|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fifth General Assembly
Informal Thematic Debate
AM & PM Meetings
Secretary-General Tells General Assembly “While We Are All in the Same Boat, Not
All Have a Say in How to Steer It,’ in Debate on UN in Global Governance
Efficiency Does Not Always Bestow Legitimacy, Says Assembly President;
Legitimacy Is Sole Preserve of Assembly with Its ‘One State, One Voice’ Principle
With gaps in the world’s multilateral frameworks hindering the international community’s ability to comprehensively and equitably meet the most critical global challenges, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for improving the multilateral system’s coherence and efficiency today as the General Assembly convened a day-long informal thematic debate on the United Nations in global governance.
That debate is part of a series of initiatives on global governance by Assembly President Joseph Deiss ( Switzerland), who dedicated the sixty-fifth session to the theme of “reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in global governance”. It follows a number of informal plenary meetings to promote interaction between the Assembly and the Group of Twenty (G-20), in which Member States discussed their views on G-20 activities, agendas and summit outcomes.
Welcoming the emergence of the G-20, which he said had brought developing countries and emerging markets to the table, Mr. Ban suggested that the global economic governance structures that were born more than 60 years ago in a dramatically different world did not adequately reflect current realities.
“While we are all in the same boat, not all have a say in how to steer it,” he said of the current economic architecture, stressing that that was not just a matter of democracy and legitimacy, but a crucially important factor in addressing the many pressing issues currently demanding the world’s attention, such as climate change, food and energy security, migration and tax cooperation.
Although relations between the United Nations and the G-20 had come a long way, he stressed the need for further complementarity between their activities, arguing that global economic governance need not be a zero-sum game. He also stressed that the central role the United Nations had to play in ensuring that all decision-making at the international and national levels could — and would — take into account the needs of the poorest.
He acknowledged that while the United Nations carried a unique legitimacy as the world’s leading universal forum, legitimacy alone was not enough. Coherence in policy-making and standard-setting; efficiency and effectiveness in carrying out work; and accountability for results were all indispensable if the Organization was to earn the confidence of its Member States, he said.
In a similar vein, President Deiss said that while the G-20 had demonstrated its ability to deal quickly and in a coordinated manner with the economic and financial crisis in 2008, questions remained regarding its legitimacy. Stressing that efficiency did not always bestow legitimacy, he suggested that legitimacy was the sole preserve of the General Assembly with its principle of “one State, one voice”.
He underlined, in that context, the importance of finding ways to legitimize the G-20’s decisions, pointing, in particular, to attempts to bring the Group closer to the Assembly. He also highlighted longer-term questions regarding whether the G-20’s system of successive presidencies was compatible with a strategic vision and whether it could ensure coherence.
He said that to ensure that the United Nations also remained relevant to the world in 2025 and beyond, the lessons of the past 60 years had to be learned and the requisite reforms undertaken. “We must dare to be flexible, dare to be innovative in order to ensure that working methods are efficient,” he stressed, adding, however, that it was equally essential to accept that “we cannot have it all”. Indeed, global responses for the common good would necessitate concessions, and the world community must see beyond national positions to the common good, he argued.
During one of two keynote addresses, Pascal Lamy, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, rejected calls to “de-globalize” and lessen interdependence among States in the face of hard-to-manage costs and risks resulting from globalization. Stressing that the capacity to manage global challenges must be increased through better global governance mechanisms, he called for strengthening leadership, legitimacy and efficiency.
In that regard, he offered two avenues for strengthening legitimacy. The first, which occurred at the national level, would give citizens a greater say on matters of importance and incorporate them in national public debates. In that scenario, civil society movements must engage more actively in global issues and institutions, rather than work to globalize local issues. Global institutions should also be held more accountable to parliaments and voters, he said, suggesting that the United Nations could play an important role in that context.
The second avenue for boosting legitimacy required enhancing the United Nations as a forum for reporting and debate, he said. More interaction among the United Nations, the G-20 and specialized agencies was also needed, he said, noting the slow emergence of a “triangle of coherence” among those bodies. Within the triangle, institutions must network in a better way to align the global governance structure inherited from the Second World War with today’s interdependence, he stressed.
Underlining the need for reform within the United Nations, Danilo Türk, President of Slovenia, said the Organization was nowhere near a new “San Francisco moment” and would gradually have to change. Yet, “changing gradually does not necessarily mean minimally or timidly,” he said. In that regard, he argued that the United Nations reform agenda must address the four “Rs”: rebalancing the Security Council; refocusing the General Assembly; recalibrating the Economic and Social Council; and reinforcing the Human Rights Council.
He particularly stressed that the time had come to move towards decisions on the proposals for Security Council reform and voiced support for an expansion to 25 total members, with greater numbers of permanent members and more frequent rotation among a category of non-permanent members. The Assembly should also make better use of plenary debates, reduce the burden of committee work, rationalize the number of requests for reports from the Secretary-General and strengthen the authority of its President.
