Civil Society Forum Considers Proposals for Global Change

Andreas Bummel
Executive Director of Democracy Without Borders

More than one hundred civil society representatives and experts met in New York and online last week at the Global Futures Forum[i] to consider what policies and changes are needed to better address the world’s major challenges. From March 20-21 they deliberated on around three dozen proposals related to the global economic and financial architecture, human rights and participation, development, a global digital compact, environmental governance, peace and security, as well as innovating the UN and global governance. In one of the final sessions, the outcomes were presented to diplomats and UN officials.

Opening the forum, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Co-Chair of the Coalition for the UN - We Need, said that “in spite of the diversity of backgrounds and interests among participants, there is a common denominator that unites us: we want the UN and the multilateral architecture to deliver more and better, and to respond to the global governance challenges of today’s world.” 

The other Co-Chair of the coalition, Daniel Perell, stressed[ii] that “while constructive proposals within the current system were discussed and proposed, there is also a growing recognition that the underlying assumptions upon which the international order is built should be questioned, as well.”

According to documents circulated[iii] at the forum, summarized here[iv], which resulted from prior online consultations, shortlisted proposals include the creation of an International Anti-Corruption Court and a global tax system” to address inequality and help fund global public goods; doubling the resources” of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and redefine” how civil society relates to the UN; the creation of a Global Resilience Council and determining an indicator for development, different from gross domestic product; guaranteeing an open and secure internet, as well as closing the digital divide; setting up an Earth Governance Regulatory Body” and expanding the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court to the crime of ecocide; strengthening mechanisms for the peaceful resolution of conflicts as well as implementing plans for disarmament; the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly and putting a review of the UN Charter on the agenda.

The forum’s proceedings further included interconnection round tables” investigating the interlinkages of the thematic fields, an intergenerational plenary, storytelling dialogues, reports from regional consultations, as well as a youth-hosted reception, among other things. The gathering was held in order to build a common platform of civil society that can serve as an input to the UN’s preparations of a Summit of the Future[v], scheduled to take place in September 2024. As announced by the organizers at the conference, by mid-April an “interim” People’s Pact of the Future has been drafted[vi], based on the forum’s discussions. This is “an evolving vehicle for feeding diverse civil society ideas and insights into official discussions” on the Summit of the Future, they noted. Plans are being made for additional civil society fora to be held in September 2023 and in early 2024.

The Executive Director of Democracy Without Borders, Andreas Bummel, who was one of the facilitators of the thematic track on UN and global governance innovation, emphasized the broad support of proposals aimed at making the UN more democratic, representative, participatory and inclusive”. He highlighted, in particular, the creation of a citizen-elected UN Parliamentary Assembly, the participatory instrument of a UN World Citizens’ Initiative, and a UN Civil Society Envoy which are pursued by the “We The Peoples”[vii] civil society campaign.

According to Bummel, these proposals have an important cross-cutting nature. Once implemented, they can serve as engines that help build momentum for further changes put forward by civil society and others”, he said. In one of the track’s sessions a discussion was held on the role a UN Parliamentary Assembly could play in providing democratic legitimacy and accountability of global taxation and the use of global revenues.

There are high ambitions and expectations on the part of civil society, but only little appetite on the part of a number of UN member states to take on major proposals. Bridging this gap is one of the major challenges ahead of the Summit of the Future”, he noted.


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