Lawmakers from over 40 countries call for an inclusive and democratic UN

A view of the flag of the United Nations that flies in front of UN Headquarters in New York. UN Photo/Evan Schneider

In a statement published on Wednesday, 26 January 2022, over 120 sitting parliamentarians from more than 40 countries and six continents call on the United Nations and its member governments to strengthen the world organization’s “democratic and participatory character.”

The document says that three proposals should be implemented: a UN World Citizens’ Initiative which enables people to put forward proposals on key issues of global concern; a UN Parliamentary Assembly which includes elected representatives; and a high-level UN Civil Society Envoy to enable greater participation of civil society representatives.

The statement lends political support to a global campaign of 200 civil society groups rallying for these reform ideas dubbed “We The Peoples” in reference to the opening words of the UN’s Charter. It follows on a report of UN Secretary-General António Guterres titled “Our Common Agenda” which highlighted the need for greater participation and inclusion of various stakeholders in the UN’s work but fell short of recommending institutional changes, as was pointed out at the time.

The new statement confirms that “current mechanisms are not sufficient.” The lawmakers suggest that governments should establish a “Group of Friends for Inclusive Global Governance” that works to advance the three proposals “in collaboration with parliamentarians, civil society and experts” with a view of a “Summit of the Future” which Guterres proposed for 2023.

The statement sends a strong signal that global governance requires a democratic transformation

Democracy Without Borders, Democracy International, and CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation are the organizations leading the “We The Peoples” campaign. They commented that the support of parliamentarians from around the world sends a strong signal that, in the midst of a global pandemic and the climate crisis, global governance urgently requires a democratic transformation in order to bring ordinary citizens closer to the UN and global decision-making.

The statement is promoted on Twitter using the hashtag #WeThePeoples

Parliamentarians comment

Member of Australian Parliament and signatory of the statement Andrew Leigh had a message for politicians around the world: “Strengthening democracy should be a priority for all parliamentarians. By making international institutions more accessible to citizens, we can strengthen trust and make these organizations more effective.”

“Strengthening global democracy is a must in a globalized world facing major challenges,” said Swiss parliamentarian Nicolas Walder, echoing the campaign’s call that global issues require global solutions that are worked out together with citizens.

Strengthening global democracy is a must in a globalized world

South African lawmaker Ashor Sarupen joined the plea by stating: “The UN must reform if it is to remain relevant to the modern world. Voters are increasingly demanding accountability and accessibility. It’s not enough to represent views of states when citizens in those states are divided, or are repressed.”

On the added value of civil society to global governance structures, Member of Parliament Susanne Menge from Germany said: “Involving civil society representatives would help to strengthen partnership-based cooperation against power-political interests and to strengthen social and ecological competence in our world.”

Angela Brown Burke from the Jamaican parliament commented that “people must be placed center stage especially as they are directly affected by the decisions taken by governments” at the UN.

Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, a Member of Parliament from Malaysia, said: “Change is deeply needed at the United Nations. I strongly believe that the spirit and proposals embodied in the statement will help the UN to emerge stronger in dealing with existential issues like climate change, poverty, hunger, violence and exclusion.”

According to Ivone Soares, a lawmaker from Mozambique, “The UN has no body of its own that brings together parliamentarians so they can be involved and provide oversight. This will be a milestone forward together with giving a stronger voice to citizens and civil society.”

The statement and the list of signatories are published here.

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