Debate during a morning panel on “Economic global governance: from rapid response to medium- and long-term planning” emphasized the global economic system’s current vulnerability, which participants said was deepened by the 2008 crisis. Speakers from developed and developing countries stressed that States must guard against lapsing into “old habits and mindsets”. Several suggested that, among other things, a strengthened and transparent Economic and Social Council must take a lead role in that work and be given a political prominence on par with the Security Council.
During the afternoon panel, entitled “The United Nations in 2025 — How can the United Nations remain relevant in addressing tomorrow’s global challenges?”, some speakers voiced doubts about the Economic and Social Council’s capacity to take on such a strong role. Amid calls for increased multilateralism, a few speakers underlined the need to move beyond purely Government action to a regime that equitably included all stakeholders. A number of delegations also stressed that the Security Council must become more representative if it hoped to be remain relevant.
The General Assembly met this morning to hold a thematic debate on global governance as part of a series of initiatives on the topic by Assembly President Joseph Deiss.
A background paper available to delegations ahead of the meeting recalls that the general debate of the fifty-sixth session in September 2010 had been dedicated to the topic of “reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in global governance”. In that spirit, the Assembly President had convened several informal plenary meetings to promote constructive interaction between the Assembly and the Group of Twenty (G-20), which provided an informal platform for discussion.
In December 2010, the Assembly adopted a resolution on “The United Nations in Global Governance”. It recognized the need for inclusive, transparent and effective multilateral approaches to manage global challenges. It also reaffirmed the central role of the United Nations in ongoing efforts to find common solutions. The resolution requested the Secretary-General to submit at the next Assembly session a report focusing on global economic governance and development.
Also according to the Assembly President’s paper, the emphasis on global economic governance reflects the high attention of Member States to the tremendous challenges, the rapid changes and the new actors of today’s global economy. The 2008 global financial and economic crisis highlighted, among other things, the increasing interdependent nature of the global economy, its effect on almost all countries and the inter-linkages between the different economic policy spheres, such as trade, investment, capital and financial products and employment.
The objectives of today’s thematic debate are to contribute to discussions on ways to strengthen the multilateral institutional and intergovernmental framework on global governance, particularly global economic governance. It also aims to provide inputs to the report on global governance that was being prepared by the Secretary-General for presentation at the Assembly’s sixty-sixth session.
General Assembly President JOSEPH DEISS ( Switzerland) said that with the world at a “watershed point,” global governance systems that were effective representative and inclusive were more necessary than ever. Indeed, the world was being changed by three substantive movements that could no longer be ignored.
First, today’s global challenges and threats had increasingly global dimensions and required a collective, coordinated response. Second, demographic, economic and political adjustments were under way. Third, in its attempt to meet those new realties, the architecture of global governance was becoming increasingly fragmented and complex, as seen in the growing marginalization of traditional multilateral institutions and a proliferation of ad hoc groupings and initiatives. As a result, the emerging system was, as yet, incapable of finding answers to the critical questions on the world community’s agenda.
Against that backdrop, he said he had proposed a global debate on “reaffirming the central role of the United Nations in global governance”. While comments from Heads of State and Government during the Assembly’s general debate in 2010 had underscored the United Nations as the central forum of global debate, those had stressed that the Organization, to be capable of playing that role, must undertake urgent reforms. It was hoped that today’s discussion would be a useful contribution to the world debate on global governance. To that end, he would formulate a set of conclusions to serve as a reference document.
Turning to the day’s programme, he said the first round table would enable a discussion on international economic global governance, addressing, in particular, the international community’s capacity to go beyond crisis management and to formulate and put into place strategies of balance and durable global economic growth. The Group of Twenty major economies had demonstrated its ability to deal quickly and in a coordinated manner with the economic and financial crisis in 2008, but questions remained regarding its legitimacy. Indeed, efficiency did not always bestow legitimacy; that legitimacy was the sole preserve of the General Assembly with its principle of “one State, one voice”. He further underlined the importance of finding ways to legitimize the G-20’s decisions, pointing, in particular, to attempts to bring that Group closer to the Assembly.
He stressed too that the G-20 was at a critical stage regarding global strategic leadership. The French presidency of the Group had proposed several very pertinent fields, including economic imbalances, agricultural prices, food security, development, employment and social protection floors. Longer-term questions included whether the G-20’s system of successive presidencies was compatible with a strategic vision and whether it could ensure coherence.
At the intergovernmental level, there were several other questions regarding the role of United Nations economic entities, he said. Among them was how the Economic and Social Council could be strengthened and made into an essential actor in global economic governance. Another touched on how mandates could be better coordinated across the United Nations agencies and programmes. In looking ahead to 2025 and reflecting on how the United Nations could remain relevant to meeting future global challenges, the afternoon round table had a visionary ambition, as it dealt with a wide range of questions and sought to identify the type of global challenges that the world would face and the types of global entities needed. The debate must address the inclusion of non-state actors.
