International Order & Conflict

Beyond UN75: A Roadmap for Inclusive, Networked & Effective Global Governance

Beyond UN75 considers the new kinds of tools, networks, and institutions, combined with enlightened global leadership, required to take forward the twelve commitments at the heart of the UN75 Declaration
By Richard Ponzio  ·  Cristina Petcu  ·  Joris Larik  ·  Banou Arjomand  ·  William Durch Editor

Drawing on insights from past and contemporary scholars and world leaders, the report explores the concepts of a new social contract, a new global deal, and networked and inclusive multilateralism introduced recently by Secretary-General António Guterres to help the United Nations better grapple with 21st century global challenges. It further offers a roadmap for revitalizing global governance between now and 2023, by harnessing the ideas and capabilities of states, civil society, the business community, and international organizations in the run-up to a proposed World Summit on Inclusive Global Governance.

Executive Summary

“As we emerge from the pandemic, the UN is more relevant than ever. This was clear in the responses to our global listening exercise conducted for the 75th anniversary, but it was also clear in the ways people looked to States—the very States that make up the United Nations—and to international organizations to solve the biggest problem we have collectively faced since our founding. We must act as a catalyst and platform for more inclusive, networked and effective forms of multilateralism.”

— UN Secretary-General António Guterres (23 March 2021)1Guterres, António. Vision Statement “Restoring trust and inspiring hope” The next five years for the United Nations. United Nations, March 23 2021. 15. Accessed May 18, 2021.

On January 30, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern.” UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ UN75 Global Conversation with civ­il society and Member State negotiations for a UN75 Declaration, both major initiatives that were just underway, had to accommodate the pandemic’s restrictive “new normal.” The sud­den and severe health crisis and its knock-on effects also heightened already-trending exclu­sionary undercurrents in many states and the related impacts of populist, anti-multilateral­ist politicians. Together, they amplified public anxiety in pursuit of nationalist, short-sighted agendas, posing an unprecedented test for the rules and institutions of global cooperation. 

Just over a year later, however, encouraging signs abound of a shift from defending and pre­serving multilateralism to strengthening and renewing it. From likely more ambitious climate targets for the Paris Agreement’s COP26 this November in Glasgow to the slow yet steady transfer of resources, know-how, and possi­bly intellectual property to enable developing countries to better combat the coronavirus, prospects have grown for improved collective action through multilateral institutions to deal with hard global problems. Beginning with a dramatic policy U-turn in the United States, countries large and small are further signal­ing their support for the Secretary-General’s vision of an “inclusive, networked, and effective” United Nations. 

Meanwhile, requirements for global coopera­tion have, arguably, never been greater. Besides the COVID-19 and climate change crises, extremist violence in fragile states, the specter of cross-border economic shocks, and increas­ingly sophisticated cyber-attacks loom large. Low-income countries have far less fiscal space than wealthier ones for pandemic recovery and relief; many entered 2020 with high levels of debt that have only grown. As powerful na­tions hustle for influence and opposing camps emerge that downplay basic principles of mul­tilateral cooperation, countervailing efforts to enhance justice, security, and prosperity for all need a firm, human rights-centered vision; cre­ative proposals to fulfill that vision; and a for­ward-looking strategy for implementing them and guiding global relations in the 21st century. 

The UN75 Declaration of September 2020 was an important first step in that direction by re­making the case for the United Nations to cope with contemporary threats and challenges in a politically turbulent era, while recognizing that the world body needs to partner increas­ingly with non-governmental civic and private sector actors to maintain relevance. It further mandated the Secretary-General to produce a follow-up report, Our Common Agenda, due in September 2021. That report can offer world leaders a program of ambitious renewal and innovation. To persuade Member States to em­brace such a program, the Secretary-General should present a roadmap with three essential, intertwined elements: conceptual advances, specific recommendations for taking forward the UN75 Declaration’s twelve commitments, and a highly participatory strategy for reform. 

Conceptually, Secretary-General Guterres’ re­peated calls, in 2020 and 2021, for a new social contract, a new global deal, and networked and inclusive multilateralism have the po­tential of framing the shape and trajectory of the United Nations in its next quarter-centu­ry, like the powerful ideational roles over the past few decades played by the concepts of sustainable development and human securi­ty. Extending beyond the classic people-state relationship, the new social contract provides an overarching vision for progressively realiz­ing the economic, political, social, civil, and cultural rights of all peoples. The new global deal would operationalize this vision by en­couraging global, regional, national, and com­munity-level plans for green recovery from the pandemic and attendant policies and pro­grams—both recalibrating and accelerating the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. 

