Deadly heat waves, extreme droughts, hurricanes and flooding: Climate extremes have been relentless, while the COVID-19 pandemic is threatening health and deepening inequalities. To tackle such existential global challenges, be prepared for unforeseeable risks in the future and to strengthen international cooperation, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres provides the international community with an ambitious vision and innovative proposals. In his report “Our Common Agenda”, he outlines concrete actions and calls upon Member States to find new ways to work together for the common good.
As current and future challenges are interconnected, across borders and all other divides, Guterres centers his report “Our Common Agenda” around the objective to strengthen interconnected responses. The report responds to a mandate given to him as Secretary General of the UN by Member States on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the United Nations in September 2020. The General Assembly resolution and the “Our Common Agenda” report build on the year-long global UN75 listening exercise regarding priorities and expectations for international cooperation, involving more than 1.5 million people from 193 countries which the Robert Bosch Stiftung supported. In preparation of his report, Secretary-General Guterres engaged with Member States, reached out to thought leaders, academia and civil-society groups and asked young thinkers to contribute.
Breakdown or breakthrough?
Guterres outlines two contrasting futures: one of breakdown and perpetual crisis, another in which there is a breakthrough toward an international system which can deliver for people and the planet. His vision for the future of global collaboration is driven by the concept of solidarity – putting emphasis on the fact that we are bound to each other and that no community or country can solve its challenges alone. His report hence calls for a stronger commitment to solidarity at national level, between generations and in the multilateral system itself.
Ensuring no one is left behind: António Guterres report "Our Common Agenda" calls upon Member States to find new ways to work together for the common good.
„In light of the existential threats humanity faces, Secretary-General António Guterres in his report “Our Common Agenda” calls for national and global solidarity, a consensus on global public goods, and concerted action. His proposals envision a renewal of the international governance required to provide solutions, with the United Nations at its heart“, says Sandra Breka, CEO of the Robert Bosch Stiftung.
The report includes recommendations responding to all 12 commitments from the General Assembly resolution. Guterres’ proposals evolve around rebuilding trust through renewed social contracts anchored in human rights to ensure no one is left behind. To be able to achieve this, the Secretary-General encourages all countries to engage in national listening consultations to hear citizens’ voices on their visions of the future. The Secretary-General puts strong emphasis on providing young people avenues for political engagement and meaningful participation. A repurposed Trusteeship Council should serve as a multi-stakeholder forum to act on behalf of succeeding generations.
Upgrading the UN to the new era
At the center of a changing multilateral system, it is inevitable that the UN is renewed and upgraded. As a way forward, and in order to improve the governance of global commons and global public goods the Secretary-General seeks to engage the organization with a broader range of stakeholders that include non-state actors like civil society. In this context, he also introduces a new agenda for peace, a Global Digital Compact, as well as a Biennial Summit between him, members of the Group of 20 and of the Economic and Social Council, and the heads of the international financial institutions to create a more sustainable and resilient global economy.
The report also points towards more far-reaching governance improvements: Leading the way could be the proposal of a high-level, multi-stakeholder “Summit of the Future”, to be held at the 78th session of the General Assembly in 2023. For this purpose, Secretary-General Guterres will entrust a High-level Advisory Board, led by former Heads of State and Government, to identify the relevant global public goods and areas of common interest warranting governance improvements.
“The report also challenges stakeholders across all sectors to commit and to cooperate with a renewed sense of urgency.”
To cater for today’s context of collective action, “Our Common Agenda” presents parameters for “a form of multilateralism that is more networked, more inclusive and more effective in addressing twenty-first century challenges.” These parameters should guide deliberations by Member States to “update our systems of governance for the future”, responding amongst others to the broader spectrum and number of actors involved, the fragmentation in policy silos despite more interconnected challenges, or the need for more prioritization and accountability.
Comparing today’s situation to the time when the United Nations were established, Guterres acknowledges that instead of being driven by mandates or institutions, today a wide range of actors already participate in global affairs. Sandra Breka argues: „Our Common Agenda not only creates a new responsibility and momentum for the Member States to act. The Secretary-General‘s ambitious report also challenges stakeholders across all sectors to commit and to cooperate with a renewed sense of urgency.“