To ensure that the United Nations remained relevant to the world in 2025 and beyond, he said the lessons of the past 60 years had to be learned and the requisite reforms undertaken. “We must dare to be flexible, dare to be innovative in order to ensure that working methods are efficient.” In that, however, it was equally essential to accept that “we cannot have it all”. Indeed, global responses for the common good would necessitate concessions, and the world community must see beyond national positions to the common good. In that regard, the fight against climate change was the best example, he said.
Noting that economist Dani Rodrik, in his last work on globalization, had described the tensions between the sovereign State, democracy and globalization as the political “trilemma” of the global economy, Mr. Deiss stressed the need to “square the circle” in today’s interactive discussion.
United Nations Secretary-General BAN KI-MOON said that over the past two decades, the world economy had undergone a major transformation. Economic growth had lifted many boats, while capital had flowed in great abundance to emerging markets and developing countries, helping to generate double-digit growth rates. In turn, developing countries had started playing a much bigger role in the global economy.
But there was also a downside, he pointed out, as not all countries had shared in the benefits. “While we are all in the same boat, not all have a say in how to steer it,” he said. Global economic governance structures did not adequately reflect the changing world, as most had been shaped more than 60 years ago in a dramatically different world. There had been steps in the right direction, but the growing weight of developing economies and emerging markets in the global economy was not sufficiently reflected in those and other decision-making bodies.
“This is not just a matter of democracy and legitimacy; it is a crucially important factor in being able to address the many pressing issues that demand our attention”, he said, including climate change, food and energy security, migration, tax cooperation and much more. “We must do more to improve the coherence and efficiency of the multilateral system so that it is equipped to address these challenges”.
For its part, the United Nations, as the leading universal forum, carried a unique legitimacy, he said. But legitimacy alone was not enough. Coherence in policy-making and standard-setting; efficiency and effectiveness in carrying out work; and accountability for results were all indispensable if the United Nations was to earn the confidence of its Member States. The emergence of the Group of Twenty was a welcome development, which had brought emerging markets and developing countries to the table. Relations between the United Nations and the G-20 had come a long way and he had worked hard to ensure complementarity between their activities. “I have always argued that we can work in a mutually supportive way,” he stressed.
To its credit, the G-20 had regularly interacted informally with the Assembly, he said, which had enabled the United Nations to enhance the visibility of the world’s poor. But the United Nations also had a central role to play in ensuring that all decision-making at the international and national levels could — and would — take into account the needs of the poorest. To do that, it needed the tools to keep pace with fast-changing economic realities, which was why the United Nations was working to develop cutting-edge capacity to ensure that well-targeted actions reached the most vulnerable.
“Global economic governance need not be a zero-sum game,” he said. Every multilateral institution and grouping had something important to contribute and it was within their power to make it a positive-sum game, based on a division of labour that made the best use of comparative advantages. The test — for any group of any size — hinged on what it did to address the world’s challenges. Indeed, gaps in multilateral frameworks had hindered the ability to comprehensively and equitably meet the tests of the times. Yet, he was confident that with the right amount of soul-searching, partnership and determination, “we can build a United Nations that plays its rightful and necessary role in global economic governance”.
DANILO TÜRK, President of Slovenia, describing the current debate as legitimate and necessary, reaffirmed that the United Nations remained, more than ever, a major forum for collective political discussion and policymaking. With the recent appointment of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to a second term, the current debate should serve to help him develop useful ideas and effective measures to improve the multilateral system.
He stressed that “improvement of the international system is clearly needed in a world where challenges are growing increasingly complex and interrelated”, highlighting, in that regard, the increasing centrality to the global security landscape of non-traditional threats to international peace and security, as well as their role in growing social disintegration. While the world had pulled back from the abyss of a global economic meltdown in 2008, it had subsequently moved into a period of great uncertainty and uneven development. Meanwhile, the major challenge of global warming had not yet been effectively addressed, and the global state of human rights remained unsatisfactory.
Undoubtedly, that state of affairs was unsatisfactory, he said, pointing to the conclusions of the World Economic Forum’s 2011 Global Risks Report, which identified the interconnected risks of economic disparity and failure in global governance as particularly significant challenges for the international community. In fact, the report characterized global governance as a failure. While the perception of failure created by the Doha Round of trade negotiations and the Copenhagen negotiations on climate change might be unfair and unjustified, it created a real and corrosive effect on the entire understanding of what global governance was and what it could achieve. Notably, the report suggested that the same conditions that made global governance crucial were also making it exceedingly difficult. Those included divergent interests, conflicting incentives, differing values and norms.
He suggested that any discussion of global governance must adhere to two parameters — namely, avoiding the illusion that global governance could be divorced from the reality of nation States and that United Nations Member States must consider both their national governance tasks and their international responsibilities. There was no alternative to the collective actions of States as the only path to better global governance. In fact, the fear of a distant danger could be combined with a “creative utopia”, which yielded real breakthroughs, as when the United Nations was founded and when the World Trade Organization first took shape. However, the latter example indicated that institutional progress and real achievement in some areas did not always guarantee the success of a larger project.
