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The UN at 75: New report promotes innovations for global governance

The conference that established the UN was held 1945 in San Francisco. In the image the emblematic Golden Gate bridge. Source: Thomas Hawk/Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

In a new report, “UN 2.0: Ten Innovations for Global Governance 75 Years beyond San Francisco,” the Stimson Center, a think tank based in Washington D.C., highlights ten proposals for making the UN more relevant and functional in an era very different from that of its founding, including the creation of a UN Peacebuilding Council and a UN Global Partnership.

UN 2.0: Ten Innovations for Global Governance – 75 Years beyond San Francisco
Stimson Center
26 June 2020

A UN Parliamentary Network

But the boldest and most intriguing is the report’s call for establishing of a United Nations Parliamentary Network (UNPN) consisting of members of national and regional parliaments, as well as representatives of existing parliamentary networks and institutions. While Stimson offers the UN Parliamentary Network as an advisory body to the UN General Assembly (UNGA), and while it would not be a true global parliament, it would be the biggest step in that direction since the establishment of the UNGA itself.

Stimson envisions the UNPN as “a platform for direct participation, input, and accountability claims by elected representatives of the peoples of the world on governance matters pertaining to the UN.” Noting that “the increasing transnational nature of global challenges requires a shared commitment to cooperation and collective action based on multilateral principles,” Stimson says the current UN structure does not allow for “both representative and legitimate decision-making,” since UNGA member states “are represented solely by the executive branches of national governments with no formal direct channels for legislative branch involvement.” Stimson says the UNGA “is long overdue to incorporate a formal structure to allow for direct input and oversight from parliamentarians irrespective of their political affiliation.”

Stimson has in the past called the UNPN “more ambitious in nature” and requiring “fewer political obstacles to be overcome” than would an actual UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA). There is, however, no reason why a UNPN could not be a major step in the direction of real representative democracy at the UN.

Democracy Without Borders wrote in a 2019 policy review that a UNPN “can be conceived of as an institutional precursor of a UNPA.” Further, DWB 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.”

A roadmap towards a 2023 summit

Roadmap to 2023. Source: Stimson report (p. 62)

The Stimson report suggests that existing or new multi-stakeholder partnerships and “smart coalitions” will play a key role in building momentum for the implementation of the proposals. It says, for instance, that advocates of a UNPN and a UNPA “could work towards a UNPN Group of Friends consisting of Member States and influential civil society organizations interested in championing these initiatives.”

A roadmap proposed by Stimson envisions the creation by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of an “Expert Advisory Group on Inclusive Global Governance” that would present recommendations in June 2021 and prepare for a “World Summit on Inclusive Global Governance” in 2023. Stimson expects that the declaration of heads of state and governments to be adopted on the occasion of the UN’s 75th anniversary this September will provide a mandate for the UN chief to establish such an advisory panel. In a recent speech, Guterres called for a “new model for global governance” based on “inclusive global institutions”.

Stimson notes in its new report that the global COVID-19 pandemic presents a global challenge on par with the post-World War II realignment that led to the creation of the United Nations itself. Stimson is to be applauded for its forward thinking on the subject, and for presenting an achievable path toward real representation at the UN.

On September 16 and 17, Stimson together with various partners is convening a virtual Global Governance Forum to discuss the report and initiate pilot projects.

Peter Orvetti
Peter Orvetti is a writer, intelligence analyst, and world federalism advocate residing in Washington, D.C.
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