Moving towards a UN 2.0

The UN secretary-general’s proposal for a 2023 summit of the future merits the world’s highest consideration.

The UN General Assembly Hall is empty before the start of the Sustainable Development Goals Moment event, part of the UN General Assembly 76th session General Debate at United Nations Headquarters, in New York on September 20, 2021 [Reuters/John Angelillo]

In February 2020, just weeks before New York City and much of the world went into lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we and our fellow ambassadors at the United Nations began six months of negotiations, culminating in the adoption of the “Declaration on the commemoration of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations” by all heads of state and government.

Against the backdrop of the pandemic and other current and looming threats and challenges -from climate change and extreme and persistent poverty to violent conflict, terrorism and human rights violations, particularly those inflicted on women and girls – the UN75 Declaration presented a vision for a more just, sustainable and peaceful world, where no one is left behind. It was a manifest for multilateralism as the only way to handle today’s crises and to build a better future. The declaration focused on everyone in the world, especially the youth and future generations, through 12 commitments.

At the same time, acknowledging multilateralism’s many shortcomings and the need to modernise our institutions of global governance to better confront 21st-century problems, we called upon Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in the UN75 Declaration to: “report back before the end of the seventy-fifth session of the General Assembly with recommendations to advance our common agenda and to respond to current and future challenges”.

The secretary-general answered our call on September 10 and presented a report titled Our Common Agenda with recommendations for the General Assembly, before the gathering of world leaders in New York City for the first time in two years. In the document, Guterres lays out the choice for world leaders, of either a breakdown or breakthrough scenario. He calls for global solidarity, a renewal of the social contract to build trust and to ensure respect for human rights, an end to the war on science, and new approaches to how we measure economic prosperity and progress.

Our Common Agenda, which was welcomed by world leaders during the UNGA High-Level Week, emphasises solidarity with young people and generations to come. It contains three major recommended actions: convening a summit on transforming education in 2022; strengthening the UN youth envoy’s office to enhance young people’s participation in intergovernmental policymaking on matters that affect their lives; and appointing a special envoy for future generations.

Perhaps the secretary-general’s most unique and consequential recommendations centre around his call for more inclusive and comprehensive multilateralism. To prepare the UN to safeguard our global commons, improve the provision of global public goods and respond better to future global risks, he recommend convening a summit of the future in 2023. Such a process could contribute to a more tech-savvy, efficient and results-oriented UN 2.0 – a progressive world body that functions at high bandwidth.

The proposed 2023 summit idea merits the world’s highest consideration. Whether the concern is strengthening prevention, detection and response in global public health, mitigating the triple crises of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution or providing urgent humanitarian relief to war-ravaged people, the need for strong global collective action and for a UN 2.0 has arguably never been greater.

Achieving an ambitious global governance renewal architecture in two years will take vision, imagination and leadership from committed political leaders from across the UN’s membership. Building on extensive civil society outreach during UN75, and on the Our Common Agenda report over the past year, a summit of the future would also benefit from the creative ideas and public awareness-raising by scholars, religious and cultural leaders, civil society, industry and young people.

Moreover, we very much welcome the secretary-general’s proposal to convene a High-Level Advisory Board to propose a plan on how his recommendations could be achieved. Only through a meaningful, frank and broad dialogue, where diverse perspectives are respected and reflected in the final results, will humanity succeed in making the future we want and the UN we need a reality.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.



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