United Nations Members States Consultation

in Program

Summary of a Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance Consultation

United Nations Member States Consultation in New York

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

On February 24, 2015, the Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance hosted a consultation with representatives of twenty-four UN Member States in New York at the Nigerian Mission to the United Nations. Co-chaired by the Permanent Representatives of Nigeria and Japan, the consultation was the first of a two-part dialogue between UN Missions and Commission representatives. The initial exchange was aimed at providing an overview of the Commission’s goals and to encourage dialogue on four major themes: Fragile & Conflict-Affected Environments, Climate & People, the Global E-conomy, and UN Institutional Reforms. The second exchange, planned for April 2nd in New York, will involve a focused dialogue between United Nations Missions and Commissioners on specific Commission draft reform proposals.

The representatives were welcomed by H.E. Ambassaor Joy Ogwu, Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the UN and H.E. Ambassador Motohide Yoshikawa, Permanent Representative of Japan to the UN, as well as Ambassador Nikola Dimitrov from The Hague Institute for Global Justice and Ms. Ellen Laipson, President and CEO of The Stimson Center.

Overview of the Commission

Commission Co-Chair Professor Ibrahim Gambari (former Nigerian Foreign Minister and UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs) and Commission Member Professor José Antonio Ocampo (former Colombian Finance Minister and UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs) provided an introduction to the project, its scope, and goals. Professor Gambari stressed the various crises of our time – including new wars, cyber-attacks, the rapid spread of the Ebola virus, cross-border economic shocks, and the latest severe warnings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change on the impact of climate change on our natural habitat – as ample evidence for the need for better leadership and a more capable system of global governance. As distinguishing features of the project, he highlighted:

(1) The Commission’s focus on areas where security and justice intersect, reflecting the diversity and urgency of global governance problems;

(2) The Commission’s broad-based consultations in, for example, Lima, New Delhi, The Hague, and at the recent Munich Security Conference, where he participated along with former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright (Commission Co-Chair) and Dr. Lloyd Axworthy (former Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs).

(3) The project’s commitment to establish a dynamic global coalition to advance the discussion, adoption, and implementation of the Commission’s reform proposals between 2015 and the UN’s 75th anniversary year in 2020.

(4) How the Commission’s work aims to complement the Post-2015 Development Agenda, the UN Climate Conference in Paris, and other major global policy initiatives in 2015.

Professor Ocampo then emphasized that many of the problems of global governance are inherently political and institutional and that it was necessary to engage more fully regional organizations, municipal authorities, and non-state actors – the business sector and civil society – in bold and innovative ways. Describing the intersection of security and justice, or “just security”, as an essential point of departure for any global governance enterprise, he stressed the need to skilfully bring together security and justice to rally broad-based international support for a progressive reform agenda that promotes “fit for purpose” policies and global institutions.

The subsequent discussion was divided in two parts dealing with four thematic focus areas, namely:

I. Fragile & Conflict-Affected Environments and Climate & People

Introducing the segment on Fragile and Conflict-Affected Environments, Professor Gambari noted that the United Nations has come a long way since the end of the Cold War in terms of investing in human and institutional capabilities for prevention, mediation, peacekeeping and post-conflict peacebuilding. Yet, more than 1.5 billion citizens of fragile and conflict-affected countries remain at risk and struggle to meet their basic human needs. Hence, much more is needed from the United Nations and other international actors at the levels of strategy, policy, and field operations – including in the areas of criminal justice and democratic security sector reform – to help countries avoid, and transition from, protracted violence. To tap the ideas, resources, networks, and political support of global and regional organizations, Professor Gambari further recommended that, for example, all future peace operations in Africa should be hybrid UN-African Union peace operations.

In the ensuing discussion, Member States representatives pointed to the protection of civilians, international terrorism, sanctions, and the modernization of UN peace and security institutions as important issues for the Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance to consider. The need to update how the UN does peacekeeping, mediation, and human rights promotion were referenced as critical issues, as well as strengthening ties between “holistic approaches” to peacekeeping and peacebuilding. In discussing the operationalization of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P), concerns were raised about the norm’s misuse in carrying out the use of force, as well as the duty of the United Nations to rehabilitate war-torn societies (the Responsibility to Rebuild) and to protect civilians during peace operations (the Responsibility While Protecting). Strengthening UN Human Rights Observers and creating a “UN Prevention Brigade” and other types of early warning mechanisms were also viewed as ideas meriting greater attention, as well as offering more tactical instruments for the promotion of just security.

