International Order & Conflict

An Innovation Agenda for UN 75; The Albright-Gambari Commission Report and the Road to 2020

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With the proliferation of advanced military and information technologies, growing ease of movement, increasing climate instability, and the rise of violent extremism, conflict and state fragility have increased since reaching a twenty-year low in 2010. In 2017, the latest year with complete data, nearly ninety-two thousand individuals lost their lives in various forms of violent conflict.

Countries also face many cross-border economic threats and challenges—including weaknesses in cyberspace infrastructure, loss of tax revenues to illicit financial flows, illegal exploitation of natural resources, and other corrupt practices—that inhibit the growth of economies and the ability of governments to enhance economic resilience, especially in the Global South. Even more alarming, if humankind cannot find its way to limit average global warming to less than 1.5°C (looming as soon as 2030), further severe climatic changes are anticipated, including intensified biodiversity loss, storm surges, drought, desertification, and sea level rise of up to one meter by 2100.

In the face of these global challenges, “we the peoples” are currently a house divided. In addition to “the West versus the rest” or “Global North versus Global South,” there are numerous divisions and discrepancies within and across societies along racial, gender, socioeconomic, and other lines. And as the discourse of recent years has shown, perceived injustices are at least as divisive as measurable discrepancies. The feeling of not benefitting (enough) from globalization is coupled with a desire to redefine national identities as incompatible with global citizenship and attempts to close states off from the outside world by putting up walls and fences, denouncing international agreements, and leaving common institutions.

The roots of current discontents with global governance lie in the actual and perceived lack of justice and human security for many individuals in a globalized world. The current crisis of global governance undermines international support mechanisms intended to build resilience, reduce corruption, combat extremism, and ensure regional stability in global trouble spots.

Therefore, global action by governments, international organizations, and global civil society— underpinned by a new global ethic—to reverse these dangerous trends has become the moral and practical imperative of the present era. Since the launch, in 2015, of the Report of the Commission on Global Security, Justice & Governance, Confronting the Crisis of Global Governance, a concerted effort has been made to promote urgently needed global governance innovations, looking toward and continuing through the United Nations’ seventy-fifth anniversary in 2020.

After much hard work by many parties, in June 2019 the UN General Assembly (A/RES/73/299) set into motion multilateral and multi-stakeholder negotiations on a “concise, substantive, forward-looking and unifying declaration that captures Member States’ collective commitment to multilateralism and to the United Nations and their shared vision for a common future” for consideration at a Heads of State Summit that is to gather in New York in September 2020, just one month before the seventy-fifth anniversary of the UN’s founding (“UN 75”). Detailed in this study, we offer an updated Twenty Global Ideas for 2020, based on the Albright- Gambari Commission’s original analysis, broader reform recommendations, and worldwide consultations, as a contribution to this important conversation over the next fifteen months, in the following four thematic areas:

Conflict and State Fragility: Advancing the Prevention and Rebuilding Agenda

  1. Continue to operationalize and prioritize conflict prevention
  2. Continue to strengthen the role of women in peace processes
  3. Establish standing and reserve capacities to meet rapid deployable needs for civilian specialist skills
  4. Establish a sizable standing and reserve capacity to support rapid and sustainable deployment of police to UN peace operations and to meet requests from UN Member States for police/ justice development support
  5. Augment current disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) programming with greater emphasis on countering (preventing the rise of) violent extremism (CVE) and reducing recidivism among former foreign terrorist fighters and affiliates


Climate Governance: Innovating the Paris Agreement and Expanding Green Tech

  1. Facilitate and strengthen linkages between the UNFCCC and other international regimes and organizations and civil society actors dealing with climate change
  2. Define one or more global climate adaptation goals and gauge their achievement in terms of measurable improvements in local human security; finance support for adaptation from revenues formerly directed to fossil fuel subsidies
  3. Establish a Green Technology Licensing Facility within the Green Climate Fund
  4. Vigorously pursue emissions reductions in “short-lived climate pollutants” like methane as an “early win” while CO2 reduction strategies and technologies mature
  5. Establish a multilateral mechanism to govern climate engineering research and experimentation, especially solar radiation management


