May 6, 2021

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Towards a more democratic and inclusive UN this International Day of Multilateralism – Global issues

Towards a more democratic and inclusive UN this International Day of Multilateralism - Global issues


United Nations, Geneva. Credit: Mathias PRReding
  • Opinion by Andreas Bummel – Caroline Vernaillen – Mandeep Tiwana (berlin / cologne / new york)
  • Inter Press Service

On the one hand, COVID-19 vaccine nationalism is causing huge inequalities in the provision of life-saving immunization from reaching the underprivileged, especially those in the global South who need it most amid a global pandemic of epic proportions. On the other hand, aggressive militarism and the proliferation of weapons of war by permanent members of the United Nations Security Council threaten international peace and security, diverting vital resources that could be used to address inequality and exclusion. worldwide.

The need for inclusive and democratic global governance to support the three founding pillars of the United Nations – peace and security, human rights and development – remains pressing. However, the major reforms have been elusive despite a wealth of reports and innovative ideas drawn up by experts and activists.

Over the years, the geopolitical intransigence of powerful actors and entrenched state interests have remained a major obstacle. However, a potential breakthrough was achieved in 2020 through a UN General Assembly resolution to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the United Nations.

The resolution includes a commitment to improve the global body and mandates Secretary General Antonio Guterres to compile a report in 2021 on promoting “ Our Common Agenda ” with a focus on reinvigorating inclusive, networked and effective multilateralism.

The report is expected to be submitted to the UN General Assembly by September this year. The report is likely to take into account the results of a year-long global listening exercise undertaken by the United Nations in 2020.

Over 1.5 million people from 195 countries participated in surveys and dialogues on people’s priorities and expectations from international cooperation. Notably, while the overwhelming majority (97%) considered the work of the United Nations to be indispensable, four out of ten also reported that the United Nations felt remote from their lives.

People around the world support the mission of the United Nations but want the institution itself to be more transparent, accountable and participatory. In this spirit, over 80 international, regional and national civil society organizations and networks came together in an initiative entitled “We the Peoples”, inspired by the opening words of the United Nations Charter.

Three practical ideas aimed at strengthening the agency of people, elected representatives and organized civil society in global governance are at the heart of a joint declaration on inclusive global governance published by the initiative on 23 April 2021:

First, a citizens’ initiative could be established to mandate key United Nations bodies, including the General Assembly and the Security Council, to act on issues of global importance following a joint petition signed by a certain number of citizens around the world. Such a mechanism would allow people to make their voices heard and would also provide a way to set the UN agenda.

Secondly, people around the world could be given the opportunity of direct representation and voice to the United Nations through a parliamentary assembly. Deficits in representative democracy that exist in too many parts of the world are further accentuated at the United Nations through a model based on state-centered bureaucracy. A parliamentary assembly could help make the UN more accessible to people.

Third, an office of a civil society envoy could be created to identify barriers to participation, stimulate inclusive meetings and guide UN engagement with the public and civil society organizations. Such a champion could lead the implementation of a broader strategy to open the UN to the participation of the people and voices of civil society, while addressing asymmetries in engagement between UN agencies, departments and forums.

Taken together, these ideas have groundbreaking and revolutionary potential for overcoming blockages in the United Nations system. In addition, they are also supported around the world: both a Citizens of the World Initiative and a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly were often mentioned by people who took part in last year’s UN evaluation exercise, as testified the same report from the United Nations.

If implemented seriously, these three changes will enable the United Nations to respond more effectively and with greater inclusiveness to global challenges such as discrimination, inequality, conflict and climate change. However, their adoption will require visionary leadership and cooperation from political leaders and senior UN leadership. The current system is hampered by bureaucratic approaches and a lack of imagination.

There is clearly an opportunity to strengthen and revitalize multilateralism by allowing for input and participation beyond the Member States. The United Nations must be fit for purpose for our times. However, a new, more participatory era will require a leap of faith and courage of conviction.

Andreas Bummel he is executive director of Democracy Without Borders based in Berlin; Caroline Vernaillen is the Global Manager for PR and Community Building at Democracy International based in Cologne; is Mandeep Tiwana is Chief Programs Officer at CIVICUS based in the New York office.

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© Inter Press Service (2021) – All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service