A series of expert discussions is generating proposals for the UN Secretary-General’s forthcoming report on ways to reinvigorate multilateralism.
The roundtables are being co-sponsored by the Coalition for the UN We Need, CIVICUS, and the Stimson Center, and in collaboration with The Elders.
On Commitment #12 (we will be prepared), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said the monopolization of vaccines by rich and powerful countries “risks preventing much of the Global South from having widespread access to vaccines until 2022 or 2023".
A series of expert discussions is generating proposals for the UN Secretary-General’s forthcoming report on ways to reinvigorate multilateralism. The report is expected to be issued by September 2021 in response to mandate from the high-level commemoration of the UN’s 75th anniversary.
The anniversary event took place on 21 September 2020. It concluded with a political declaration adopted by Heads of State and Government. The declaration calls on the Secretary-General to “propose recommendations for transformative global action to address shared problems, deliver on critical global public goods and prepare for the threats and opportunities of the future.” Preparations for this report are taking place under a process called ‘Our Common Agenda.’
A set of six roundtable events is being co-sponsored by the Coalition for the UN We Need, CIVICUS, and the Stimson Center, and in collaboration with The Elders. The roundtables engage civil society thought leaders, representatives of UN Member States, and UN Secretariat officials to provide “an independent, multi-stakeholder contribution to the Secretary General’s consultations for the report.”
The first roundtable convened on 18 February 2021 to consider two of the 12 commitments in the Declaration: “we will leave no one behind;” and “we will be prepared.” The summary of each discussion shares major insights and provides recommendations for policy, institutional, legal, normative, and operational reforms to support the respective commitment.
Per the summary of discussions, recommendations on leaving no one behind (UN75 Commitment 1) include:
- Prioritizing the UN’s human rights pillar and the Call to Action for Human Rights launched by the UN Secretary-General in February 2020;
- Better targeting and including marginalized groups in decision-making about SDG implementation and COVID-19 recovery, and ensuring civil society has an integral role in assessing SDG progress;
- Formalizing a regular forum for civil society and stakeholders to debate UN policy issues and make recommendations to the UN General Assembly, which would convene every two or three years;
- Strengthening linkages between the SDGs, the Paris Agreement on climate chance, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and improving public financing and governance systems for implementing the three frameworks;
- Tracking public expenditure on sustainable development; and
- Providing more accountable platforms for the private sector to report their SDG-related efforts.
On being prepared (UN75 Commitment 12), participants said “today’s greatest moral test of multilateral cooperation is ensuring equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines worldwide,” noting the need to curb excessive vaccine nationalism. They emphasized that vaccines should be viewed as a global public good. In the list of recommendations, they also called for treating pandemic preparedness overall as a global public good, and said developing countries must be supported to invest in health security.
On financing, it was noted that traditional models proved too slow and insufficient to meet urgent needs amid the COVID-19 crisis. Recommendations include releasing funds faster to respond to health and broader socio-economic emergencies.
Participants recommended careful management of the “post-vaccine economic recovery” by using a mix of strategic investments, debt forgiveness, and other economic tools. The summary of discussions reports that a potential carbon tax could generate the equivalent 2% of a country’s GDP.
Participants observed that scientific warnings about new zoonotic diseases have not been “incorporated into a global preparedness system” that could support national and regional institutions. They suggest that such a system could provide a first line of defense against the spread of future deadly diseases.
The discussion also illuminated that providing health security “goes hand-in-hand with building trust.” The roundtable’s recommendations call for prioritizing investment in health-security preparedness, including by improving implementation of the TRIPS agreement (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights) through the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Addressing the roundtable, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former President of Liberia and member of The Elders, said the monopolization of vaccines by rich and powerful countries “risks preventing much of the Global South from having widespread access to vaccines until 2022 or 2023,” which will both deepen inequalities and “actively undermine all countries’ national efforts to bring this disease under control.”
The Stimson Center also held a forum on European perspectives on following up on the UN75 declaration. It focused on how to translate the momentum generated in 2020 into tangible actions for reinvigorating and strengthening the UN, and considered Europe’s role and potential in mobilizing capabilities, ideas, and networks to advance “our common agenda for a UN fit for the future.” [Webpage for Fulfilling the UN75 Declaration Expert Series] [Coverage of UN75 processes] [Coverage of UN reform efforts]