By Maria Fernanda Espinosa and Daniel Perell
The modern era of international relations is different from anything that has come before. While States may claim to be politically independent, in reality they are economically, socially, technologically, climatically, biologically, and in countless other ways, interdependent to varying degrees. This may not have been so explicitly clear 75 years ago, let alone centuries prior when the Westphalian model upon which the current order is based came into existence.
Civil society is not only a voice of criticism, nor is it solely the conscience. It is the guide that dictates the way governments must go.
This new reality, humanity’s increased interconnectedness, demands new relationships that stretch beyond the sole existence of treaties, trade, and capital. It calls for relationships of trust, integrity, solidarity and a shared commitment to the well-being of all.
It is in this spirit that the Coalition for the UN We Need (C4UN), formerly UN2020, is advancing a host of efforts, in partnership with all well-wishers of the global community, towards a new kind of multilateralism. One which seeks generosity, true partnership, and mutualism – based on justice and the fulfillment of promises made – among all in society. Such a paradigm shift cannot be expected from governments alone—nor from any pillar of society independently. It is a whole of society endeavor.
We eagerly await UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ forthcoming ‘Our Common Agenda’ report, and commit to advancing those elements consistent with a new paradigm for global governance. Whatever the report states, it must carry with it an ethic of genuine partnership including a strong role for all non-State actors.
Unfortunately, increased restrictions on civil society combined with mere box-ticking approaches to inclusion do not inspire confidence from the peoples of the world. Nor, ultimately, do they serve the aspirations of those who are in positions of governmental authority. We see time and again that limiting the voice of the people ultimately foments dissent and division – while genuine partnership builds trust and creates a truly enabling environment. “We the peoples” serve as key protagonists in creating global systems commensurate with today’s global reality.
The relatively short-term political cycle does not allow for the long-term transformations we need. But while governments come and go, the peoples are always there. When the advancement of progressive policies hits political roadblocks, it is the peoples who can inspire profound change. When leaders are finding that they don’t have the resources or institutional will to enact the necessary policies, it is the peoples who, if entrusted as allies and genuine partners, can generate momentum for advancement.
This is not a plea for the peoples to serve as a force hostile to administrations the world over. It is about a co-responsibility and a finding of each others’ specific strengths. Any change in society must be part of a dynamic relationship between individuals, communities, and the institutions which help to channel their energies. Civil society is not only a voice of criticism, nor is it solely the conscience – it is, in a real sense, the guide that dictates the way governments must go. Where the people’s will is, a government will find fertile ground, and any policy, legal, or normative decision, from the local to the international, will have greater social ownership and therefore greater chances to be implemented.
And here we return to the Coalition for the UN We Need. At this moment in history, when current global threats be it the climate crisis or inequalities are putting our lives at risk; when this decade can be so determinative of our future; when our deficits are not of policies, but rather of the will to enact them; it is at this moment that we need to grow a Coalition seeking to learn of and advance the interests of all fair-minded inhabitants of the world, irrespective of tribe or any typology.
This Coalition for the UN We Need can be a stalwart advocate for an approach to a global order, a new multilateralism that truly delivers for “the peoples” – more than reaching across constituencies to find alliances and agreements. It is built on a new foundation: one that begins with our common humanity, our global commons, and advances from there. Such a foundation is critical to the UN we need today.
To learn more about the Coalition for the UN We Need, visit https://c4unwn.org/.
Maria Fernanda Espinosa and Daniel Perell are Co-Chairs of the Coalition for the UN We Need.
Maria Fernanda Espinosa is a member of the Group of Women Leaders for Change and Inclusion & former President of the UN General Assembly (73rd Session). Daniel Perell is UN Representative (NY), Baha’i International Community.