The United Nations’ 75th anniversary in 2020 was expected to feature a world summit in New York, complete with world leaders’ declarations of commitment to continuing to work together for the common good. The COVID-19 pandemic led to a change of plans in that there will be no physical presence of the leaders in New York, but some kind of summit and the declaration will go ahead.
Such anniversaries in the past, including the Millennium Summit in 2000, the 2005 World Summit and the UN Sustainable Development Summit in 2015 reasserted the validity of the post-World War II global governance architecture with the United Nations at its centre, and claimed to reform and revitalise the world body for subsequent decades. Among the new elements thus introduced to global governance and the United Nations (UN) system were the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and later the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) and the Peacebuilding Commission.
Nonetheless, a significant discrepancy between pronouncements and actions, or intentions and achievements, can be attested on a daily basis, in the way that the UN and the global governance system work. Despite pulling millions out of poverty, fighting disease, promoting human dignity and maintaining relative peace in large parts of the world for decades, the post-World War II multilateral cooperation framework is currently experiencing a significant pushback. The way that globalisation is pursued by key governments and big financial and commercial interests, especially after the end of the Cold War, has increased inequalities, heightened insecurities and alienated large population segments. The great challenges of poverty and inequality, human rights and migration, climate change and resource depletion, regional conflict and weapons proliferation remain menacing. In the hands and mouths of opportunistic and amoral leaders all this becomes a call for returning to some kind of idealised national societies of plenty, insulated from the problems of the others. The net result is unhinged populism, increased intolerance and isolationism in many parts of the world, challenging the foundations of the multilateral system.
In this context, the UN’s 75th anniversary more than an occasion for celebration is an opportunity to rethink what has gone right and what has gone wrong in global governance, reassert the principles of multilateral cooperation and (re)build a fit-for-purpose global organisation for the next quarter century. This is a task that is not reserved exclusively to the country leaders and delegates physically meeting at UN Headquarters in New York or connecting digitally in cyberspace. There is dire need for active engagement, contribution of creative energy and ideas, and commitment to act by think tanks and advocacy groups, public and private organisations and individuals the world over.
Overall objective of this initiative
We believe that it is high time to revisit the conceptual and moral foundations of the post-World War II multilateral system and ensure its capacity to address the global governance and sustainability challenges of the 21st century. The outcome of the UN’s 2020 summit needs to mark a clear new course based on the shared values and interests of humanity.
Through the UN2100 Initiative FOGGS builds on the expertise of its Advisory Board members, Executive Board, Secretariat staff and associated institutions and experts with the overall goal to contribute to a much-needed rethinking of the global governance system, with a view to increasing the latter’s legitimacy and its capacity to meet the challenges facing humanity and our planetary home in the coming quarter century.
The specific objective to be pursued in the framework of the initiative is to put forward innovative and practical ideas towards a modern, more effective, ethical and people-centred United Nations, as the central node of global governance arrangements and indispensable tool for tackling shared challenges.
The following papers and proposals have been issued up to now under the UN2100 Initiative (in reverse chronological order).
Two bold proposals for UN75+25: A New Narrative of Hope and a Global Resilience Council
In the period April to July 2020 FOGGS convened a series of online brainstorming sessions on the UN system’s performance in response to the COVID-19 global emergency. The sessions were held under the Chatham House Rule and participants included country representatives to the United Nations, other country and regional organization officials, current and former international civil servants, academic experts and civil society organizers. The two UN75+25 Proposals presented here are based on ideas exchanged during the brainstorming sessions, as reflected in the papers accessible further down on this page. The “zero draft” format has been adopted for the two proposals to make clear that they are not final but open to discussion for shaping their intricate details. Subsequent iterations of the proposals will incorporate contributions from individuals and groups participating in the ongoing dialogue.
Issues associated with hybrid and virtual working methods of UN system intergovernmental bodies under COVID-19
Drawing on the FOGGS online brainstorming session of 28 July 2020, a Briefing Note was produced on the above subject. The brainstorming was held under the Chatham House Rule and included delegates to and secretariat staff from UN system organizations headquartered in New York, Geneva, Nairobi, Rome, Vienna and Washington DC, corresponding CSO representatives, academic experts, and staff members and advisors of FOGGS. Participants identified a number of issues regarding the evolution of hybrid and virtual intergovernmental meetings, and the rules governing negotiations and decision making in these new spaces.
The UN System and COVID-19
Three papers resulting from an equal number of online brainstorming sessions on the UN system’s performance in response to the COVID-19 global emergency held in the period April to June 2020. The sessions were held under the Chatham House Rule and participants included country representatives to the United Nations, current and former international civil servants, other country and regional organisation officials, academics and civil society organisers. The three papers should be read in conjunction, as they complement each other.
The case for a Committee of the Heads of UN System Governing Bodies
Proposal entitled “Strengthening the UN system: The case for a Committee of the Heads of Governing Bodies” by Dr Harris Gleckman – click here to read the full proposal.
Proposals for a modern, effective, ethical and people-centred United Nations
Discussion paper with “Proposals for a modern, effective, ethical and people-centred United Nations” – click on the cover below to read full paper.