antarctic Treaty specified an agreement among several nations, including the United States and the former Soviet Union, to prohibit all military activity and nuclear testing, as well as to promote scientific cooperation, on the Antarctic continent during the height of the Cold War.

An ongoing example of a multilateral agreement that promotes the economic interests of the member parties is the European Union. The terms of the European Union have allowed for the development of a single currency (the Euro) within what is called the Euro zone, to replace the multiple currencies of the member countries. Another feature of the European Union is a common EU passport for citizens of member nations, allowing for free movement across borders within the Union for work and visiting.

The Kyoto Protocol is an example of a multilateral agreement designed to promote the environmental interests of the parties in agreement. The basis for the Kyoto Protocol is the attempt to mitigate the effects of climate change by regulating such aspects as carbon dioxide emissions levels. One of the major challenges of a multilateral agreement is ensuring that its terms are followed and/or enforced. In the case of the Kyoto Protocol, most of the world's industrialized nations have signed and ratified the agreement. However, despite having signed the agreement in 1998, the United States had not ratified it as of June 2009, with former President George W. Bush citing adverse effects to the American economy and criticizing that controls would not be equally strict for developing nations like China.

Another purpose for multilateral agreements is to promote humanitarian standards. One example of a multilateral, multinational agreement for humanitarian purposes is the United Nations Millennium Declaration, which was drawn up in September 2000. The declaration states a general agreement among the countries signing it to uphold human dignity and equality and especially to guard the welfare of children.

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