Roundtables produce recommendations for UN report on “common agenda”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres is expected to present a report on implementing the so-called common agenda in September 2021. Image: UN Photo/Mark Garten, taken 21 May 2021 at UN headquarters

The Coalition for the UN We Need, the Stimson Center and other partners hosted six roundtable consultations between February and May this year. This series of online events was held to generate input for a report of the UN Secretary-General, expected in September, on implementing a “common agenda” which was identified in a high-level declaration of the UN General Assembly adopted on the occasion of the organization’s 75th anniversary last year.

Each session of the series, summarized in this piece by the SDG Knowledge Hub, was held for a duration of 90 minutes, and consisted of a diverse group of around 30 experts from think tanks, universities and civil society organizations. The roundtables allowed participants to have an open dialogue with former and current representatives of UN missions and UN officials on the progress, challenges and proposals that need to be addressed in order to fulfil the twelve commitments included in the UN75 declaration.

Fulfilling the UN75 Declaration’s Promise: An Expert Series’ Synthesis of Major Insights and Recommendations, June 2021

According to a synthesis report published recently, the roundtable series’ most significant takeaways were repeated calls for greater inclusion of civil society and the global public in global governance; the importance of leveraging growing global cooperation for a green post COVID-19 recovery when making the case for changes across the UN system; and the urgent need to combine proposals for improved global governance with a smart strategy for reform.

Proposals on global governance innovation

The need for more inclusive global governance was emphasized by participants in various sessions. In particular, this was the case at the roundtables on building trust, strengthening international law and justice, and upgrading the United Nations.

At the session on the latter commitment, for instance, one of the opening speakers stressed the importance of the three proposals included in an international civil society call launched in April: the establishment of a World Citizens’ Initiative, a UN Parliamentary Assembly and a UN focal point for civil society. These changes are thought to improve representation, participation and inclusion at the UN.

Overview of all roundtables (source: synthesis report, p. 5)

The creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly was also recommended by a participant in the session on building trust. As the synthesis report points out, it was argued that such a body would engage global citizens with elected UN representatives, therefore “amplifying local voices in global decision making” and contributing towards increased trust and accountability.

At another notable session participants called for strengthening the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice as well as for the creation of an International Anti-Corruption Court, which would hold kleptocratic leaders to account in countries where domestic authorities are inhibited from ensuring justice. This latter proposal was endorsed by a group of world leaders last week.

Other proposals put forward during the roundtables included a Second World Summit for Social Development, a Global Pact for the Environment, and a Global Resilience Council.

Andreas Bummel, Executive Director of Democracy Without Borders and expert participant in two of the sessions, emphasized that the “roundtable series and the synthesis report represent an important resource for the Post-UN75 process”. He expressed the hope that the UN would seriously study and consider the proposals put forward, adding that the international civil society statement on inclusive global governance was officially submitted to the UN Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly, among others.

The civil society consultations are being continued in various formats.  The Coalition for the UN We Need is hosting five regional online meetings these days and a “Global Town Hall” on June 22. Another online event will be held on June 25 on “Taking the UN75 Declaration Forward: Making a 2023 World Summit on Inclusive Global Governance a Reality”. Further, the coalition plans to host a second People’s Forum in October following a first one held in May 2020.