By Madeleine Albright and Ibrahim Gambari:
The United Nations marks its 70th birthday today with the world facing severe, concurrent and interconnected crises. A resurgence in armed conflicts and terrorism is taking root in places with weak, exclusionary, and corrupt governance. Climate change is melting ice caps and altering critical weather patterns, affecting rich and poor alike. And while globalisation, accelerated by the internet, has connected us closer than ever before, it has also opened doors to boundless illegal trade, espionage and theft.
Meeting these challenges requires an approach to global governance that promotes sustainable peace and safeguards human rights. In other words, we need to focus on both security and justice. The United Nations and other global institutions established in the mid-20th century must be brought into the 21st century if they are to help address these modern, evolving threats. A failure to reform these institutions risks prolonging these global crises. This is a critical moment for action.
In June we led a team of 14 commissioners from all major regions in issuing the report Confronting the Crisis of Governance. Among our major reform recommendations are establishing a UN Global Partnership to harness the talents and networks of civil society and the business community; expanding the United Nations Security Council’s membership while curbing the use of vetoes by its five permanent members; building bridges between G20 nations and the UN’s other 173 member states on global economic decision-making; transforming the UN peacebuilding commission into a peacebuilding council with real authorities to coordinate action and mobilise resources for conflict-affected states; and creating a United Nations parliamentary network to raise greater citizen awareness and participation in UN governance. Equally important is the attention the commission on global security, justice and governance gives to advancing its ambitious reform agenda.
Learning from the hard-fought success stories of the international effort to adopt the “responsibility to protect” as a global norm, the international campaign to ban landmines and the coalition for the international criminal court, an effective strategy for reform requires smart coalitions of like-minded states and non-state actors. We are therefore committed to working with a range of partners – both within and outside of governments – to mobilise and sustain support for far-reaching, yet practical UN and broader global governance reforms.
To build broad-based coalitions and advance many of its reform ideas, the commission recommends investing in a hybrid approach that taps into the strengths of two major avenues to global governance reform designed to overcome deep-seated divisions in the international community.
First, what we describe as “reform through parallel tracks” acknowledges that different kinds of multilateral reform negotiations will require different negotiating forums and will proceed at different speeds. In doing so, it can facilitate a careful sequencing of reforms based on criteria such as urgency, political feasibility and cost. One example of an issue-focused campaign, advocated by the commission, involves marshalling governments and environmental organisations to develop a green technology licensing facility within the UN Green Climate Fund in order to harness private-sector innovation for climate mitigation and adaptation.
Second, marking the United Nations’ 75th birthday in 2020 with the culmination of a multi-stakeholder and formal multilateral negotiation on global institutional reforms. A world conference on global institutions could serve as a rallying point for smart coalitions and simultaneously generate political momentum for multiple, urgent global reforms. Initiated at a meeting of foreign ministers in early 2018 in New York, four subsequent preparatory committee meetings could be held every six months, each in a different region. World leaders could then convene the world conference in September 2020, at the time of their annual gathering in New York.
Whereas the reform through parallel tracks approach may help to prevent a logjam in one area from affecting progress in other areas, a world conference on global institutions has the potential to facilitate strong negotiation outcomes through trade-offs and deal-making across a broad reform agenda that speaks to diverse national interests and values. For both approaches, every effort should be made to engage the voices and ideas of civil society and the business community at the most local level possible.
Promoting global justice and security and bringing meaningful change to the United Nations for its next 70 years requires engaging not only states, but regional organisations, local authorities, the business community, the media and civil society. Besides helping to mobilise pressure for the reform of intergovernmental bodies to keep pace with 21st-century challenges and threats, these resourceful partners offer fresh perspectives and unique capabilities for strengthening mutually beneficial linkages between security and justice in global governance. We invite partners from around the world to support such a platform and to help build and sustain coalitions for progressive global change, in pursuit of a vision of justice and security for all.
This piece originally ran in The Guardian, October 24, 2015.
Photo credit: Mike Segar/REUTERS