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Stimson Center recommends a United Nations Parliamentary Network

A view of the entrance of UN headquarters during lunchtime, an area that under normal circumstances is bustling with people. Since 10 March 2020 the UNHQ is closed to the public, due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Image: UN Photo/Mark Garten

The Stimson Center in Washington D.C. recommends that the United Nations should establish a parliamentary network as an advisory body to the UN General Assembly in order to address its “democracy and legitimacy deficits”. In a policy brief on the UN’s 75 anniversary that is commemorated this year, the think tank explains that the new UN Parliamentary Network, in short UNPN, “would act as a platform for direct participation, input, and accountability claims by the peoples of the world on governance matters pertaining to the UN.”

There are no formal channels for legislative branch involvement at the UN

The document authored by Stimson’s Cristina Petcu elaborates that “the increasing transnational nature of global challenges requires a shared commitment to cooperation and collective action based on multilateral principles” and that such action “requires both representative and legitimate decision-making, two elements that are insufficiently embedded within the UN system” because UN member states “are represented solely by the executive branch of national governments with no formal direct channels for legislative branch involvement.”

The proposal for a UNPN was first put forward in the report of the Albright-Gambari-Commission on Global Security, Justice and Governance five years ago with the long-term objective of creating a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA), as the Stimson study points out. According to Stimson, “formalizing a full-fledged parliamentary body at the United Nations will require more time to garner sufficient political support. The UN Parliamentary Network idea, by contrast, is less ambitious in nature and requires fewer political obstacles to be overcome.”

The think tank that is devoted to promoting “international security, prosperity, and justice” writes in their policy brief that “in the lead-up to the UN75 Leaders Summit, on 21 September 2020, advocates of a UNPN and a UNPA should work to establish a UNPN Group of Friends consisting of Member States and influential civil society organizations interested in championing these initiatives.”

A global parliamentary investigation into the coronavirus response

A policy review published by Democracy Without Borders three months ago on the relationship of a UNPA with the existing Inter-Parliamentary Union, an umbrella organization of national parliaments, concluded that a UNPN “can be conceived of as an institutional precursor of a UNPA.” Further it pointed out that a UNPN “may start as a much smaller operation compared to a fully-fledged UNPA” and thus “appears more in reach in the foreseeable future.” 

Nevertheless, the organization keeps promoting a UNPA as well. In a response to a parliamentary consultation carried out by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Icelandic Parliament this week, Democracy Without Borders wrote that if a UNPA existed, it “could now establish a special inquiry committee into the effectiveness of the global response to the coronavirus pandemic and the state of the global health system including the World Health Organization (WHO) and put forward recommendations.”

Democracy Without Borders serves as Secretariat of the international Campaign for a UNPA.

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