FOGGS partnered with the Bonn-based Development and Peace Foundation (sef:) to organise a Policy Lunch on the topic “The UN at 75 – Europe’s vision for the world organisation” on 3 March 2020 at the Representation of the German State of North Rhine-Westphalia to the EU in Brussels.

This Policy Lunch was a contribution to the “global conversation” on the role of global cooperation in building the future we want, which has been launched by the United Nations to mark its 75th anniversary in 2020.

The discussion was chaired by Dr Silke Weinlich, Senior Researcher at the German Development Institute (DIE), and featured the following panellists:

Anna-Luise Chané, Research Fellow at the Leuven Centre for Global Governance Studies, KU Leuven,

Dr Jibecke Joensson, Policy Officer on Multilateral Relations focusing on the EU-UN partnership on peace and security, European External Action Service (EEAS),

-Hilde Johnson, former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), Senior Advisor to the European Institute of Peace, and

Dr Georgios Kostakos, Executive Director of FOGGS.

The lively discussion saw many concrete suggestions for strengthening the UN system and indicated clear possibilities for the EU to deepen its engagement with it, which is all the more critical in light of the major challenges that multilateralism is facing today.

Among these many challenges, Dr. Kostakos pointed to a “lack of leadership in the UN and the EU” in terms of inspiration and guiding vision. As a result, these two key multilateral bodies are failing the expectations of the citizens they are supposed to serve, or increasingly lose the connection to and loyalty of those citizens. Given the current trends, Dr Kostakos sketched out three potential scenarios for the UN:

1. “Death by a thousand cuts”, whereby incremental budget cuts and deflated ambitions lead a steady weakening of the organisation and its eventual collapse or irrelevance;
2. Becoming a “community of illiberal democracies”, in which the system is maintained but repurposed and instrumentalised by an increasing number of nationalistic and/or authoritarian governments to minimise the importance of the global normative framework;
3. A reformed UN equipped to face the global challenges of the post-Sapiens, digital world and capable of redefining globalisation to set human well-being and planetary sustainability as the main global goals.

To ensure the third scenario prevails, Dr Kostakos suggested that the UN should seize the moment of the 75th anniversary to start a process of rethinking how it can put itself at the service of humanity by innovatively addressing the major challenges people face in their daily lives. This will require a bold new vision, high-level political will, and a deeper appreciation of multi-level governance, bringing the global and the local together in seamless cooperation.

A new “global narrative of hope” is urgently needed that will usher to a new era of inclusive and fair globalisation. The United Nations should be ‘owned by everyone’, Dr Kostakos stressed, not just the big powers, the victors of World War II or “the West”, and should act as ‘guarantor of global commons,’ such as Antarctica, cyberspace and outer space for the benefit of all. Such tasks cannot be “outsourced” to individual governments or private actors but the UN should be able to perform them through properly functioning intergovernmental bodies, a competent and dedicated secretariat, and by engaging other stakeholders from the civil society and the private sector, with the necessary resources made available to it.

The European Union can contribute to this even more than it currently does, by strengthening its own cohesion, thus speaking with one clear voice, and by continuing to support morally and financially the world body.

A complete report on the Policy Lunch discussion can be found on the sef: website.