In that vein, he pointed to important lessons for the United Nations and, underlining the need for reform, said that the Organization was nowhere near a new “San Francisco moment” and would gradually have to change. Yet, “changing gradually does not necessarily mean minimally or timidly”. Indeed, the time for a high ambition level was approaching, requiring that the reform agenda address the four “Rs”: rebalancing the Security Council; refocusing the General Assembly; recalibrating the Economic and Social Council; and reinforcing the Human Rights Council.
In particular, he stressed that the time had come to move towards decisions on the proposals for Security Council reform. To that end, he voiced support for an expansion to 25 of permanent members and a category of non-permanent members with more frequent rotation. To achieve more and better focus in its deliberation, the Assembly should make better use of plenary debates, reduce the burden of committee work, rationalize the number of requests for reports from the Secretary-General and strengthen the authority of its President. It should also develop more creative cooperation with other principal organs, including the Economic and Social Council, which must pursue organized and systematic interaction with the G-20. Further investment in the Human Rights Council was also needed, particularly in its ability to deal with human rights challenges resulting directly from the lack of economic and social development, he added.
Delivering the second keynote address, PASCAL LAMY, Director-General of the World Trade Organization, said that while the world’s openness had brought about benefits and opportunities, it also entailed costs and risks, which “we have a lot of problems managing”. There was a gap between States’ ability to tackle challenges stemming from their interdependence and, at the same time, harness the benefits resulting from globalization. To fill that gap, “which I think is the real question”, he said that, in theory, States could work on both sides. The first option, as argued by some, would be for States to “de-globalize”, or lessen their interdependence, which he did not think was either possible or desirable. The real engine of globalization was technological progress, which could not be reversed. “Who would want to give up the benefits that come with globalization?” he asked.
The other option was to increase the capacity to manage global challenges through better global governance mechanisms, he said, which required strengthening leadership, legitimacy and efficiency. Global governance could not replicate national governance systems. Legitimacy was inversely proportional to distance and the challenge was to deal with “non-accountable, not directly challengeable” decision-making at the global level. International organizations provided only for “secondary legitimacy”; as opposed to “primary legitimacy” conferred by the direct participation of citizens. In theory, States could make up for that discrepancy by creating a sense of solidarity through common values, however, that sense of solidarity did not yet exist on a global scale.
He went on to say that legitimacy had been hampered by the Westphalian Order and the sovereign States that came with it. They often lacked coherence and resisted transferring jurisdiction to others in an international setting. Decision-making at the international level required long, painful negotiations marked by repetitive delays and obscure bargaining. The question of leadership required identifying a leader. Such constraints were real but not ineluctable, and decision-making could be improved at the same time as preserving the principle of State equality.
He saw two avenues for strengthening legitimacy, saying that could happen at the national level by giving citizens a greater say on matters of importance and incorporating them into the national public debate. Civil society movements must engage more actively in global issues and institutions, rather than work to globalize local issues. Global institutions must be held more accountable to parliaments and voters and the United Nations could play an important role in that regard, given its remarkably positive reception. “This is an asset of the United Nations which is undervalued and underexploited”, he said.
Enhancing the United Nations as a forum for reporting and debate would help improve its legitimacy, he continued. A better articulation of the elements of international governance was needed, as was more interaction among the United Nations, the G-20 and specialized agencies — the “triangle of coherence” — which was slowly emerging. Specialized agencies had contributed to G-20 deliberations, while the Assembly President had organized other debates, which were positive. Within the triangle, institutions must network in a better way to align the global governance structure inherited from the Second World War with today’s interdependence.
Turning to the Economic and Social Council, he said that body had a pivotal role to play in global governance. A strong Council was essential to balancing the two other sides of the triangle. It must be turned into a body that carried the same political prominence as the Security Council, as its issues constituted the real foundation of peace in a globalized world, which was very different than 60 years ago, when the concept of security was much narrower. It must be tasked to assess the overall state of the global economy, provide policy direction for promoting sustainable development and a genuine forum for reporting, debate and coherence-setting. Its reform was the gateway to adapting the United Nations mission to today’s reality of interdependence.
Panel Discussion 1
The first panel, on “Economic global governance: from rapid response to medium- and long-term planning”, was moderated by Assembly President Deiss and featured two panellists: Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, Member of the Federal Parliament and former Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany; and Amar Bhattacharya, Director of the Group of 24 (G-24) Secretariat, Washington, D.C.
Launching the panel, Ms. WIECZOREK-ZEUL discussed the diverging macroeconomic positions within the G-20, saying that uncertainties had increased over the last year. While some countries had seen “statistical recovery”, growth had been geographically uneven. Some European countries were struggling with high debt, which endangered integration, while the United States continued to battle high unemployment. Developing nations suffered from high food prices, threatening the fulfilment of the Millennium Development Goals.
Another problem — youth unemployment — called for a decent work agenda, she said, noting that global income inequalities had grown during the economic crisis as a result of neo-liberal policies. “In every country, people feel left behind,” she said, typified by protests in several regions. A sense of solidarity had existed, but amid the growing inequalities — including within countries — it had even fewer chances of surviving. People were asking themselves: “who pays the bill?” A financial transaction tax would answer the hopes of the global South and North alike; it was an instrument of solidarity.
