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Support for a more democratic United Nations gains momentum

UN photo

Civil society statement on UN75

Ahead of the 75th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations’s Charter on 26 June 1945, calls for making the world organization more democratic are gaining momentum.

A declaration that was drafted by the UN2020 civil society initiative and the London-based campaign Together First was presented at an online event on 14 May 2020 to the president of the current 74th session of the UN General Assembly, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande from Nigeria. The document is intended as civil society input to the UN’s consultations on a 75th anniversary declaration to be adopted at a summit in September in New York.

Among other things, the statement recommends the creation of a “global petition mechanism”, saying that a World Citizens’ Initiative (UNWCI) “would allow a critical mass of individuals to direct member states to place issues of concern on the UN’s agenda.” Further it supports the establishment of a directly elected advisory UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) that “would promote the well-being of all people and the planet.” 

One of the panels at the virtual UN2020 People’s Forum. The event was watched by several hundred participants. Source: UN2020

In an appearance at the online event, Democracy Without Borders’ Executive Director Andreas Bummel pointed out that these two proposals in his opinion are key to strengthen the UN’s democratic character and he welcomed their inclusion into the document. At the same time, he said that the “single most important goal” was to achieve an ongoing Post-2020 process that pursues global governance innovations, a recommendation included in the document as well.

As a panelist, the EU’s deputy head of delegation at the UN, Silvio Gonzato, noted in the discussion that a directly elected UNPA “cannot be consultative” only because it would have “much more legitimacy” than the diplomats in the General Assembly. “It would be an institutional revolution for the UN to establish such an assembly,” he said.

The Vice-President of the International Institute for Peace in Vienna and former Under-Secretary-General of the UN, Angela Kane, warned that a general review of the UN Charter at this time may not bring about positive change, suggesting that this should be done under better political conditions. Democracy Without Borders has been emphasizing that a UNPA and UNWCI can be created below the threshold of Charter reform.

Among others, the campaign for a UNPA is endorsed by over 1,600 current and former members of parliament and the campaign for a UNWCI is now supported by around 200 civil society groups and networks from across the world.

A manifesto for global democracy

As a response to the coronavirus pandemic, a new manifesto launched by the Argentinian civil society organization Democracia Global calls for “shared sovereignty, coordination and cooperation at the global level” and a “more federal and democratic political structure able to regulate globalization.”

The document is open for endorsements and the website so far lists initial support from around twenty groups as well as one hundred individuals, among them five former heads of state or government from Belgium, Croatia, Mali, Mexico and Uruguay. 

The signatories of the statement “urgently ask national leaders and inter-national institutions to take lessons from the Coronavirus crisis” and “a better integrated 21st Century political system, reinforcing regional institutions, reforming the United Nations and making each level of governance more representative and effective; for example, through the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly.”

New groups launched

A “declaration of interdependence” launched in April by the new group Oneshared.World says that “we seek to promote the democratic expression of our common humanity as an essential pillar of our global power structure.”

Started in January, the new movement NOW! explains on its website that “the inability of citizens to meaningfully participate and get their voices heard” in international institutions provides a reason for global mobilization.

Another new group launched recently, Young World Federalists, advocates a “democratic world government”. They consider themselves to complement the efforts of the World Federalist Movement that was started in 1947 and was instrumental in coordinating civil society support for the International Criminal Court, among other things. 

The UN anticipates that the format of the anniversary summit in September will not be “business as usual” due to the coronavirus pandemic. As in-person meetings are not possible, intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform have been postponed “until further notice”. Work on a summit declaration, however, continues. The co-facilitators of Sweden and Qatar recently released a so-called zero draft that is now under discussion.