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Civil society to gather in New York for Global Futures Forum

Photo: © International Service for Human Rights. With kind permission.

Civil society representatives will meet in New York next month to discuss joint recommendations for tackling global challenges and reforming global governance. It is the first major conference of this sort to be held in-person since the outbreak of COVID-19 three years ago.

Preparatory consultations in seven thematic tracks are already taking place online and at regional meetings. These will culminate in the two-day Global Futures Forum, to be held in a hybrid format and scheduled for 20-21 March 2023, where participants will deliberate on and prioritize proposals.

Logo of the Global Futures Forum scheduled for March 2023

Discussions cover the global economic and financial architecture, human rights and participation, development and the Sustainable Development Goals, a global digital compact, environmental governance, peace and security as well as innovating the UN and global governance.

The forum is organized by the Coalition for the UN We Need (C4UN), a network of civil society organizations interested in improving the UN’s capacity to serve the world’s people better and in accountable and legitimate ways. Years ahead of the UN’s 75th anniversary in 2020, the forward-looking group formed to push for a global summit that would consider global governance reforms in this spirit. Due to COVID-19, the coalition had to move a conference online in early 2020 that adopted a “UN75 People’s Declaration and Plan for Action”.

All eyes are now on the UN’s “Summit of the Future”

In view of an escalating “global polycrisis” that underlines the need for more effective global collaboration and action, all eyes are now on a “Summit of the Future” that the UN plans to convene in 2024 to adopt a so-called “Pact for the Future”. A ministerial meeting is planned for this September. 

On their website, the organizers of the Global Futures Forum write that the forum’s purpose is to “explore the design, feasibility, and potential impact of wide ranging proposals, from the unique vantage point of civil society”. A key objective, they say, is to “finalize and widely socialize a People’s Pact for the Future to feed diverse civil society ideas and insights into official discussions on the Pact for the Future.”

Since the UN’s 75th anniversary, a series of UN consultations with the public and civil society have taken place in various formats. Recently, an advisory panel set up by the UN Secretary-General to explore proposals for better management of global public goods and more effective multilateralism called for submissions. It will hand over its report to the UN chief in April 2023.

A People’s Pact for the Future

The latest episode in the UN’s consultations was an online meeting organized on February 15th by Germany and Namibia. The two countries are the UN-appointed co-facilitators of the “intergovernmental consultations on the preparatory process of the Summit of the Future”. Representatives of non-governmental organizations were given 2-minute slots to present their input. They were assured that “their voice will be heard”.

Those involved in the Coalition for the UN We Need hope that eventually there will be political momentum at the UN and among member states for far-reaching proposals to be decided and implemented. The Global Futures Forum is being organized to help identify which. “There is consensus that the status quo is untenable, but we need to understand the reasons why, and what is to be done,” said Daniel Perell, co-chair of the coalition and UN representative of the Bahá’í International Community based in New York.

In the field of improving the UN’s democratic and participatory character, proposals with broad civil society support so far include creating a UN Parliamentary Assembly and a UN World Citizens’ Initiative. A campaign called “We The Peoples”, led by Democracy Without Borders, CIVICUS and Democracy International, is endorsed by over 200 groups and networks, among them C4UN.

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