UN and the Future of Multi-National Cooperation

Last year’s 75th anniversary of the United Nations sparked a huge internal debate over the organization’s future, as well as a shift away from the post-World War Two consensus of its early days. These considerations culminated in the UN Secretary-groundbreaking General’s new report, Our Common Agenda, which lays out his vision for the future of global cooperation.

Mr. Guterres introduced the report during a General Assembly meeting on Friday, giving a stinging assessment of the globe’s sorry situation, which he called as “extremely strained,” and warned that the world faces a future of “serious instability and climate chaos.”

The global response to the climate disaster, as well as the destructive war on nature and the destruction of biodiversity, is too little, too late, according to the Secretary-General.

Unchecked inequality, he claims, is weakening social cohesion and causing fragilities that harm everyone. Technology is progressing without any safeguards in place to protect people from its unintended consequences.

The UN chief then went on to outline the numerous consultations that went into its creation, a listening exercise that led the UN to the conclusion that increased multilateralism is the best way to cope with the world’s challenges.

The report depicts two alternative futures: one in which there is a breakdown and permanent crisis, and another in which there is a breakthrough, leading to a greener, safer future.

The doomsday scenario depicts a world in which COVID-19 continues to mutate indefinitely as a result of wealthy countries hoarding vaccines and overburdened health systems.

Due to rising temperatures and harsh weather occurrences, the earth becomes untenable in that future, and a million species are on the verge of extinction.

This is accompanied by a steady degradation of human rights, significant employment and income losses, and rising protests and unrest, all of which are met with harsh repression.

Alternatively, we may go the other way, fairly spreading vaccines and igniting a long-term rebound in which the global economy is retooled to be more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive.

Global temperature rises would be limited, countries severely impacted by climate change would be assisted, and ecosystems would be conserved for future generations if the economy were decarbonized, according to the report.

Commitments to gender equality and leaving no one behind, which include extending social protections and fostering gender parity, emphasize the necessity of protecting vulnerable groups.

An objective is to ensure a more sustainable global economy, with help for the poorest people and a fairer international economic system.

Climate action is highlighted, with pledges to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels and achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, as well as the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies, reform of agricultural systems, and a package of aid for developing nations.

Noting the ongoing health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the report recommends a $50 billion vaccination strategy to at least double vaccine production and cover at least 70% of the world’s population by the first half of 2022.

To achieve these goals, the Secretary-General proposes a Future Summit, which would “forge a new global consensus on what our future should look like, and how we can secure it,” according to the Secretary-General.

The Summit would address the perennial issues of peace and security by establishing a “New Agenda for Peace,” which would include increased investment in peacebuilding, support for regional conflict prevention, a reduction of strategic risks such as nuclear weapons and cyberwarfare – as well as a dialogue on outer space to ensure that it is used peacefully and sustainably.

Human rights online would also be addressed during the Summit, as part of a Global Digital Compact, to ensure that new technologies are used for good. The peaceful and sustainable use of outer space, as well as the management of future shocks and crises, would be other courses.

Mr. Guterres stated that the Summit should take into consideration today’s more complicated global governance scenario. To traverse this complex landscape and produce effective answers, the goal should be a more inclusive and networked multilateralism.

In addition to the Summit of the Future, the study suggests biannual high-level meetings with the G20, ECOSOC, the heads of international financial institutions, and the UN Secretary-General, focused on fostering a more sustainable, inclusive, and resilient global economy.

The report also asks for stronger global health security and better cooperation between governments, multilateral organizations, the corporate sector, and civil society. It also advocates for an emergency platform to better prepare for global emergencies.

One idea is the establishment of a Futures Lab, which would collaborate with government, academia, civil society, and the commercial sector to produce regular reports on megatrends and catastrophic threats.

Furthermore, education, skills training, and lifelong learning measures are proposed, including a Transforming Education Summit in 2022 to address the learning crisis and expand opportunities and hope for the world’s 1.8 billion young people, and a Global Social Summit in 2025 to coordinate international efforts to create peaceful, secure societies based on human rights.

These conferences would bring together efforts to develop inclusive and long-term policies that allow countries to provide basic services and social security to their inhabitants.

The UN, for example, is due an upgrade, according to the report, with a more participatory and consultative approach, gender parity by 2028, the re-establishment of the Secretary-Scientific General’s Advisory Board, and a policy that puts people at the centre of the UN System, taking age, gender, and diversity into account.

Other UN-related ideas include increasing youth engagement in the political process and reducing youth unemployment. The report recommends the establishment of a Special Envoy for Future Generations to give weight to the concerns of those who will be born in the next century, as well as the creation of a new UN Youth Office to improve interaction with young people across the Organization’s activity.

As the United Nations begins its Decade of Action – ten years to achieve genuine progress toward the promise of a sustainable, fairer society by 2030 – there is an opportunity to alter the world for the better, with multilateralism at its core.

However, as the “breakdown scenario” demonstrates, failing to collaborate successfully can result in massive, irreversible damage to the planet and even to life itself: Mr. Guterres emphasized in his speech to the General Assembly that Our Common Agenda is motivated by solidarity, which he defined as “the principle of working together, recognizing that we are tied to each other and that no community or country, however powerful, can solve its challenges alone”.

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