Civil Society Discusses Expectations for UN at 75 Declaration
Photo Credit: Matthew TenBruggenate/IISD
story highlights

Natalie Samarasinghe, Office of the Special Adviser on the Preparations for the Commemoration of UN’s 75th Anniversary, said multi-stakeholder engagement will take place through UN country teams, UN information centers and the UN’s civil society partners.

The UN Secretariat plans to analyze the feedback received to identify trends and solutions.

Barbara Adams, Global Policy Forum, said the political declaration to be adopted at UN’s 75th anniversary should take a differentiated approach when it comes to States’ responsibilities, if those left furthest behind are to be reached.

Civil society representatives recently engaged with UN representatives on planning for the UN’s 75th anniversary, to be commemorated on 21 September 2020. They expressed hopes and expectations with regards to the preparatory process and the political declaration to be adopted at the high-level meeting of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

The strategy meeting was organized by the UN2020 civil society group, and took place on 13 November 2019, in New York, US.

Natalie Samarasinghe, Office of the UN Special Adviser on the Preparations for the Commemoration of UN’s 75th Anniversary (UN75), highlighted the paradox by which cooperation and multilateralism are needed more than ever before, but are increasingly constrained. This means the SDGs are being implemented in a very different international environment than the one in which they were adopted. She said the Secretary-General is initiating a dialogue to address the rising lack of trust in institutions and the polarization of the world’s people. Consultations thus far, she reported, have indicated as priorities for the commemoration: climate change, technology, inequality, new forms of finance, and changes in health care. 

On the consultation process, Samarasinghe said:

  • The UN Secretariat is preparing a toolkit for civil society engagement, with information about participation in the preparatory process as well as films, surveys, proposed dialogues and feedback mechanisms to capture as many voices as possible;
  • The online feedback mechanism is expected to be in place by the end of November 2019, and other materials should be finalized by the end of 2019; 
  • The Secretariat aims to create spaces of engagement for civil society in New York and in other parts of the world so citizens can participate in the preparatory process, and multi-stakeholder engagement will take place through UN country teams, UN information centers and the UN’s civil society partners;
  • The Secretariat will analyze the feedback received to identify trends and solutions, with the help of thinktanks and academia;
  • The Secretariat will organize briefings for UN Member States to inform them about the results; and
  • Governments are encouraged to then present the consultation results to their home countries, to inform advocacy, decisionmaking and the UN75 political declaration.

On behalf of the Secretariat, Samarasinge invited civil society to help create the narrative for the UN’s 75 anniversary rather than a fragmentation of campaigns, and asked for civil society’s support with advocacy and partnerships.

On the political declaration to mark the anniversary, Barbara Adams, Global Policy Forum, said the text needs to represent more than a re-commitment and reiteration of what was established 75 years ago, and to focus on practices that must be stopped, including practices that foster inequality. Noting that investment in the UN’s peacebuilding architecture is 2.9% of current investments in war, she emphasized that the declaration should “put in place what is non-negotiable.” Adams also underscored the need for “rescuing” the principle of leaving no one behind, through serious measurement and analysis of what the principle entails. She said the declaration should take a differentiated approach to States’ responsibilities, if those left furthest behind are to be reached. She also cautioned against language on “international cooperation,” which she said dilutes the focus on commitments. 

On youth engagement, Jolly Amatya, UN Major Group for Children and Youth, noted that a UNGA youth plenary will take place in conjunction with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum, aiming to build youth participation in the UNGA’s high-level meeting to comemmorate UN75. She underscored that youth should be included as partners and co-hosts of the UNGA youth plenary, and asked for civil society’s support for meaningful youth participation in the anniversary commemoration. Amatya said the commemoration should prove that the UN is not a “toothless, elitist institution” as it is increasingly perceived globally. She suggested that the political declaration address systemic issues that hamper SDG implementation, and identify measures to ensure maximum human development within planetary boundaries.

Richard Ponzio, Just Security 2020, The Stimson Center, said the UN75 global conversation should focus on actions to bridge the gap between aspirations and current trajectories, and to focus on solutions rather than on problems. He suggested that the anniversary process should convince people that the UN is a platform for solving our most urgent challenges, and both the global consultation and the commemoration should support the UN in placing “transformational change at the heart of the Decade of Action.” He further recommended using the UN’s 75th anniversary and the SDG Action Platform to show that the international community is on track to demonstrate results by 2023, when the next SDG Summit will take place.

Civil society participants said the political declaration should include both accomplishments and things that need to change in UN’s work. They called for guidance and support for starting conversations on UN75 and the importance of the year 2020 at the local level. Samarasinghe underscored the need to focus on “a well-calibrated ambition” when it comes to the political declaration in order to ensure consensus and the legitimacy of the process.

The President of the 74th UNGA is expected to appoint two co-facilitators for negotiations on the political declaration, per the UNGA’s modalities resolution on the 75th anniversary. The resolution is to be finalized by June 2020.

UN2020 is a civil society initiative dedicated to using the UN’s 75th anniversary as an opportunity to take stock and strengthen the UN system in partnership with civil society, governments and the UN in support of a people-centered multilateralism. [SDG Knowledge Hub sources] [SDG Knowledge Hub story on launch of consultation process]


related events


related posts