WASHINGTON DC, July 20 (IPS) — The UN Secretary-General’s forthcoming “Our Common Agenda” report, to be published this year before the UN General Assembly High Level Week, is expected to be ambitious include recommendations to accelerate the realization of the UN75 statement as the world comes to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic.
While the report’s ideas have not yet been disclosed, three concepts are likely to be conceptual building blocks: a “new social contract,” a “new global deal” and “networked and inclusive multilateralism” have each fueled current high-level discussions in the United States. penetrated. Nations, especially in speeches by UN Secretary-General António Guterres.
While these three concepts are not explicitly mentioned in the UN Declaration of 75, they are implicit in the wording of the declaration’s twelve commitments. Building on the perspectives of past and present scholars, world leaders, policymakers, and practitioners, these powerful notions are each set forth in Stimson Center’s recent report, “Beyond UN75: A Roadmap for Inclusive, Networked, and Effective Global Governance.”
Critics, including the United Nations, argue that the current state of the social contract is outdated and unable to meet the needs and challenges of the twenty-first century. The UN Secretary-General himself stressed that a new social contract is “an opportunity to rebuild a more equal and sustainable world” from COVID-19.
Indeed, a new, modernized social contract could contribute to a more equitable recovery from COVID-19 and to economic policies that see the realization of human rights as an end in itself – rather than as an additional channel to achieve high levels of economic growth under outdated standards.
It could include a global political commitment to ensure social protection and universal access to education systems, among other initiatives to respond to the major economic, technological and societal shifts now underway.
Likewise, a just, resilient and sustainable social contract must restore people’s trust in governance institutions. Trust is a condition that provides legitimacy to those who rule, and it enables the existence of a contract in the first place.
Because the “new social contract” is the vision and long-term goal for weaving a new normative fiber that binds states and peoples together, the world also needs a more operational “new global deal”.
The UN Secretary-General suggested that a new global deal would involve a redistribution of power, wealth and opportunity, and global political and economic systems that deliver crucial global public goods: health, climate action, sustainable development and peace.
This reflects lengthy discussions about representativeness in the current system of global governance, for example, given the distribution of special drawing rights at the International Monetary Fund, which gives the United States a blocking minority share, or the creation of the Security Council with its five permanent, veto-holding powers and ten non-permanent members.
The redistribution and redistribution of resources must also be seen in light of the call for a “green recovery” from the COVID-19 pandemic and the need to recalibrate the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Promoting a new social contract and a new global deal further requires a more networked and inclusive multilateralism. This would entail a paradigm shift from the state-oriented international world order to one where countless actors, beyond the nation-states (especially the traditional superpowers), can collectively share and implement solutions to complex problems.
Delivering the future we want will not come from “polarized member states or politicized UN secretariats”. It will be the result of collaborations between international officials, member states and progressive networks of non-state actors, including scientists, academics, media, businesses, philanthropists and other stakeholders.
In this spirit, the United Nations and other intergovernmental organizations should update their rules of dealing with non-state actors to facilitate networked and inclusive multilateralism. There is no shortage of institutional innovation ideas that can help build inclusive multilateralism.
For example, the Call for Inclusive Global Governance, released in April 2021 and endorsed by more than 150 civil society organizations around the world, contains three recommendations to promote greater inclusion and participation of civil society at the UN: creating a formal instrument – a Global Citizens’ Initiative – to enable individual citizens to influence the work of the UN; second, a UN Parliamentary Assembly to involve elected representatives in UN agenda setting and decision-making; and third, the appointment of a UN Civil Society Envoy to support greater civil society engagement at the UN.
Networked and inclusive multilateralism, going beyond classical intergovernmentalism, provides a platform and framework to execute a new global deal (operational plan) in the service of drafting a new social contract (vision).
What is needed now is enlightened leadership, combined with a well-designed reform strategy to channel these ideas in support of a more interconnected and participatory global governance system.
Guided by these three powerful concepts, the Secretary General’s “Our Common Agenda” can generate political impetus for a possible World Summit on Inclusive Global Governance in 2023 to truly innovate the United Nations system to keep pace with current and future challenges and opportunities.
The 75th anniversary of the United Nations was seen as a moment to lay the groundwork for a new kind of multilateralism. While the adoption of the UN75 statement is an important milestone, its vision has yet to be matched by a proportionate global action plan.
Bouncing back now from the COVID-19 presents an opportunity to also rebuild a global system that can help all nations and peoples effectively overcome the current global inequalities, injustices and insecurity. It is up to all of us to make 2021 a turning point for multilateralism.
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