Introducing the ENSURED Project

In an era marked by global challenges, international cooperation is more essential than ever. Yet multilateral initiatives too often end in gridlock, as dominant states seek to bend the global order to their own interests. Enter ENSURED, a Horizon Europe-funded research consortium studying how the EU and its member states can better defend multilateralism and make global governance more robust, effective, and democratic.

ENSURED focuses on key policy domains that by their very nature pose complex transnational challenges. Our research assesses the state of play in these different areas and investigates the EU’s strengths and weaknesses as an actor working to defend and transform multilateralism. Embracing the ethos of multilateral cooperation, the ENSURED consortium comprises universities, think tanks, and civil society groups from across Europe, Brazil, India, South Africa, China, and the United States. We aim to equip policymakers in the EU with evidence-based insights, actionable recommendations, and practical tools to promote better global governance for a world in transition.

Our Focus Areas

academic theories
climate and sustainability
EU foreign policy
health and pandemics
intersecting policies
migration and human rights
strategic communication
trade and inequality

Lead: Andrea Liese, Thomas Sommerer
Team: Katja Biedenkopf, Steven Blockmans, Hylke Dijkstra, Andrew Firmin, Michal Parizek, Mihaela Papa, Inés Pousadela, Franziska Petri, Clara Weinhardt

To kick off phase one of our research, we will review the academic and policy literature on global governance and the EU’s support for the reform of multilateralism. We will summarise key findings and discuss their relevance to ENSURED’s goals in three literature reviews. The insights we glean from this exploratory phase will inform our conceptual framework on global governance transformation, which builds out from three core properties of global governance: robustness, effectiveness, and democracy.

To test, refine, and develop the framework, we will seek input from other researchers as well as ENSURED’s advisory board and civil society. Our aim is to introduce new concepts and theories that enrich understandings of global governance in academic debates and across different thematic areas. Finally, we will explore different scenarios for how global governance will likely develop and how it could be transformed considering the beliefs, interests, and strategies of major international actors.

Lead: Katja Biedenkopf
Team: Monica Alessi, Jan Karlas, Yuliia Kurnyshova, Irina Kustova, Andrey Makarychev, Mihaela Papa, Franziska Petri, Jayati Srivastava

The climate crisis has spurred some of the highest-profile multilateral initiatives, from the UNFCCC and the annual COP meetings to the Paris Agreement. ENSURED will focus on how decisions get made – and then implemented – as part of these global governance processes. We will also pay close attention to additional mechanisms for participation throughout the different sustainability and biodiversity regimes.

Building on the state-of-play in climate and sustainability governance, ENSURED will plot the positions and strategies of key international actors, including the EU, the US, BASIC and Global South countries, as well as of civil society actors. Of special interest to us is the EU's internal agenda, including the European Green Deal, and how it shapes the EU’s role and agency in both the climate and biodiversity regimes. Through consultations with officials and experts worldwide, ENSURED will formulate actionable recommendations to strengthen global environmental governance.

Lead: Ettore Greco
Team: Wade Hoxtell, Yuliia Kurnyshova, Andrey Makarychev, Federica Marconi

ENSURED will look at three key domains of global digital governance: the regulation of cyberspace, with a focus on cybersecurity and data governance; digital currencies; and the regulation of artificial intelligence (AI). We will investigate ongoing governance efforts in these realms by multilateral institutions (such as the UN Group of Governmental Experts or the OECD), through frameworks (such as the Internet Governance Forum), as well as through intergovernmental fora (like the G7 or G20).

We are especially interested in the positions of the EU and other major actors (including Big Tech and CSOs) within these three emerging areas – both in terms of the norms, interests, and concrete policy proposals they put forward as well as the strategies and narratives they employ to pursue their objectives. We will also analyse the main fault lines between actors on key questions of how to govern emerging technologies and propose new ways to make global digital governance more robust, effective, and democratic.

Lead: Steven Blockmans
Team: Katja Biedenkopf, Wade Hoxtell, Dylan Macchiarini, Katharina Nachbar, Franziska Petri, Amanda Pridmore

The EU is a key player in many domains of global governance, but its impact is sometimes restricted by factors like internal divisions or a lack of membership in important institutions. Here, we will identify the policy areas in which the EU has most influence to take strategic choices with respect to global governance transformation. Based on insights from other work packages, we will also suggest policy priorities and pinpoint key trade-offs that the EU is facing in multilateral matters.

What kinds of multilateral arrangements should the EU favour? Which properties of global governance is it best positioned to focus on? In which policy areas does the state of global governance merit defending and in which does it need to be transformed? To ensure that the answers to these questions have practical relevance for EU decision-makers, we will create concrete decision support tools and develop strategic narratives that will be honed through user workshops.

Lead: Mirko Heinzel
Team: Kai Michael Kenkel, Yuliia Kurnyshova, Andrea Liese, Andrey Makarychev, Jayati Srivastava

In the field of global health, ENSURED looks at key institutions like the World Health Organization, vaccine access initiatives like COVAX, and frameworks like the proposed Pandemic Treaty. Through literature reviews and analysis of public sources, we aim to understand current efforts to revitalise and expand global health governance post-Covid 19.

