Over 100 civil society groups issue statement for a more democratic UN

A view of the flags outside the UN Headquarters on 23 September 2020. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

On the occasion of the International Day for Multilateralism on 24 April, a group of 100 civil society organisations has issued a joint statement calling for a more democratic UN. Signatories include organisations such as Avaaz, Greenpeace and Open Society Foundations as well as networks such as the Coalition for the UN We Need, Forus International, Together 2030 and Together First.

The campaign is spearheaded by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Democracy International and Democracy Without Borders. Under the header “We the Peoples,” a reference to the first words of the United Nations Charter Preamble, the joint document is calling on the UN to implement three specific reforms aimed at giving people, elected representatives and civil society a stronger voice and more influence. 

Three demands with “transformational potential”

The statement “for inclusive global governance” first calls for a World Citizens’ Initiative which enables citizens to put items on the agenda of the UN General Assembly or the UN Security Council if proposals reach a certain threshold of popular support.

Logos of some of the endorsing organizations featured at wethepeoples.org

Further, the campaign promotes the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly composed of elected representatives to act as a watchdog and “connecting the people with the UN and reflecting a broad diversity of global viewpoints”.

Finally, the document recommends setting up a UN Civil Society Envoy “to champion the implementation of a broader strategy for opening up the UN to people’s participation and civil society voices”.

The document points out that the proposed changes “will enhance the legitimacy of global governance and facilitate its transformational potential”. According to Lysa John, Secretary-General of CIVICUS, “these three initiatives have game-changing potential to overcome blockages in the UN system. If implemented in earnest they will enable the UN to respond more effectively and with greater inclusivity to global challenges such as discrimination, inequality, conflict and climate change,” she explained. 

The Executive Director of Democracy Without Borders, Andreas Bummel, said that “strengthening and revitalizing multilateralism requires to allow for more input and participation beyond member states. This is what our three proposals will achieve.”

Input for the UN’s “common agenda”

A resolution adopted by the UN-General Assembly on the occasion of the UN’s 75th anniversary in 2020 tasked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to compile a report on furthering a “common agenda” which includes upgrading the UN and boosting partnerships.

“It is of the utmost importance that we use this opportunity to make the UN fit-for-purpose. We are calling on UN Secretary-General Guterres to usher the UN into a new, more participatory era,” said Bruno Kaufmann, Board Member of Democracy International. 

In 2020, the UN undertook a broad public consultation. According to the UN’s final report, a UN Parliamentary Assembly and a UN World Citizens’ Initiative were among the proposals most frequently mentioned by citizens in the field of renewing the UN.

On social media, the campaign is using the hashtag #WeThePeoples. The civil society statement remains open for endorsement on the website here

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