Hyperconnected Global Economy: Averting Shocks and Promoting Inclusive Growth

  1. Create a G20+ to enhance coordination with the UN system, Bretton Woods institutions, and related bodies, and give it a small secretariat
  2. Strengthen cybersecurity through international cybercrime centers, international cybercrime experts rosters, and a heightened focus on improving essential end-user cyber hygiene
  3. Promote the Automatic Exchange of Information standard and transparency of registries of beneficial ownership information to combat illicit financial flows in global commerce and deter cross-border tax evasion
  4. Strengthen the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative with more stringent reporting requirements (and appropriate confidentiality and security measures) to address issues of transfer pricing, illicit financial flows, and environmental and social dislocation costs associated with natural resource exploitation


Global Institutions and Civil Society: Harnessing State and Non-State Actor Ideas, Networks & Capabilities

  1. Create a strong UN Peacebuilding Council to replace the current Peacebuilding Commission and entrust it with a conflict prevention mandate
  2. Make the UN Security Council more effective by expanding its membership, updating its working methods, and giving greater voice to non-state actors in its deliberations
  3. Create a UN Parliamentary Network as a new advisory body of people’s representatives to the UN General Assembly
  4. Establish a UN Global Partnership to give a greater voice to under-represented policy issues through new social compacts and a new hub and online platform, whereby the entire UN system can tap into the expertise of civil society and the business community
  5. Strengthen and more fully use the International Court of Justice to advance and safeguard international law by expanding its jurisdiction and making use of its authoritative advisory opinions in innovative ways
  6. Strengthen working ties between the International Criminal Court, the UN Human Rights Council, and the UN Security Council


Prior United Nations anniversaries have been occasions for reflecting on the organization’s achievements; taking stock of its progress in meeting key 13 challenges and looming threats; renewing commitment to multilateral cooperation; and, in some rare cases, revitalizing and strengthening our global governance architecture. The June 2019 UN General Assembly “modalities resolution” for the UN 75 Leaders Summit in New York recognizes “the need to promote and strengthen multilateralism and … that the seventy-fifth anniversary … is an opportunity to reaffirm its [Member States’] collective commitment to multilateralism and to the United Nations.” It will, however, require the active and skillful engagement of global civil society, in partnership with like-minded countries, to advance more ambitious ideas to revitalize and strengthen the system in the remaining months until September 2020.

Learning from past global systemic change efforts, driven collectively by civil society groups and like-minded countries such as those supporting creation of the International Criminal Court and improving transparency and participation in the selection of the UN Secretary-General, new “smart coalitions” are encouraged to maximize the 2020 Leaders Summit. In particular, they should:

a. Build strong working relationships with the President of the UN General Assembly, the UN 75 political declaration co-facilitators, and the Secretary-General’s UN 75 Special Adviser.

b. Reframe issues and employ positive, forward-looking narratives when engaging potential spoilers (such as exclusive nationalists), in order to find common ground in addressing specific global policy challenges.

c. Treat the 2020 Summit as both a “landing pad” for a few timely innovations and a “launch pad” for other, more ambitious reforms that may require additional time to mature.

d. Ensure that the 2020 Summit’s political declaration empowers more rule-makers and penalizes rule-breakers through increased institutional legitimacy, burden-sharing, effectiveness, and accountability.

In seeking to forge a mutually supportive system of equitable governance and sustainable peace globally through the intersection of security and justice on the eve of the UN’s seventy-fifth anniversary, the Albright-Gambari Commission’s innovative “just security” framework offers a unique prism for understanding and responding to some of the most pressing global concerns of our time. Just security can inform a practical program that innovates our global institutions, laws, policy tools, and relationships. Powerful states and other increasingly influential global actors have a special responsibility to work toward a shared analysis of global problems and to seize opportunities to remedy them. Only when women and men from diverse places and backgrounds rally around a shared, inherent need for security and justice—always felt locally but created at many levels—can these powerful actors be nudged toward what is needed, as well as what is right.

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Part of the Just Security 2020 Project  and the Cyber Security Project .
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