Program Areas

Program Areas

Proposals for inclusive global governance put forward at UN conference

During the closing session from left to right: conference co-chairs Nudhara Yusuf and Carole Agengo, Kenyan President William Ruto, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and UN Under-Secretary-General of Global Communications, Melissa Fleming. Photo: DWB

Proposals for inclusive global governance were discussed in two sessions at the UN Civil Society Conference in Nairobi and then presented to the conference plenary.

The event, held at UN Headquarters in Nairobi on 9-10 May, brought together more than 2,000 representatives from over 1,500 groups to discuss and contribute civil society perspectives ahead of the UN Summit of the Future in September. The conference was also attended by representatives of UN member states responsible for negotiating relevant documents to be adopted at the Summit, in particular Germany and Namibia, the co-facilitators of the so-called Pact for the Future.

The programme included nearly forty self-organized civil society workshops as well as twenty sessions dedicated to the formation of so-called “ImPACT Coalitions”. On the conference website, the latter are characterized as “civil society generated, diverse stakeholder constituted coalitions which agree to work towards advancing certain key reform initiatives leading up to and beyond the Summit of the Future”. The subjects of these potential coalitions are diverse and range from Artificial Intelligence, Earth Governance, Gender Equality or UN Charter Reform to Drug Policy, Peacebuilding or Underrepresented Communities. 

Four specific proposals

In the field of inclusive global governance, a workshop and a coalition session featured the creation of a permanent Global Citizens’ Assembly (GCA), a United Nations Parliamentary Assembly, the instrument of a UN World Citizens’ Initiative and a UN Civil Society Envoy. Consideration was given to forming an ImPACT Coalition that promotes these four proposals in connection with the Summit of the Future. In opening remarks it was proposed that implementing these new bodies and mechanisms should be in the interest of the UN and its member states as a stronger connection to citizens, civil society and elected representatives would help strengthen multilateralism and the world organization. “They will enhance the legitimacy and support of the UN and facilitate further governance transformation”, it was argued.

Session on “inclusive global governance” on the first day, 9 May 2024. Image: DWB

The project of establishing a permanent GCA was presented by the UN advocacy co-leads of Iswe Foundation, Aishwarya Machani and David Levai. They announced that their group intends to launch a worldwide coalition of organizations on the occasion of the Summit of the Future. The coalition would work on convening a self-organized GCA consisting of a “core assembly” composed of 300 to 1,000 people selected by global lottery and demographically representative of the world’s population as well as thousands of local “community assemblies” in which anyone could participate. Two months ago, Iswe Foundation in collaboration with Plataforma CIPÓ and other groups published a paper making the case for a GCA. A GCA convened by a consortium of organizations on the occasion of the Glasgow UN climate conference in 2021 was welcomed by the UN Secretary-General at the time as a “practical way of showing how we can accelerate action through solidarity and people power”. 

The creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly, a UN World Citizens’ Initiative and a UN Civil Society Envoy are components of the “We the Peoples” campaign for inclusive global governance, an ongoing collaborative effort led by CIVICUS, Democracy International, and Democracy Without Borders endorsed by over 200 civil society alliances, networks and groups worldwide. By providing a common platform, the campaign seeks to amplify support for each of the distinct proposals. 

Following the session on the first day, some of the participants gathered for a group photo. Image: DWB

The proposed UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) and UN World Citizens’ Initiative (UNWCI) were introduced by the Executive Director of Democracy Without Borders, Andreas Bummel, and the former Member of the European Parliament, Jo Leinen. An UNPA will include citizen-elected representatives in the work of the UN. An UNWCI, in turn, will enable people to put proposals on the agenda of the UN if they get a certain number of signatures globally. Jo Leinen noted that the European Parliament and the European Citizens’ Initiative represented examples to draw lessons from.

Jesselina Rana, UN Advisor at CIVICUS’ New York hub, outlined the advocacy for a UN Envoy for Civil Society, in particular via the UNMute initiative, which has backing from a number of UN member states. She noted recent efforts by Costa Rica to include the proposal in the draft of the Pact for the Future. An UN Civil Society Envoy is thought to enable greater participation, spur inclusive convenings and amplify the UN’s outreach to the public, civil society and other stakeholders.

The four proposals relate to a chapter on “transforming global governance” to be included in the Pact for the Future. Speaking at a plenary session on civil society recommendations on the first day of the conference, Andreas Bummel noted that “the Pact for the Future is supposed to be a bold document. It should open the door for these proposals to be implemented”.

Discussion with the Pact’s co-facilitator

A large part of the session on the second day was dedicated to an interaction with the German UN Ambassador Antje Leendertse, one of the co-facilitators of the Pact for the Future. Following a presentation of the proposals, she pointed out that in her view they all “have the right direction of creating a global democratic space”. However, in her assessment, none of the proposals can be included in the Pact as a number of member states were explicitly against civil society involvement and the negotiations were based on consensus. But she said she would explore the possibility of including stronger language on protecting civic space.

Amb. Leendertse confirmed that it might be possible to investigate these projects further in an informal and non-consensual process not tied to the Summit of the Future.  

Action items raised in the sessions included the idea of encouraging member states to form a “Group of Friends” and a mass petition to be launched ahead of the summit. In the discussion, the point was made that it might be easier to promote a UNPA if the idea was tied to a specific subject and a more “activist” approach was suggested. At the Closing Town Hall, on the second day, Vitória Gonzalez, Researcher at Plataforma CIPÓ, reported back to the plenary and confirmed the four key proposals discussed. One of the conclusions she noted was to “avoid duplication with existing processes to include civil society”. She also added that the ImPACT Coalition would be happy to host a side event during the Action Days prior to the Summit as long as there was meaningful engagement and interest from member states rather than a repeat moment when civil society only talks to itself.

The sessions were hosted in different configurations by Democracy Without Borders, Iswe Foundation and Plataforma CIPÓ in collaboration with CIVICUS, Democracy International and Southern Voice. Global Call to Action Against Poverty was an additional co-sponsor of the workshop.

At the closing session of the conference, Kenyan President William Ruto announced that his government will take immediate measures to implement the 2013 Public Benefit Organisations Act (BPO) which is supposed to streamline and simplify the regulation of non-profit organizations in Kenya. “The act not only creates an enabling environment for their operation but enhances cooperation, transparency, self-regulation, better coordination and registration”, said Martin Mavenjina, chairperson of the Kenyan chapter of Democracy Without Borders. “We welcome a swift implementation of this legislation”, he added.