As the UN Secretary-General prepares to issue a report on the UN’s future direction, a consultation process has examined ways to realize the 12 commitments made by world leaders in their declaration marking the UN’s 75th anniversary in September 2020. The consultations took place as a series of roundtables on ‘Fulfilling the UN75 Declaration,’ organized by the Coalition for the UN We Need, the Stimson Center, and other partners.

The UN75 declaration calls on the Secretary-General to propose recommendations for transformative global action to address the problems identified in the text. The expert, multi-stakeholder series aims to generate proposals for consideration in this forthcoming report, which is referred to as ‘Our Common Agenda,’ and is expected by September 2021.

The first roundtable took place on 18 February 2021 and focused on the commitments to “leave no one behind” (commitment 1) and “be prepared” (commitment 12). In the second roundtable, held on 18 March, participants focused on the commitments to “protect our planet” (commitment 2) and “boost partnerships” (commitment 10). The third roundtable, on 1 April, took up commitments 5 and 11 – “place women and girls at the center” and “listen to and work with youth.”

The roundtable series continued in April and May, focusing on the remaining commitments. On peace and conflict prevention (commitment 3), discussed at the 15 April roundtable, experts proposed various ways forward, including upgrading the UN Peacebuilding Commission to a ‘Democratic Peacebuilding Council,’ which would conduct early warning monitoring among other functions modeled on the UN Human Rights Council. Another suggestion was to create a Global Resilience Council to address non-military threats. Participants said local mediation efforts should be given equal importance in a multi-track process, developed countries must contribute more peacekeepers to UN missions, and rapid standby peacekeeping forces should be established.

On abiding by international law and ensuring justice (commitment 4), also discussed at the 15 April roundtable, speakers similarly highlighted ideas for upgrading or strengthening existing bodies – such as the International Court of Justice – and creating new ones, such as an International Anti-Corruption Court. Participants suggested an organized effort to understand and overcome many countries’ hesitation to join the International Criminal Court and accept the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

On building trust (commitment 6), discussed on 29 April, ideas included: fostering regulation to support governments in increasing transparency and accountability; launching an initiative on trust and strengthening the UN’s bonds with civil society; holding a second World Summit for Social Development, as “an unchecked social crisis can seriously undermine the Sustainable Development Goals achievement;” and establishing a UN Parliamentary Assembly or a World Citizens’ Initiative at the UN, similar to the European Citizens’ Initiative.

On improving digital cooperation (commitment 7), also discussed at the roundtable on 29 April, speakers called for a new social contract for the age of artificial intelligence, big data, and the internet to protect the rules-based order and respect for human rights. A Bretton Woods for Digitalization could support this. Experts also said access to the internet and digital services should be a human right, and the internet should be considered a public good. Participants called for more open source software, data, and information.

On upgrading the UN, discussed at the 12 May roundtable, participants recommended: limiting future UN Secretaries-General to a single six- to seven-year term in office; enhancing the political leadership generated through annual meetings of the UN High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF); and creating a high-level office of a UN Civil Society Envoy. Another suggestion was to reform the UN Security Council in line with modern standards of governance legitimacy. Speakers said increasing the number of non-permanent members would allow for better representation and represent a first step forward in enhancing the Council’s legitimacy. 

On ensuring sustainable financing, also discussed at the 12 May roundtable, the exchange elicited proposals for: redirecting and repurposing excessive and privately held wealth to addressing financing gaps in global governance; debt relief efforts for the poorest countries, to advance the SDGs and provide humanitarian support; and a gradually rising carbon tax to mitigate climate change. [Stimson Center webpage on UN75 roundtable series]