Against that backdrop, the United Nations must take up its responsibility for shaping the response, she said, underscoring that ongoing processes — including Rio+20 and the Millennium Development Goals — were “not at all” sequenced nor viewed in a holistic, coherent manner. A new approach to governance must be found that incorporated such activities. The Stiglitz Commission, of which she had been a member, had argued for the creation of a systemic risks panel to enable the United Nations “not to lose influence” in processes being taken up by the G-20. It should be pluralistic, independent and analyse the causes and impacts of the crisis. It could be a “clearing house” for regulatory reform.
As for the Economic and Social Council, she said “we have to take decisions”, and it was important to shape the Council in a way that would allow it to take up economic, social and environmental matters in a coherent manner. Regions should be represented at the highest level and cooperate with civil society.
Addressing economic global governance from a developing country perspective, Mr. BHATTACHARYA said “we are at a moment of change”, with three forces altering the context of global economic governance: a “remarkable” structural transformation in the global economy; growing interdependence; and the increasing breadth and complexity of issues to tackle in the economic sphere.
Turning first to structural transformation, he said many had argued that the gap between developing and developed countries would only increase. But the reality was that, since the 1990s, developing countries had grown two times faster than developed nations — and it was not a story of China and India alone. Before and after the 2008 crisis, the developing world growth was robust, with 90 of 150 developing countries growing by more than 5 per cent annually, many in sub-Saharan Africa.
Second, there were various aspects of the growing interdependence among States, he said, noting that an interdependence based on climate and the scarcity of resources was emerging after the crisis. The future would likely see developing countries grow by between 5 and 6 per cent, which would strain natural resource management. As for the increasing breadth and complexity of the agenda, the challenges included sustaining growth, addressing the financial and structural imbalances in that growth, and tackling the pervasive issue of employment. Other issues that had come to the fore were financial regulation and commodity market development, including its spillover effects on energy and security.
The G-20 had been tentative on issues of trade, tax cooperation, climate change and migration, which pointed to a global governance agenda that had outgrown its institutions, he said. While the United Nations had been “extremely” successful in setting well-defined targets, its mechanisms were now inadequate to deal with crises, break logjams in finance, trade and climate, or further, to reform itself. Likewise, while the G-20’s first crisis response had been “quite spectacular”, it was unclear whether it could now step up to other challenges.
Amid those developments, it was important not to shift decision-making from the United Nations to the G-20, he said, adding that he had long advocated that the G-20 needed much stronger links to the United Nations as the world’s most legitimate body. While there had been significant progress on that front, the United Nations must now determine its strategic agenda in its engagement with the G-20. It must be the voice for reform and inclusion, especially through the Economic and Social Council.
In the ensuing debate, representatives from developed and developing countries explored the economic, social and environmental aspects of global governance, with many stressing that the 2008 crisis had deepened the vulnerability of the global economic system. The economic governance architecture could no longer deal with new challenges and the outlook for all growth engines was uncertain. Developed countries faced slow growth prospects and high unemployment, while emerging markets were overheating. Such imbalances had undermined efforts to eradicate poverty. The price of rice, one representative pointed out, had jumped by 127 per cent, creating huge social tensions and spurring protests for the right to a dignified life.
Amid such events, States must guard against lapsing into “old habits and mindsets”, speakers said. Interests were mutually interdependent and work must be undertaken in an inclusive manner, first and foremost, to further the development agenda. For its part, the United Nations should continue to play a central role in cooperation for development and give greater priority in the international agenda to development. A strengthened and transparent Economic and Social Council must take a lead role in that work and be given a political prominence on par with the Security Council.
Still other participants emphasized that international bodies like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) should enhance their development work, increase resources for development and launch more development projects. The G-20 should prioritize development in its deliberations, strengthen its cooperation with the United Nations and provide a global development agenda with stronger political impetus and a better institutional guarantee. The legitimacy of both the United Nations and the G-20 was tied to their ability to deal with a new and complex set of issues and actors, including civil society.
Finally, several speakers underscored that States must work better together to create a free, open and equitable global trade environment.
Responding to the point that development problems had outgrown the institutional system to address them, Mr. TÜRK said that those remarks were not entirely true. The Millennium Development Goals had been derived from decades of experience and were here to stay. He also wondered whether the issue of coherence could be discussed without having a clear norm-setting agenda. Topics such as environmental and social standards, tax policy, and all matters of a regulatory nature, must be at the forefront of the discussion.
To other comments, he said the Basel system’s Financial Stability Board had produced results, lent confidence to the global financial sector and helped policy-making coherence. There were problems that must be addressed, however, including debt restructuring. He explored how to deal with that question in a global context, saying that additional institutional arrangements should be maintained and supported. The question was whether something more should be expected from them.
