UN Guterres has plan to revive multilateralism

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The world is at a historic turning point. It faces cascading interconnected threats that could undermine global stability, including a relentless pandemic, unmanageable climate change, growing economic inequality and insecurity, massive digital vulnerabilities, and the proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons. Paradoxically, at the precise moment when global cooperation is most needed to face these threats, international solidarity is lacking. Faced with a growing array of transnational risks, most governments are distracted, preoccupied with national challenges.

Yet, more than ever, the collective future of humanity rests on effective cooperation. Established 75 years ago, the United Nations was responsible for facilitating collective action among nations on issues of peace, security and development. Over the past decade, the organization has come under increasing pressure and some of its main organs, in particular the Security Council, are paralyzed. In order to avoid a spiral of global instability, newly re-elected UN Secretary-General António Guterres and leaders of several countries have called for the renewal of multilateralism. In a highly anticipated report released this month under the headline “Our Common Agenda,” Guterres presents a diagram of how this can be done. (Disclosure: The Igarape Institute, which I co-founded, contributed to the report.)

The agenda is one of the most ambitious and comprehensive strategies ever produced by the United Nations. It was developed on the basis of consultations involving more than 1.5 million people around the world. The report was informed through discussions with national and municipal governments, impact investors, youth and civil society groups, including outreach to more than 1,500 thought leaders from 147 countries in 2021. Virtually all of the contributors agreed that more, not less, of cooperation is needed. The agenda presents two possible futures: one of blackout and perpetual crisis due to pandemics, rising temperatures, massive job losses and growing protests, and another in which there is a breakthrough. towards a greener and more secure future.

The world is at a historic turning point. It faces cascading interconnected threats that could undermine global stability, including a relentless pandemic, unmanageable climate change, growing economic inequality and insecurity, massive digital vulnerabilities, and the proliferation of nuclear and biological weapons. Paradoxically, at the precise moment when global cooperation is most needed to face these threats, international solidarity is lacking. Faced with a growing array of transnational risks, most governments are distracted, preoccupied with national challenges.

Yet more than ever, the collective future of humanity rests on effective cooperation. Established 75 years ago, the United Nations was responsible for facilitating collective action among nations on issues of peace, security and development. Over the past decade, the organization has come under increasing pressure and some of its basic organs, in particular the Security Council, are paralyzed. In order to avoid a spiral of global instability, newly re-elected UN Secretary-General António Guterres and leaders of several countries have called for the renewal of multilateralism. In a highly anticipated report released this month under the headline “Our Common Agenda,” Guterres presents a diagram of how this can be done. (Disclosure: The Igarape Institute, which I co-founded, contributed to the report.)

The agenda is one of the most ambitious and comprehensive strategies ever produced by the United Nations. It was developed on the basis of consultations involving more than 1.5 million people around the world. The report was informed through discussions with national and municipal governments, impact investors, youth and civil society groups, including outreach to more than 1,500 thought leaders from 147 countries in 2021. Virtually all of the contributors agreed that more, not less, of cooperation is needed. The agenda presents two possible futures: one of blackout and perpetual crisis due to pandemics, rising temperatures, massive job losses and growing protests, and another in which there is a breakthrough. towards a greener and more secure future.

Aware of the rise in geopolitical tensions between powerful members of the Security Council such as China and the United States, the UN secretary-general proposes a roadmap for reaching a global consensus. Be inspired by the famous book by Kim Stanley Robinson The ministry of the future, Guterres calls for a “Summit of the future”. To avoid the outbreak of interstate and civil wars, he recommends that nations establish a new peace agenda to revitalize conflict prevention, reduce the risks of cyber attacks and nuclear confrontation, and establish rules to prevent the militarization of outer space. outer space. It also calls for the creation of a global digital pact to bridge digital divides and ensure that new technologies, including artificial intelligence, are used for positive transformation. While some critics will moan at the suggestion of more meetings and declarations, major events that bring leaders together such as the 2005 World Summit have served as catalysts for real change.

Given the deep flaws in the international financial system and the uneven pace of development, the program calls on state leaders, the G-20, the United Nations Economic and Social Council and international financial institutions to urgently rethink economic governance global. To achieve this, Guterres proposes a biennial strategic global economic dialogue and a world social summit in 2025. This could build on past initiatives to promote a more equitable economic order, including the Stiglitz-Sen-Fitoussi Commission from 2008 to 2009 and the former UN secretary. -The “Development Agenda” of General Boutros Boutros-Ghali of 1994. This is not a surprise. When Guterres was President of the Socialist International from 1999 to 2005, he advocated strongly for the creation of an Economic Security Council to streamline cooperation between international financial institutions and United Nations agencies.

If it hopes to achieve any of these goals, the United Nations will have to modernize the way it operates. On the one hand, it must be much more participatory and consultative, including with environmental, human rights and grassroots non-governmental organizations which are on the front line in the fight against climate change and crises. humanitarian aid and community development. To this end, Guterres proposed strengthening representation and engagement with civil society, parliaments, the private sector, municipal and local governments, and youth within the United Nations system. The United Nations should also take a data and evidence-based approach to implementing the new agenda. To speed up action, he called for the reestablishment of a scientific advisory board to advise the organization accordingly. Guterres hopes to accelerate the UN’s strategic forecasting and the use of behavioral science, including creating a Futures Lab that can be compared to 25 years in advance.

The broad scope of the agenda is both a comparative advantage and a potential handicap. Certainly, it presents a long list of laudable priorities aligned with existing processes such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. But in a time of multiple, overlapping crises, Guterres will have to get UN member states to select and adopt a shortlist if he intends to deliver results. That’s what he hopes will happen at the proposed new summit. The agenda will only be achieved if all member states, including China and the G-77 coalition of developing countries, are genuinely involved. It’s not simple. Some countries fear that claims to protect public goods and global commons may justify restrictions on their economic development or even future military interventions. Guterres can allay these fears if developing countries have a stronger voice at the negotiating and decision-making table.

Despite its shortcomings, the United Nations remains the only truly representative multilateral organization. Although there are more players today than when it was created 75 years ago – multinational companies, large philanthropic organizations, large humanitarian and development organizations, and a wide range of NGOs and pressure groups – it still has a key role to play in managing the delicate issue of global commons and global public goods. Maintaining peace and security, a job the organization has done reasonably well throughout its history, and ‘sav[ing] future generations of the scourge of war ”are at the heart of the United Nations Charter. But today, ensuring peace and security requires safeguarding a wide range of common goods from the oceans, atmosphere and poles to outer space and the Internet, as well as the management of health. government and the global economy. To help identify, manage and achieve these goals, Guterres calls for the creation of a high-level advisory board made up of world leaders.

Guterres knows that to be effective in a multipolar world, the UN must become a platform for fostering networked multilateralism. More than ever, it must nurture and empower flexible networks and impact poles made up of actors and coalitions working on clearly defined issues, including global decarbonization, universal internet access, girls’ education and drastic reduction in violence. While nation states are still the key players when it comes to implementing and scaling up solutions, the UN will need to work closely with regional organizations, municipal governments, parliamentarians. , philanthropic groups and the private sector to achieve lasting results.

Together, “Our Common Agenda” proposes an urgent restart of the global system that incubates inclusion and takes into account the needs of future generations. It launches a desperately needed process to reinvigorate multilateralism and seeks to make the UN more relevant in global economic governance and other global public goods. It is broad and ambitious and seems to be positively received by Member States. The question now is whether the countries of the world can translate a plan for a better world into action.


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