To take these concepts forward, Secretary- General Guterres appealed for a new kind of networked and inclusive multilateralism, drawing on the ideas and capacities of academ­ic and scientific institutions, regions and cit­ies, civil society, and the business community. This could also generate a rethinking of global governance institutions, policies, laws, opera­tions, and norms. To spur new thinking on re­newal and innovation, this report undertakes a gap analysis and offers these and other ideas that speak to each of the UN75 Declaration’s twelve commitments:

  1. We will leave no one behind. Create a G20+ to accelerate the Decade of Action for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development through enhanced coordination by G20 members with the UN system, Bretton Woods institutions, and related bodies, supported by a new, small, and full-time secretariat. The global economic governance system should be further strength­ened to limit the potential for socioeconomic dislocations, such as those produced by the cur­rent global pandemic, while guiding a durable, green, and broad-based recovery.
  2. We will protect our planet. Define one or more global climate adaptation goals and gauge their achievement in terms of measurable improvements for local human security; finance support for adaptation from revenues formerly directed to fossil fuel subsidies.
  3. We will promote peace and prevent conflicts. Create a strong UN Democratic Peacebuilding Council to replace the current Peacebuilding Commission (as well as the Trusteeship Council) with a body having enhanced pow­ers, responsibilities, and a mandate to lead on conflict prevention and peacebuilding policy development, coordination, and resource mobi­lization—for situations not addressed directly by the Security Council. It would employ a new Sustaining Peace and Conflict Prevention Audit tool.
  4. We will abide by international law and en­sure justice. Seek universal acceptance of in­ternational justice institutions, in particular the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court, while increas­ing their enforcement powers, preserving their independence, and enhancing their resilience against political pressures.
  5. We will place women and girls at the center. Call for the withdrawal of most UN Member State reservations to the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). Stronger legal bearing on preventing and combating violence against women would compel Member States to enact national policies to provide better legal protection for women and girls.
  6. We will build trust. Establish an Interna­tional Anti-Corruption Court (IACC) to build trust in governments, reduce inequality, improve governance efficacy, and decrease se­curity risks. Similar to the International Crim­inal Court, the IACC would enable internation­al prosecution of corruption cases only where national jurisdictions are unable or unwilling to prosecute.
  7. We will improve digital cooperation. Strengthen cybersecurity through internation­al cybercrime centersinternational cyber­crime expert rosters, and a global campaign to promote end-user cyber hygiene.
  8. We will upgrade the United Nations. Address the UN’s democracy and legitimacy deficits by establishing a United Nations Parliamentary Network, initially as an advisory body to the UN General Assembly. Composed of individual members of national and regional parliaments— as well as representatives of existing parliamen­tary networks, institutions, and possibly local authorities—the UN Parliamentary Network would act as a platform for direct participation, input, and accountability claims by the peoples of the world on governance matters pertaining to the UN.
  9. We will ensure sustainable financing. Set-up a new funding compact to finance a sustainable, values-based, and effective UN system. It would aim to reduce the tying of both Member State and non-Member State financial contributions to a specific program, project or entity, increase financial transparency across the UN system, and meet the highest standards of due diligence.
  10. We will boost partnerships. Establish a Civil Society Champion within the UN se­nior echelon to enhance civic space and par­ticipation at the United Nations, by represent­ing civil society across senior UN Secretariat leadership meetings, monitoring the UN system for civil society inclusion in policy-making op­portunities, and promoting diversity and equity, including from the Global South, in UN-civil society operational partnerships.
  11. We will listen to and work with youth. A UN Youth Advisory Council is needed to el­evate the voices of youth in international deci­sion-making and to ensure youth inclusion in programming across the UN system. It would offer advice and oversight in advancing the 2018 UN Youth Strategy and serve as an advocacy body for young people’s rights around the world.
  12. We will be prepared. Establish a Global Health Threats Council, adopt a Pandemic Framework Convention, and strengthen the independence, authority, and financing of the World Health Organization, as recom­mended recently by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response, for preventing and better managing future global disease outbreaks.

The roadmap for implementing such a strategy for reform should include a comprehensive, in­tergovernmental, and multi-stakeholder prepa­ratory effort that culminates in a 2023 World Summit on Inclusive Global Governance (IGG Summit)—for truly innovating the United Nations system to keep pace with pres­ent peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights challenges and opportunities. Mobilizing diverse actors worldwide, the sum­mit would seek to upgrade and equip the global governance system to better address major is­sues confronting the international community, and to usher in a new compact with citizens to enhance and rebuild confidence in their com­mon institutions. To maximize the summit’s impact, priority steps would include:

  • Convening four two-week Preparatory Committees (PrepComs) on different continents organized around the four thematic pillars of: i) peace, security, and humanitarian action; ii) sustainable development and COVID-19 recovery; iii) human rights, inclusive gover­nance, and the rule of law; and (iv) climate governance; a fifth cross-cutting pillar could consider overarching topics to promote inte­grated, system-wide reforms in connection with these four pillars;
  • Holding global-regional Peoples’ Forums and E-Dialogues to increase global public aware­ness and feed civil society perspectives into the PrepComs and summit; 
  • Organizing an Eminent Advisors Council and a related series of Track 1.5 UN Ambassador- Expert Roundtables to examine how the global governance system can be better organized and equipped to address major current and over-the-horizon threats; and 
  • Ensuring that the IGG Summit’s Outcome Document emphasizes select, concrete, time-bound, and measurable reform commitments to aid near and longer-term results. 

A more inclusive and effective system of global governance for better coping with 21st centu­ry challenges while seizing new opportunities is within our reach; time, however, is running short. Going forward, the international commu­nity must draw strength from the representative legitimacy—but also ideas, networks, and capa­bilities—of diverse state and non-state actors. Meaningful change is possible, though making headway on this global road ahead will require patience, imagination, and most of all courage.

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