Mr. LAMY said he did not consider the “complexity” of issues at hand a problem. While it was true that the number of issues and actors, and their heterogeneity, made the system complex, there had been a huge transformation in the policy debate as compared to 30 years ago, as now there was not much disagreement about proper development policy. Taxing financial transactions, open trade and the notion that global capital markets were volatile and contained systemic risks — all highly controversial matters 10 years ago — were commonly acknowledged today. The issue was that the convergence of views had not been recognized politically, which was why there was “constipation” in the system.
On the “new world financial institution” — the Basel system — he said it had become a major institution. It was comprised of central bankers and regulators, who “did not ask for visibility”, as they dealt with extremely sensitive topics. “It works better when they are independent,” he said, underlining that the world must cope with a new animal: a body independent from political instructions, but which might have a huge bearing on global governance.
Ms. WIECZOREK-ZEUL agreed that the composition of the Financial Stability Board was problematic, saying that there must be a structure in the United Nations whereby people could influence such decisions. She was not against the G-20 but thought it necessary to have a mechanism that dealt with the poorest countries, especially African countries. As a development minister, she always had attended the Economic and Social Council meetings. The problem was maintaining high-level participation in that forum.
Rounding out the discussion, Mr. BHATTACHARYA said that at a technical level, the Financial Stability Board could be viewed as a best practice, as its participants were independent and relatively inclusive in getting best expertise to the table. The question focused on to whom they were accountable: the G-20. That grouping must become a universal body. On other issues, he said the United Nations must “raise the bar” on development, underscoring that the Millennium Development Goals must be considered after 2015 — meaning that they must be recalibrated. Infrastructure, agriculture and climate must be a particular focus, and global savings — including in the global South — must be used more wisely to scale-up development in those areas.
Speaking in that discussion were the representatives of Argentina (on behalf of the Group of 77 developing countries and China), France, Singapore (on behalf of the Global Governance Group, 3G), China, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Congo, United Kingdom, Morocco, Iran, Nepal, Pakistan, Costa Rica, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Chile, Liechtenstein and Venezuela.
A representative of the delegation of the European Union also spoke.
A representative of the Third World Network also made comments.
Panel Discussion 2
The second panel discussion, on “The United Nations in 2025 — How can the United Nations remain relevant in addressing tomorrow’s global challenges?”, was moderated by Mr. Deiss and featured four panellists: Celso Amorim, former Foreign Minister of Brazil; Ramesh Thakur, Professor of International Relations at Australian National University, Australia; Richard H. Stanley, Chairman of the Stanley Foundation, Iowa; and Adekeye Adebajo, Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution at the University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Kicking off the panel, Mr. AMORIM said the current topic was somewhat optimistically constructed, given its use of the word “remain” in the context of the United Nations continuing relevance. Nonetheless, the crucial word was “relevant”, despite persistent questions as to how relevant the United Nations was in many spheres. For his part, he saw many instances in which the Organization was quite important, including its work in Haiti, among other examples. However, there were many recent instances in which United Nations efforts did not seem as relevant. Citing one example, he said he did not know “what the Economic and Social Council was doing today”. Indeed, was the Council discussing the crisis in Greece — namely whether that crisis was local or global in scope?
He suggested that looking at the United Nations from the outside could offer a fresh perspective on calls for reform. In that context, he stressed that reforming the Security Council was not only a question of changing its composition, but of how it worked. Recently, Brazil had participated in a Council debate even as its members worked in a completely opaque manner. In light of that example, legitimacy could be summarized in two ways: inclusiveness and transparency. Yet, the Council’s current composition meant it was not only undemocratic, but had created a kind of vicious atmosphere inside the Council itself. Further, the bargaining among the Council’s five permanent members was sometimes even alien to the topic allegedly under discussion.
Turning to global economic governance issues, he said that while he did not like the G-20, he preferred it to the G-8 (Group of Eight). The latter did not have legitimacy, and it had taken an enormous financial crisis for countries to understand that fact. But while the G-20 was certainly more representative than the G-7 (Group of Seven) or the G-8, it would be very good for the world if the G-20 became more African, as it could then discuss political issues.
He said he was not advocating replacing formal structure with informal structures. But given the well-known difficulties of reforming those formal structures, it was time to consider changes from the outside, as had occurred when the G-20 urged changes to the International Monetary Fund’s quota system. As work for Security Council reform continued, political debate must not be totally sequestered by five countries, since that situation benefited no one. He also encouraged the Economic and Social Council to discuss the most important economic and social issues, rather than simply functioning as the body that elected the membership of other United Nations organs and programmes.
Next, Mr. THAKUR said a growing number and types of actors in world affairs had to grapple with an increasingly networked, deeply intertwined, but also more fragmented world. For its part, the United Nations had been centre stage in, among other things, preventing conflicts, championing human rights, liberating the colonized, organizing elections, empowering women, educating children, feeding the hungry, housing refugees and coordinating disaster relief and emergency assistance. However, it had recently demonstrated three significant shortcomings, including failing to prevent illegal wars of aggression or to punish those responsible, or to come to the defence of countries under attack, which had every right to expect United Nations assistance. It also had failed to use authorized force to protect civilians from being attacked during armed hostilities.
