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G20 countries should pursue democratic improvement of UN: policy brief

Meeting of G20 foreign ministers in March 2023 in New Delhi. India's presidency of the G20 is held under the theme of "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam", One Earth-One Family-One Future. Image:

A policy brief published by the Think20 engagement group of the G20 intergovernmental forum recommends that the “G20 and like-minded G20 members” initiate intergovernmental negotiations on creating a UN Parliamentary Assembly and the instrument of a UN World Citizens’ Initiative with a view of the UN’s 2024 Summit of the Future.

The document points out that one of the priorities of India’s G20 presidency in 2023 is “to continue pressing for reformed multilateralism that creates a more accountable, inclusive, just, equitable and representative multipolar international system that is fit for addressing the challenges in the 21st century.”

The T20 policy brief by Andreas Bummel and Thomas Pogge is titled “Enhancing the legitimacy of multilateralism: two innovative proposals for the U.N.”

According to the policy brief, a UN Parliamentary Assembly would serve as a body that allows elected representatives of UN member states to deliberate on and be involved in UN affairs. The instrument of a UN World Citizens’ Initiative would provide individuals with a mechanism to influence the agenda and decision-making of the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council, or – once established – a UN Parliamentary Assembly, if certain conditions are met. The document notes that both proposals are included in the civil society statement for inclusive global governance, which enjoys the support of over 200 civil society organisations, groups, and networks from all world regions.

Adressing India’s goal of a “reformed multilateralism”

The policy brief argues that the suggested UN bodies will serve the purpose of enhancing the UN’s representative and inclusive character as they would create tangible and formal ways for elected representatives and ordinary citizens to be heard at the most important multilateral institution. In doing so, they would address India’s goal of a “reformed multilateralism” and help increase the UN’s legitimacy. According to the paper, this in turn will enhance the UN’s effectiveness as the world organization will receive more trust and support in the public. 

“Like-minded member countries can use the G20 format to deliberate on and coordinate action aiming at legitimacy-related changes at the UN. This is an opportunity for the G20 to show leadership and impact in a field that international diplomacy has neglected. The G20 relies on the UN for the implementation of coordinated policy in various fields; so, in this regard too, the G20 would benefit from a more legitimate – and more effective – UN”, the document points out.

The policy brief was authored by Andreas Bummel, Executive Director of Democracy Without Borders, and Thomas Pogge, Professor and Director of the Global Justice Program, Yale University.

The Think20 engagement group, or T20, according to their website “serves as an idea bank for the G20 by bringing together think tanks and high-level experts to discuss policy issues relevant to the G20. T20 recommendations are synthesised into policy briefs and presented to G20 working groups, ministerial meetings, and leaders’ summit to help the G20 deliver concrete policy measures.”