One of the many discussions at the 2022 Global People’s Assembly will address the theme, ‘Preparing for the Year Ahead: The 2023 SDG Summit & 2024 Summit of the Future – Intersections & Interlinkages’.
In an 8 September 2022 resolution on ‘Modalities for the Summit of the Future,’ the General Assembly determined that the Summit of the Future will not take place until September 2024.
The effect of the Summit’s postponement could put off the much-needed strengthening of multilateralism or, alternatively, it could allow space for more effective preparatory discussions and deeper stakeholder engagement – a scenario that could make possible a more ambitious outcome.
By María Fernanda Espinosa and Daniel Perell
In his Our Common Agenda, the UN Secretary-General called on Member States to give “serious consideration” to the idea of an “annual civil society caucus in conjunction with the General Assembly’s high-level week.” Fortunately, such a convening already exists. It is known as the Global People’s Assembly.
This year’s (fourth) Global People’s Assembly (GPA) takes place online, from 20-22 September as part of the Global Week of Action, #Act4SDGs. In partnership with the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), the Coalition for the UN We Need (C4UN) and other civil society networks have self-organized national, regional, and constituency assemblies in 27 countries to create this annual forum that addresses a multiplicity of shared challenges ranging from climate change, corruption, COVID-19, and global finance, to the ravages of armed conflict, food insecurity, and the extremes of wealth and poverty. The SDGs, and the need for the international community to do more to get back on track to meet Agenda 2030 targets, provide an overarching framework for these discussions.
One of the many discussions at the 2022 GPA will address the theme, ‘Preparing for the Year Ahead: The 2023 SDG Summit & 2024 Summit of the Future – Intersections & Interlinkages.’ In his Our Common Agenda (OCA) report, the Secretary-General proposed that the Summit of the Future (SOTF), where many of the OCA proposals would be adopted, take place in September 2023, alongside the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) under the auspices of the UN General Assembly (UNGA), also known as the SDG Summit.
However, in an 8 September 2022 resolution on ‘Modalities for the Summit of the Future,’ the General Assembly determined that the SOTF will not take place until September 2024.
Some fear this decision may have the effect of pushing the SOTF to the back burner, putting off the much-needed strengthening of multilateralism to a discussion for another day. Or, alternatively, it could allow space for more effective SOTF preparatory discussions and deeper stakeholder engagement – a scenario that could make possible a more ambitious outcome.
The recent modalities resolution requests the President of the 77th session of the General Assembly, Csaba Kőrösi of Hungary, to appoint co-facilitators for SOTF preparatory meetings no later than 31 October this year and to convene a “preparatory ministerial meeting” in September 2023. These timelines hold the possibility of a longer runway of preparations for the Summit, which could in theory allow governments to find consensus on some of the more challenging of the Secretary-General’s OCA proposals, such as a New Agenda for Peace, a meaningful role for the moribund Trusteeship Council, developing a UN Emergency Platform, or giving new meaning to the global commons (including recommendations from the June 2022 Stockholm+50 meeting), among others.
Like many successful UN conferences and treaty processes, a successful outcome at the SOTF will require meaningful and robust engagement of other UN stakeholders, including civil society. However, the arrangements for stakeholder engagement in SOTF preparations have to date also been the subject of much contention among Member States.
As ever, discussions at the UN reflect the cleavages and political undercurrents in the wider world. Today’s armed conflicts, food and energy insecurity, and the shifting balance of influence among great powers continue to drive the fracturing and fragmentation of global politics. At the same time, the people of the world are becoming increasingly aware that a new level of cooperation, and the requisite institutional innovations at the UN, are an unavoidable imperative if global challenges like climate change, sustainable development, pandemics, biodiversity loss, and other systemic risks are to be adequately addressed to the benefit of humanity’s common interest.
Civil society’s capacity to organize effectively in the face of these challenges will continue to matter. Efforts such as the Global People’s Assembly, which is working to articulate the values and systems which will shape a future that is more just, sustainable, and peaceful, hold out hope that our world can yet rise above the posturing and politics of the General Assembly’s High-Level Week to create the more accountable, rules-based international order that we all know is necessary.
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María Fernanda Espinosa is a former Foreign Minister and Defence Minister of Ecuador, and was President of the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly. She is currently a member of Global Women Leaders – Voices for Change and Inclusion and also serves as Co-Chair of the Coalition for the UN We Need.
Daniel Perell is UN Representative for the Baha’I International Community and also serves as Co-Chair of the Coalition for the UN We Need.