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Global Governance

Global Governance

Reforming the United Nations Organization and Redefining Global Governance

Report of the meeting on the reform of the U.N. with the U.N. Secretariat on March 3, 2005

Following the annual Bridge Initiative conference organized in Paris in December 2004 at the FPH and at UNESCO, we contributed to implementing a discussion process between civil-society organizations and multilateral-institution officers in the framework of the reform of the U.N. that will be discussed at the U.N. General Assembly in September 2005.

Several Dialogue and Controversy Tables had been organized on this issue at the WSF in Porto Alegre last January, with Bridge and other partner organizations. During those discussions, on a request from the U.N. representatives who participated in the Dialogue and Controversy Tables, we prepared a meeting in New York with the staff of the Secretary General. The goal was mainly to meet with Robert Orr, who was in charge of drafting the document on the reform of the U.N. that Koffi Annan has just sent to the Heads of State to prepare the discussions of next September’s General Assembly.

The group organized with Bridge comprised: Gus Massiah of the CRID and ATTAC-France, Manuel Manonelles of Ubuntu-Catalonia, Carola Reintjes of IDEAS based in Cordoba-Spain and solidarity-economy-networks facilitator, Kamal Chenoy, Political Science professor at the University J. Nehru in Delhi and member of the Indian Committee of the WSF, Kristin Dawkins of IATP-USA, Mireille Mendès-France for the Bridge Initiative Board, Patrice Barrat as Executive Secretary of Bridge, and Gustavo Marin for the FPH. We also introduced ourselves as members of the International Council of the WSF, but we underscored that we were not there representing the Council.

The objective of the persons representing the U.N. Secretariat was to meet with other organizations than the “conventional” NGOs of the United Nations system.

Several comments can be made on these meetings

• The discussion topics raised by the delegation visibly surprised the U.N. representatives. They explicitly stated that this type of discussion was not usual in meetings with conventional NGOs. In this context, the documents prepared by the delegation were particularly relevant because they postulate a new, more radical, and deeper vision of the U.N. reform in the perspective of a redefinition of global governance.

• We distinctly stated, in particular to Robert Orr, that the U.N. Secretariat is standing before a historic opportunity. The document that he was to send to the Heads of State in view of the General Assembly of September 2005 was not to be a simple compilation of recommendations to reform the system built in the wake of World War II. The reform could not be merely institutional, limited to the reorganization of the Security Council or the establishment of another body, to be called Security and Development. The dimension of our world’s challenges require deeper answers than the simple reorganization of the political system of the United Nations. What is necessary is to lay the foundations for the progressive construction of a legitimate, democratic and effective global governance truly able to deal with the different forms of interdependence among our societies and between humankind and the biosphere.

• We encouraged Robert Orr to draft a strong, direct report. We mentioned the Freedom Charter written by Nelson Mandela in June 1955, which was the founding text of the fight against Apartheid. This reference was repeated many times during the meeting by other officers of Kofi Annan’s staff.

• We also broached other more specific points related to the Cardoso Report and to the report A More Secure World, showing the weaknesses of the analysis and the narrowness of the recommendations.

• Indeed, a heavy atmosphere seems to weigh upon the U.N. staffs in New York. The offensives of the conservative currents stop them from taking initiatives and daring to advance more innovative proposals. In this context, Mark Mulloch Brown, Director of the UNDP and recently promoted as Koffi Annan’s cabinet director to deactivate the conflict between the U.S. government and the Secretary General, expressed his concern that a stronger alliance between U.N. officers and the new civil-society dynamics, as expressed by our delegation, might already be too late with respect to the political projects of the conservative currents to control the U.N. He asserted his wish that these new civil-society dynamics should be heard, but he and all the U.N. officers explained, with some bitterness, that the lethargy of the United Nations system hardly made room for a political and institutional renewal significant enough to meet the challenges.

• Nonetheless, the dialog and discussion process among U.N. officers and the older and newer civil-society organizations is not closed. They completely support the idea of continuing to open doors. They also suggested that we work jointly with the conventional NGOs, but they are aware that as members of the delegation we are intent on keeping the autonomy of an approach in which the General Assembly of September 2005 is merely a step in a longer-term process for the redefinition of global governance.

Main points of the discussion with the United Nations Secretariat

For the participation of the FPH at this meeting in New York, Pierre Calame and Gustavo Marin wrote a two-page memo briefly presenting the main points of the discussion. (See memo: Main Points for the Discussion with the United Nations Secretariat). This memo is extensively inspired from the Charter of Human Responsibilities and the Proposal Paper For an efficient, legitimate, and democratic global governance.

The Citizens’ Report

To follow up on the meeting with the U.N. Secretariat and in the context of the discussion process on the reform of the U.N., the group that was present in New York is considering drawing up a “Citizens Report” inspired by the initiative taken by Anil Agarwal at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992 (see brief: The Citizens’ Report: Background).

All the members of the work group that will draft the Citizens’ Report are to inform previously the various organizations, institutions, networks, etc. of which they are a part in order to enlarge the range of persons and organizations involved in this process and to know who is speaking in the name of whom, thus giving more consistency to the proposals presented in the report.

It will have to be clearly stated that the report is not a closed and final text. Quite the contrary, it is an open text, a working document, intended for improvement thanks to the contribution of many actors of civil-society organizations and citizens’ movements.


Gustavo Marin
Director of the Forum for a New World (...)
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Reforming the U.N. and Redefining Global Governance

-Main Points for the Discussion with the United Nations Secretariat

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