Building on this assessment, ENSURED analyses the positions and strategies of a range of key international actors within these areas. Because intra-EU dynamics are often shaped by corporations, civil society, and scientific experts, we also pay considerable attention to these actor groups. We will gather empirical data to advance our understanding of global health governance dynamics and identify opportunities to enhance WHO governance and financing, improve vaccine access and equity, and develop an ambitious Pandemic Treaty through recommendations geared towards officials and decision-makers in global health.

Lead: Andrea Liese, Thomas Sommerer
Steven Blockmans, Hylke Dijkstra, Stephanie Hofmann, Michal Parizek, Thomas Sommerer, Soetkin Verhaegen

In this work package, we will analyse the potential for global governance transformation through different (comparative) methods. After updating two datasets on the effectiveness of international institutions and their openness to the participation of non-state actors, we will quantitatively evaluate if the crisis of multilateralism has systematically affected the effectiveness and democracy of global governance. We will then integrate this analysis with the results of a comprehensive expert survey.

Our aim is to pinpoint opportunities for global governance transformation and compare the potential for reforms across policy areas. This will allow us to determine where there is particularly strong unexploited potential for transformation – and where the status quo should be defended. Moreover, we will examine intersecting challenges that stem from regime complexity to understand how differences in governance are hindering our efforts to address global challenges and reconceptualise multilateralism for a multipolar world.

Lead: Lilian Tsourdi
Team: Andrew Firmin, Kai Michael Kenkel, Andrea Liese, Yuliia Kurnyshova, Andrey Makarychev, Inés Pousadela, Jayati Srivastava

ENSURED will thoroughly assess the state-of-play in global migration and human rights governance, including by mapping and analysing recent reform proposals as well as ongoing efforts to defend and expand key frameworks. In doing so, we will zoom in on the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees, and the conventions protecting women and LGBTQI+ individuals.

We will also scrutinise the positions of key players, such as the EU, the US, and BRICS countries, regarding migration and human rights institutions. With a keen eye on dynamics both within the EU and worldwide, we will unpack how differing views on these issues shape international cooperation. Based on our research and input from civil society stakeholders, we will propose new ways to defend and strengthen migration and human rights governance and offer recommendations to reform key institutions – also taking into account their limitations.

Lead: Katharina Nachbar
Team: Steven Blockmans, Hylke Dijkstra, Andrew Firmin, Dylan Macchiarini, Franziska Petri, Inés Pousadela, Amanda Pridmore, Marc Shkurovich, Thomas Sommerer, Sonya Sugrobova, Clara Weinhardt

Strategic communication is an integral aspect of ENSURED. One aspect of this will be our efforts to disseminate our findings and recommendations to various target audiences through events and publications like journal articles, policy reports, and briefs. But we will also be working to reach a diverse range of audiences and to engage with affected communities beyond the expert and policy circles, including civil society and youth organisations.

Our goal is to better understand the narratives that shape dominant views of gobal institutions, raise awareness about key global issues, inform about important developments at the global level, spark curiosity about global politics and institutions, and foster (more) informed debates on global governance and how it should be transformed. Following the principles of co-production and co-creation, we will seek feedback from different target groups to make sure that our outputs are relevant and accessible.

Lead: Michal Parizek
Team: Paulo Esteves, Petr Janský, Jan Karlas, Kai Michael Kenkel, Yuliia Kurnyshova, Li Siqi, Andrey Makarychev, Jayati Srivastava, Tu Xinquan, Clara Weinhardt

How resilient and inclusive are our multilateral economic institutions? How are they being challenged by the resurgence of economic nationalism and neo-mercantilist conflict – especially between the US and China? Mapping key developments along these lines, ENSURED will identify opportunities to revitalise organisations like the World Trade Organization, and to promote an expanded and fairer global trading system that reduces global inequalities and fosters sustainable development.

By analysing the positions of major international actors – the EU in particular, but also other countries as well as multinational corporations – ENSURED also emphasises the need to find a more democratic approach to global taxation. Moreover, to further unlock diverse perspectives on policy options for and pathways towards more equitable economic institutions, ENSURED will engage civil society actors, who are typically left out of dialogue around international economic institutions.

Who We Are

The ENSURED consortium is 14 members strong. Who is taking part? Our team includes universities and think tanks from across Europe, universities in Brazil, India, China, and the US, as well as an international civil society organisation headquartered in South Africa. Multilateral by design.

A Note on ENSURED’s Design

ENSURED is all about transforming global governance for a world in transition. To create a visual identity that spoke to these values, we partnered with the Dutch creative agency Awe Studio, who supported us in taking a narrative approach to developing our visual identity. Together, we created a design system that is informed by the core assumptions of our project. Starting from ENSURED’s goals and focus areas, we developed the visual concept Axial Shifts, which is rooted in the notion that international cooperation is the axis on which a better future will turn.

The ENSURED logo reflects the idea that global politics and international relations are not static but highly dynamic: perspectives, priorities, and coalitions are always shifting. Within this system, fora and institutions serve as centres of gravity for bringing competing forces together and channelling them in a constructive way.