Reforming the United Nations and global governance was a subject at events in Brussels, Berlin, Madrid and Rennes in Europe as well as in Lucknow, India, in the past weeks. The events highlight a continued engagement of experts and civil society in this area against the backdrop of an emerging “global polycrisis.”
The creation of a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) as a tool to promote democracy, global citizenship as well as a stronger and more inclusive UN was one of the subjects that was touched on frequently.
On 8 December, the World Federalist Movement (WFM) and the Union of European Federalists (UEF) celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Montreux declaration which is a founding document of both organizations outlining the goal of a world government. The “urgency for new global governance” was debated on this occasion at a joint event held in the European Parliament in Brussels with European deputies Sandro Gozi from Italy and Domènec Devesa from Spain, the President and Vice-President of the UEF, respectively.
Federalist institution-building continues to be of utmost importance
The meeting featured five sessions with over twenty speakers, among them WFM’s Co-President and Argentinian deputy Fernando Iglesias as well as representatives of the Young World Federalists. There was broad agreement that federalist institution-building and a political federalist approach to UN reform continues to be of utmost importance. The climate crisis and the environment was highlighted as a priority area.
Former Member of the European Parliament (MEP) and Honorary President of the UEF, Jo Leinen, said that the UN was “not fit for purpose” and that a UNPA needed to be established to give a voice to citizens as opposed to the governments of UN member states. Monica Frassoni, a former MEP and President of the European Center for Electoral Support, as well as other speakers agreed with pursuing a UNPA. According to Frassoni, this should be complemented with tools for direct participation such as randomly selected citizens’ assemblies at the global scale. The chair of WFM’s Executive Committee, John Vlasto, presented the project of “Mobilizing an Earth Governance Alliance”, a key component of which would be creating mechanisms of global accountability.
Universalism cannot be declared dead
At a two-day conference in Berlin organized by the School of Civic Education and Heinrich Böll Stiftung, six panels were held under the overarching theme of “In Search of Lost Universalism”. The former Moscow School for Civic Education, founded thirty years ago, is dedicated to facilitating the creation of a modern state, the rule of law, democratic institutions and active citizenship. It is now banned from operating in Russia.
Several speakers, among them Robert Skidelsky, an economist and member of the UK House of Lords, concluded that in view of global crises, governance needs to move beyond the nation-state. While the contributing editor at the Financial Times John Lloyd questioned whether there are models for this, Skidelsky indicated that this may take the shape of global federalism. Opinions were divided over whether universalism and common values exist at a global scale to underpin such a development. At a panel with the school’s co-founder Yury Senokosov and moderated by its program director Inna Berezkina, the Executive Director of Democracy Without Borders Andreas Bummel noted that “universalism exists, is a necessity and cannot be declared dead.”
He added though that the liberal international order advocated by the United States, Europe and others should not be mistaken for universalism. “Universalism means recognizing equal rights for all”, he said, something neither the West nor other countries so far were willing to pursue in earnest. As pragmatic steps of significant symbolic impact to promote global citizenship, Bummel advocated for the creation of a UNPA as well as a UN World Citizens’ Initiative.
A UN Charter Review before 2030?
At the 23rd “International Conference of Chief Justices of the World” organized by City Montessori School in Lucknow, India, from 16 to 22 November 2022, participants from numerous countries gathered to discuss “enforceable world law and effective global governance”. The conference regularly called for the creation of a world parliament in the past.
One of the speeches this year was held by the chair of the Global Governance Forum, Augusto Lopez-Claros. The economist elaborated on visions for a new world order following the Second World War and at the present time. He highlighted the UN Charter Review conference provided for in Article 109 of the UN Charter which was also subject of an article he published recently with Daniel Perrell, the UN representative of the Baha’i International Community. Lopez-Claros proposed that the UN’s Summit of the Future in 2024 should include on its agenda consideration of when a Charter Review should be held “finally, once and for all” and “ideally before 2030”.
We must be under no illusions of what we are up against
The subject was also briefly touched upon at an earlier event held by the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) in Brussels on 7 November moderated by FEPS’ President Maria João Rodrigues. Its focus was the presentation of a report by the Stimson Center based in Washington D.C. that highlights twenty global governance innovations proposed for the Summit of the Future, one of them a UN Parliamentary Network.
The chair of Stimson’s Global Governance, Justice and Security program, Richard Ponzio, emphasized as a key message that “we must be under no illusions of what we are up against in terms of if we really want to raise the ambitions of the summit in two year’s time” with reference to “very difficult to bridge differences” among countries on fundamental issues. This was one of the reasons why the summit was moved for one year to 2024, he said.
Other speakers included Adam Day, Co-lead of the Secretariat to the UN’s High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism, former Swedish foreign minister Ann Linde and Jo Leinen. The latter, who also serves as Senior Fellow at FEPS, made the case for a UNPA, stressing that it should be considered at the Summit of the Future. In the discussion, Adam Day confirmed that a UNPA was being considered by the Advisory Board. Responding to a question from the audience, put forward by Augusto Lopez-Claros, he also confirmed that the question of an Article 109 Charter Review conference may be picked up. The Advisory Board’s report is expected to be published in April 2023.
The promise of “never again” was not fulfilled
The achievements and failures of the UN were debated at a panel convened by IE University in Madrid on 3 November titled “Rethinking UN reform: A World Parliamentary Assembly and other proposals to remake multilateralism”. Moderated by Lopez-Claros, speakers included Andreas Bummel, Cristina Manzano, Director of ESGlobal, Waya Quiviger, Professor of Practice of Global Governance & Development, and Ángel Alonso Arroba, Vice Dean of the IE School of Global & Public Affairs.
The panelists agreed that the UN within its limited capabilities was indispensable for multilateral cooperation as well as promoting peace, development and human rights. Andreas Bummel pointed out, however, that the promise underpinning the UN’s foundation in 1945 that “never again” should genocide and war be permitted to occur, was not fulfilled and that the UN was designed in a way that this was impossible. He advocated for a major overhaul of the UN starting with a UNPA. There was a consensus that the UN had to be strengthened and improved.
According to Alonso Arroba, short-term prospects for enhanced multilateral cooperation were not particularly conducive. However, he stressed the need for audacious proposals to be ready as windows of opportunity would eventually come.
A UNPA was in the focus, too, on 26 October in the French city of Rennes at a session organized by Democracy International as part of the sixth “Rencontres européennes de la participation” which brought together over 1,500 participants. The representative of Democracy Without Borders in France, François Leray, presented the proposal at a well-attended workshop.