Program Areas

Program Areas

From idea to prototype: The New Shape Process for global governance innovation

Democracy Without Borders is one of the organizations that has been participating in the New Shape Process of the Global Challenges Foundation. With kind permission we republish in the following the executive summary by Julien Leyre of their quarterly report of November 2018 that provides an overview:

More than seventy years have passed since the UN and the Bretton Woods system were founded. Globalisation has accelerated, but institutions have not developed at the same pace. The result is a steep increase in global risk levels. To tackle these risks, our global governance systems need an update. Guided by this analysis, the Global Challenges Foundation invited the world’s brightest minds to pitch ideas on how to develop global institutions suited to the challenges of the 21st century as part of the New Shape Prize Competition. From the more than 2,700 submissions received, fourteen finalists were presented at the the New Shape Forum in May 2018, and three winning ideas were awarded a prize of US$ 600,000 each. 

This, however, was not an endpoint: rather, it marked the beginning of a process to refine, articulate and test some of the most promising ideas. In the wake of the New Shape Forum, five working groups, bringing together international teams of expert thinkers and doers, were selected to further explore the question raised by the New Shape Prize from different angles. Their proposals, featured in this report, ambitiously present new models for global institutional frameworks, pragmatically consider processes that could trigger systemic change, and tactically define specific first steps that could be taken to overcome governance gridlocks around some of our most pressing challenges. 

What key structural changes are needed?

Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century opens the report with a proposal addressing a broad question: what key structural changes are needed for the UN to effectively address the greatest challenges of our time? The UN Charter should be revised to correct flaws in its initial conception, such as the veto rights given to the winning powers of WWII, and to give it binding legislative, judicial and enforcement functions to address catastrophic risks to peace, security, human rights and the global environment, while reserving most functions to states. The General Assembly as the main legislative body, with weighted representation of states, would be complemented by a second Chamber representing global citizenry. An Executive Council would replace the Security Council. The International Court of Justice, International Criminal Court, and a Human Rights Tribunal would have compulsory jurisdiction. Most of the present UN system of agencies would be integrated into the new framework. Reliable and enhanced international funding mechanism(s) for the UN would be established, and legitimacy would be increased through popular participation.

A World Security Community of democratic nations?

The second proposal focuses more closely on one element: How might we realistically develop an effective model to build and maintain global peace and security? Following the template established by the Europe Union, A World Security Community of democratic nations proposes the transformation of NATO into a World Security Community (WSC) with a global mission. Any nation meeting a set of agreed criteria to qualify as a democracy could join WSC as a member. The structure and procedures should establish new mechanisms for preventing conflict and reconstruction of failed states, in collaboration with the new Peacebuilding Commission at the UN. Acting strictly in conjunction with the Security Council, the new Community would form a powerful new force for peace in the world. 

Article 109(3) as a pathway towards UN Charter reform

What mechanism could be harnessed in order to review and renew the UN Charter without facing institutional gridlock? This is the question addressed by the third proposal. When the UN was established, the winners of the Second World War were given disproportionate power, in the form of a permanent seat and veto rights on the Security Council. This was, however, not initially intended to be a lasting situation: article 109 Par. 3 of the UN Charter established that a complete review would happen after ten years. A committee was formed as planned in 1955, but the process got stalled and never resulted in proper reform. Upholding the San Francisco Promise: The Roadmap to a Constitutionalized United Nations explores the legal implications of this process. Could article 109(3) offer a pathway to reform of the UN Charter? Consultation would be needed in order to test the interest and commitment of parties, but should legality be confirmed, triggering article 109(3) could be a way to bypass opposition from the Permanent Five. A UN Charter Review, made possible by this process, could thus be the first step towards a fully constitutionalised UN. 

Practical actions to transform global governance

The fourth proposal, Getting from here to there: practical actions to transform global governance, is guided by similarly pragmatic considerations. The UN does struggle to address today’s most pressing challenges, notably climate change. However, we cannot afford to waste time designing the perfect international system – we need better solutions now. So what practical actions could be taken right away to strengthen and transform global governance? We need to overcome four big hurdles that have prevented change in the past – a lack of trust, collaboration and strategy, and insufficient focus on the problems we are trying to solve – by creating a genuinely risk-based agenda for reform, supported by strategies for implementation and multi-stakeholder collaboration which could, over time, become the foundation of a truly global partnership to tackle the challenges we face. 

The Earth System as a planetary condominium

The final proposal, Planetary Condominium: a legal framework for Earth System Stewardship, explores an original approach to address the climate gridlock. As long as our economic frameworks don’t measure the work of nature in maintaining a stable Earth System, no progress can be expected when it comes to addressing climate change and ecosystem degradation. In turn this failure of our economies depends on a gap in our legal systems, whereby the functional integrity of the planet is invisible. How could we, then, best give legal visibility to the work of nature in maintaining a stable Earth System? One step forward would be to establish the Earth System as an intangible Common Heritage of Humankind. To ensure that this new common heritage can coexist with the legal regimes of state sovereignties, we would draw from the legal framework of the condominium, where functional integrity coexists with spatial separation – recognising the Planet as a global condominium, or common home for humanity. 

The five proposals presented in this report are not mutually exclusive, but highly complementary. None of them offers a final authoritative vision, but rather, they should be taken as prototypes – early stage models, refined through a systematic process of iterative feedback. The value of those proposals extends beyond this: each represents a concrete first step in a long process that, hopefully, will end in better global institutions, and thereby help us better address the greatest threats to humanity.

Read the full quarterly report here.

Julien Leyre