Urging reliability, predictability and consistency in taking timely and decisive collective action in solving global problems and in anticipating future challenges, he nevertheless noted the challenges posed by knowledge, normative, policy, institutional and compliance gaps. Indeed, global governance faced several obstacles, including, among other things, disconnects between the distribution of decision-making authority and of real power in the world.
As noted earlier in the debate, there were also gaps between legitimacy and efficiency, he said. The very feature that gave the United Nations its legitimacy — universal membership — often made it a less-than-effective body at implementing decisions. Together, those gaps disempowered, disenabled and de-capacitated joint decision-making. The main challenge lay in how to empower, enable and re-capacitate the United Nations as the central actor in global governance.
Looking at the “three Asian giants”, he said two were not members of the Security Council and two were not members of the G-8. To some extent, those gaps had been redressed in the G-20, but that Group was at risk of, among other things, falling victim to “photo-ops”. Perhaps more importantly, however, the G-20 must not be seen as substitute for or a competitor to the United Nations; rather it must be a complement. Yet whichever body positioned itself better as the “hub of networked global governance” would inevitably prove more legitimate in the future.
To that end, he argued that that the Security Council’s “P-5” members must expanded to a “P-10,” while its “E-10” must be widened to an “E-15”. The General Assembly should also be re-capacitated and reinvigorated by increasing its President’s capacity and authority and endowing the body with a co-equal role in choosing the Secretary-General. The Assembly should also play a role fashioning the next global development agenda. Finally, the growing perception that the International Criminal Court was being subverted by the Security Council’s permanent five members to their own ends also must be addressed.
Mr. STANLEY said the world in which the United Nations would operate in the future required multidimensional governance. The nexus for good and durable answers on global governance must account for three different matrices — namely, the governmental structures, intergovernmental and civil society structures, and the private sector. Furthermore, global threats to preservation demanded a much more effective global organization than what had previously existed. Indeed, to a certain extent, the United Nations lived in the past.
With the stakes for dealing with global survival issues higher than ever, the need for global governance was also greater, he said, stressing that the debate must extend beyond the United Nations. The first and urgent need was for all actors to internalize and work from a genuine global perspective. Human survival, dignity and decency depended on moving forward with a global win-win perspective, and while it was unclear if the human species could do that, the future depended on it.
Principled multilateralism — which was sometimes called “messy” multilateralism or “multi-multilateralism” — was and should be the central tenet of the United Nations, he said. Concerns over the rising prominence of the “G” groupings were misguided since those groups served as “consensus incubators”. Underlining the concepts involved in the United Nations “delivering as one” campaign, he suggested they would strengthen the Organization’s efficiency and coherence. He also called for a new definition of consensus, which did not require unanimity. Indeed, small groups should not be allowed to block collective goals.
Among other specific reforms, he said the Security Council should be made more reflective of the world’s current circumstances, while the General Assembly should step back from its tendency to micromanage the Secretariat. The United Nations was designed to be highly decentralized, and that fact must be recognized. Moreover, one key role of the United Nations was helping nations define their common interest, from which common solutions often sprang. Time would tell if humanity could move quickly enough to build, strengthen and apply the global governance required to meet future challenges, he concluded.
Mr. ADEBAJO said it was time to move the debate to the extreme left, if not politically, then geographically. Indeed, while it was important to support the Economic and Social Council, it must be remembered that the United Nations played a very small role in that arena. Thus, his comments would focus on the Organization’s peacekeeping efforts.
He said the five veto-wielding members of the “anachronistic” Security Council reflected a power structure that no longer existed, and he thus recommended that body’s urgent democratization. Indeed, it was a scandal that Africa and Latin America remained the only unrepresented regions among that body’s permanent members. Despite the importance of past calls for a 10-year capacity-building plan, subsequent support tended to be ad hoc, he added.
Against that backdrop, he underlined, among other things, the need to establish effective division of labour between the United Nations and regional organizations. Strategies to deal with regional spoilers should also be developed. Noting the outsized role played by the Council’s Permanent Five in African peacekeeping activities and pointing to their failings as well as their successes, he likened some of them to “pyromaniac firemen”. At the same time, the growing role of China must not be ignored; that included the complex of challenges and opportunities posed in that nation’s actions on the continent.
He further stressed that resources must be more equitably spread to ensure that that billions did not go to the so-called “rich men’s wars” while a fraction went to the wars in Africa. In addition, the international community must refine the toolkit it used to address the role of spoilers; its efforts must include more positive tools. Echoing earlier comments on changing perceptions about the International Criminal Court, he said that while Africa believed in justice, that justice must not be selective. Africa must not be treated like a guinea pig, giving the impression that it was the only continent experiencing human rights abuses.
In the ensuing discussion, speakers underscored the tensions in delineating how formal multilateral institutions like the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund worked with more informal organizations, as well as the private sector and non-governmental organizations. Highlighting worries that those latter groups were “encroaching” on the work and mandate of the United Nations, one representative stressed that such a territorial attitude would not help solve global problems.