Setting out the Commission’s focus on Climate & People, Professor Ocampo noted that perhaps more than any other global governance challenge today, the global climate is far beyond the reach of any single state to manage. But while there is no chance of an individual state providing either justice or security in connection with climate change on its own, there still remain limits on what all states acting together can do in this area. Hence, intergovernmental decision-making needs to begin operating at a pace commensurate with the accelerated speed of climate change.

In providing feedback, Member States representatives stressed climate governance as particularly important in view of December’s UNFCCC COP21 climate summit in Paris. Moreover, they stressed the intrinsic link between climate governance and the global economy, and how one set of issues cannot be addressed without simultaneously addressing the other set (i.e., promoting sustainable development by reconciling environmental and economic concerns). The promotion of green technologies was also viewed as critical to global climate mitigation and adaptation strategies, and here the public provision of clean energy subsidies to the private sector was offered as one approach that could make a difference.

II. The Global E-conomy and UN Institutional Reforms

Introducing the Global E-conomy, Professor Ocampo highlighted that due to modern information technology and Big Data, wealth and knowledge can act and interact at distances and speeds that far exceed human ability. He noted that while the Commission certainly recognizes the tremendous opportunities for growth and broad-based development for billions of people from the dynamism and creativity found in what the Commission terms the “Global E-economy”, Professor Ocampo also acknowledged the very real downside risks and the urgent need for new global governance approaches to mitigate the risk of another global financial meltdown and other measures to ensure sustained, broad-based economic growth. In this regard, he offered his support for the 2009 Stiglitz Commission proposal for a Global Economic Council to improve coordination and crisis response among global economic governance actors, including the UN, international financial institutions, and the World Trade Organization. Professor Ocampo also noted that a fair and open global economy is critical to delivering on the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

Member State representatives welcomed the Commission’s concern with overcoming the “digital divide” and increasing capacities in the Global South to participate in the 21st century economy. It was felt that a redoubling of investments in capacity-building in the development world is needed to create greater ownership in today’s global economy. Discussion also focused on the “multiplicity of agents” in the international financial system, including new institutions such as the BRICS Development Bank and Asian Infrastructure Development Bank. It was argued that greater coherence and coordination is needed among traditional and new international financial institutions to promote the twin, inter-related goals of global security and justice.

Outlining the Commission’s focus on UN Institutional Reforms, Professor Gambari recalled his time as Permanent Representative of Nigeria in New York, during which time he was a strong proponent of a more effective and efficient United Nations. He stressed that it is precisely because of the profound differences of perspectives and interests among states – which need to be reconciled peacefully – that he possesses a strong faith and commitment to the need for global institutions and norms. He remarked that there is no single state, group of states, or global institution that can manage current and emerging global challenges on its own. Increasingly, the UN’s relevance and efficacy must be judged by its ability to engage and mobilize a broad range of other transnational actors, from regional bodies, such as the African and European Unions, to business and civil society groups. The analysis for this project is rooted in this basic assumption, and the reform ideas the Commission intends to advance will seek to exploit the inherent capabilities of both traditional and relatively new but essential players in global governance. Professor Gambari further stressed the importance of addressing UN strengthening in a comprehensive, rather than through a piecemeal, approach.

The Member State representatives expressed general appreciation for the focus areas of the Commission. It was advised that in order to make actionable recommendations, they need to be relevant, practical and connected, keeping in mind also that existing institutions, such as the International Court of Justice and International Criminal Court for example, can and need to contribute to the prevention of violent conflict. It was also stressed that in order to overcome the current crisis of governance, there is a need to be imaginative and to update the 20th century global architecture for 21st century global threats and challenges. The Commission, it was remarked, needs to take the right lessons from past UN reforms debates since the end of the Cold War, including in connection with the perennial challenge of UN Security Council reform. Moreover, it was remarked that the international community can build on successful reforms in, for example, the Human Rights Council and economic and social spheres of the United Nations system to make progress in other areas such as peace and security and climate governance. Bottom-up, in addition to top-down, approaches to global governance reform that are anchored in the notion of global justice, and its intersection with global security, merit careful consideration.

Dr. Richard Ponzio (The Hague Institute for Global Justice) and Dr. William Durch (The Stimson Center) summarized the main points of the discussion and thanked the Member State representatives for their substantive contributions. Referencing Professor Gambari’s opening remarks, they also reminded the representatives of the opportunity to participate in a second, follow-up consultation with additional members of the Commission on Thursday, April 2 in New York, as well as the launch of the Commission’s report in mid-June in The Hague.

Ambassadors Ogwu and Yoshikawa offered concluding remarks to the consultation and also thanked the participants.

Choose Your Subscription Topics
* indicates required
I'm interested in...
38 North: News and Analysis on North Korea
South Asian Voices