Expert report urges governments to make the UN more democratic

Image: A Human Rights Council session in Geneva on 18 May 2018. Recent sessions could not be held in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic. UN Photo / Elma Okic

The UN’s independent expert on the promotion of a democratic international order, Livingstone Sewanyana, urges the UN’s member states to establish the office of a high-level civil society envoy, the mechanism of a World Citizens› Initiative and a UN Parliamentary Assembly. 

These are three of around thirty recommendations in a report of the UN-appointed Ugandan human rights lawyer that will be presented at the upcoming 48th session of the UN’s Human Rights Council in Geneva, starting next week.

In the document that was published today, he points out that these particular items serve the purpose of making «the United Nations more open, participatory and representative, with a view to ensuring that its responses both to the ongoing and to future global challenges are more effective.»

Livingstone Sewanyana at a Human Rights Council session on 10 September 2018. UN Photo / Elma Okic

The UN expert thus endorses the proposals included in a statement of around 200 civil society groups and networks from across the world that was published earlier this year. The ongoing campaign is dubbed «We The Peoples» according to the opening words of the UN Charter and is jointly led by CIVICUS: World Alliance for Citizen Participation, Democracy International and Democracy Without Borders.

Overall, the report examines to what extent the COVID-19 pandemic constitutes a test to multilateralism and how it could be an opportunity «for strengthened, more effective and inclusive multilateralism» as well as for «achieving a democratic and equitable international order.»

The 19-page document says that «multilateralism is indeed already being undermined as a result of several highly problematic issues, including geopolitical tensions, climate change, migratory and humanitarian crises, poverty and inequity», emphasizing that «the pandemic is only the tip of the iceberg.»

According to the expert, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development «should constitute the road map for a more resilient and fairer global recovery» from the pandemic. He highlights that an «equitable global distribution of vaccines» ought to be «the most profound manifestation of the spirit and raison d’être of multilateralism» at this time.

The document expresses grave concern about unequal access to vaccines and «vaccine nationalism» that results in a «two-track pandemic» with high-income countries relaxing safety measures due to high vaccination rates and other countries with limited access facing very precarious situations. 

In connection with «broader considerations to advance multilateralism», the report not only supports better representation and participation of civil society, elected representatives and citizens at the UN. Among other things, it also stresses «the need to reform the Security Council with a view to making it more democratic, representative, effective, transparent and accountable, in order to align it with the realities of today.»

The UN expert supports the call for a 2023 World Summit on Inclusive Global Governance, which he sees as a good opportunity «to initiate the proposed reforms.»