Echoing the panellists’ remarks, some speakers voiced particular concerns about the work and mandate of the Economic and Social Council. India’s representative said if that body, as Mr. AMORIM had suggested, addressed the Greek crisis, its “total irrelevance” would have stood out. He said the Council had retained a certain utility when it functioned as the electoral college of the Human Rights Council. However, it was time to take a serious look at its purpose and possible future.
Concerning the Security Council, he said the current political dispensation must give way before any political change took place. Noting his country’s current membership on the Council, he also asked if the United Nations could remain blind to the fact that 70 per cent of the Council’s meetings over the last six months had been on Africa, but that that body had no single permanent African member.
Mr. THAKUR said there was a sense that globalization had brought benefits in underwriting global prosperity, but its record had been uneven and had even produced damaging consequences. There was a need for countermeasures that emphasized safety nets, among other things, and the United Nations was the most competent house in which to address those issues. He thought that would remain the case, in part because its record had shown policy innovations and organizational learning.
At the same time, he said: “We delude ourselves if we deny there is a crisis of credibility in the United Nations performance”. There was criticism that the United Nations existed so that States, unable to do things individually, could get together and decide that nothing could be done collectively. Likewise, there was a risk of concluding that, without Security Council reform, United Nations decisions would be legal but increasingly illegitimate.
Mr. STANLEY said that several interventions had recognized that “multilateralism is messy”. There was no clear-cut, single way of deciding upon solutions when there was disarray over the direction in which to move. The only way to make progress was to keep looking for opportunities. He was not optimistic that giant steps would be taken to reform the United Nations. Rather, change would be characterized by moves to make it function in the best manner it could.
Mr. ADEBAJO, recalling that Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva had observed that the 2008 crisis had been caused by “blue-eyed men with blonde hair who saw themselves as masters of the universe”, wondered about the future of the International Monetary Fund. If the message was that an American would head the World Bank and a European the Fund, “we are perpetuating a global apartheid”. He was surprised that no one had focused on that point, considering that Dominique Strauss-Kahn had made clear he would be the last European in that position for a while. Those issues must be put on the table.
When the floor was opened again, one delegate noted that the challenges today were the same as those 100 years ago: equitable, sustainable development and international peace and security. The difference was that they now were characterized by the rapid onset of consequences. Multilateralism required moving beyond purely Government action to a regime that equitably included all stakeholders.
On that point, Germany’s representative underscored the need for a clear division of labour among international agencies, saying that actions must be results-oriented. In those efforts, the United Nations must remain firmly at the centre of the international system, said Brazil’s delegate, noting that the Organization had been criticized as ineffective, even called a “talk shop” and “waste of money”. To preserve its legitimacy, it must reflect changing realities. The entire membership must show the political will towards that goal, added Montenegro’s representative.
In closing remarks, Mr. ADEBAJO said that for Security Council reform, “you need representation”, urging that a seat be given to the European Union, “even if there’s no immediate prospect of that”. Japan and Germany also should be on the Council.
He noted that press reports had recently shown that 70 per cent of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)’s resources went to its salaries and administrations. Also, the billions of dollars spent on peacekeeping operations were used for the missions themselves, rather than on peacebuilding. Those issues must be addressed.
Mr. THAKUR said widespread perceptions of illegitimacy and secretive procedures at the United Nations would lead to damaging consequences for the Security Council. It was important to address those issues. Another pathology that should be tackled was the propensity to introduce fresh resolutions as solutions to problems like a lack of implementation. Procedures and structures must be examined that would allow for implementing decisions.
Mr. AMORIM said he was optimistic in the long-run, but pessimistic in the short-run. He was optimistic about humanity. The main demand expressed in Arab streets, for example, was for “dignity”. That was extremely important, and sooner or later, would be reflected in institutions. Institutional reforms, even when there were moral considerations, were dictated frequently by domestic urges to show that “we are doing something”, rather than a reflection on the most effective way of pursuing objectives.
Closing the informal thematic debate, President DEISS said today’s deliberations would feed into the Secretary-General’s report on global governance, which would be submitted to the Assembly’s sixty-sixth session. Highlighting various ideas, he said wide consensus had been reached on the need to improve the global governance system. There appeared to be a basic tension between the global nature of challenges and the preferences of sovereign States. The system must find a balance among the pillars of the “triangle of coherence”: leadership, legitimacy and efficiency.
Regarding global economic governance, he urged moving beyond crisis management to address economic disparities. The Economic and Social Council was an important potential actor, which could serve as a bridge with the G-20. But it must be reformed. As for the United Nations as a whole, he recalled “the four Rs”, underscoring the need to rebalance the Security Council, refocus the General Assembly, recalibrate the Economic and Social Council and reinforce the Human Rights Council.
Also speaking in the debate this afternoon were the representatives of New Zealand, Philippines, Japan, Lebanon, Brazil, Egypt, Mexico, United States and Singapore (on behalf of the Global Governance Group).
A representative of the World Federalist Movement also spoke.
* *** *For information media • not an official record