Solve past issues, create opportunities today and dream bigger for tomorrow: the people-backed vision for the UN Secretary-General
The end of WW2 saw the creation of inter-governmental organisations and radical changes in geopolitics during the cold war and post-cold war era. Faced with the monumental task of avoiding a new world war, the people of the world came together and entrusted the United Nations and state diplomacy with the hopes for a better future. Since then, the peoples of the world face new global challenges. However, the institutions haven’t evolved or changed in a dramatic manner since then, despite radical shifts in the way our planet works, in the challenges it experiences and opportunities it must seize.
The United Nations Secretary General was selected for a second term in 2021. The people had no say over who that is. There was no free and fair, popular, democratic exercise but rather backroom deals involving - in particular - the Permanent five nations of the Security Council (China, France, Russia, USA, and the U.K.). However, today's planet features many new, vibrant aspiring super and middle powers whose populations long for representation.
The U.N. leader representing 8 billion people in 194 nations is chosen - ultimately - by five heads of states, all men, some with authoritarian inclinations. While transparent elections must take place in the future to ensure trust in the United Nations, it is clear that this did not happen in 2021.
However, “We, the people” of the world, have not given up on pushing forward a more global, united and ambitious agenda. We have not given up on making our voice heard, on ensuring that the world moves together as One, capable of dealing with existential challenges and opportunities.
After running the Forward primaries in which people from all continents participated and our candidate was disregarded without any proper due process, we are now presenting the Leap Forward framework to the Secretary General. This people-backed vision for the UN leader aims to 1. Right the wrongs of past generations through radical actions, 2. Seize Today’s opportunities through collaboration and 3. Imagine and co-create our future, through consultation
We submit this framework to the UN Secretary General, requesting for it to be considered and applied.
I. Right the wrongs of past generations through radical actions - by 2025
The UNSG needs to put an end to conflicts and threats created by previous generations, by working personally with all countries and parties to resolve conflict, by pushing the Security council to take drastic measures to curb the climate crisis, and by healing old wounds for unity to be born again.
1. Climate: Declare Global Climate Emergency
Centuries of unregulated human activities have harmed Earth. The UN Leader must push forward radical measures to stop the climate crisis and create a sustainable way of living - unapologetically.
As such, the UN leader must push for the Security Council to declare a Global Climate Emergency, under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. This would enable the Security Council to decide on binding measures to counter the climate crisis. Such measures should include a global system to reduce emissions - such as a global carbon tax or a global emission trading system - and an end to fossil fuel subsidies.
Under this climate emergency, the UN leader must ensure that no country is left behind. Wealthier countries must support the transition (financially and technically) in their path to sustainability. At the same time, developing countries cannot be expected to pay the price for centuries of higher pollution by the global North.
2. Sanctions and arms embargoes on dictators and human rights abuser
Conflicts have been ravaging the world since the beginning of time. No more. The UN Secretary-General should use all their power to be the diplomat in chief the world needs, broker peace deals and hold countries accountable for massive human rights violations, war crimes and crimes against humanity.
This means that the UN Secretary-General must never shy away from shaming those countries and building coalitions to impose sanctions and arms embargoes. From Hong Kong to Palestine, from Cuba to Belarus, the UN leader must stand with and for the people.
In addition, the UN leader must work to substantially decrease defense budgets: such resources can be redirected to much-needed basic services and that we should aim for a stark reduction in arms proliferation. The incoming UN leader must also support campaigns to abolish nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction by all countries.
3. Global Truth & Reconciliation Commission
The impacts of Colonialism continue to be felt, resulting in a scarred and divided world. Former colonialist powers have often not taken the necessary steps to address the harm done. Global action is needed to move forward as one: apologies, reparations, guarantees, and much more are needed!
As such, the UN leader must initiate a global truth & reconciliation commission to address the open scars and unfinished discussions originating from colonialism. All countries involved in the crimes of colonialism must take part and commit to implementing the outcomes of the commission. The UN Leader should draw on the best practices of South Africa, Rwanda and ex Yugoslavia to create a global truth & reconciliation commission.
II. Seize Today’s opportunities through collaboration - by 2050
At the same time, the United Nations Secretary-General must not forget today’s people and their needs. While we are aware that not all propositions can be achieved in one term, we are convinced that the Secretary-General needs to act to initiate the necessary changes and bring the desired change as soon as possible. As such, they must work with all institutions on earth to ensure economic prosperity for the many, must collaborate with businesses and citizens to harness the power of new technologies for good, and do their best to not only protect rights but find new ways for them to thrive in the modern world.
We live in a globalised world, but citizens often do not reap the benefits of a global economy. This must change.
While multinational companies operate across borders, they pay very little taxes in very few countries because we lack a global tax system. Due to this, countries are deprived of at least 500 billion dollars annually (with half of that amount of money, we could put an end to global hunger for one year). This can only be addressed through a global solution. The UN leader must work with key global institutions such as the IMF and the OECD and world leaders to put in place a global tax, higher than the bleak 15% currently agreed upon by finance ministers of G7 and G20. the
At the same time, the UN leader should push for innovative schemes to be put in place to ensure the wellbeing of the people of the world. From pushing countries and regional institutions to pilot schemes such as universal basic income or youth basic incomes to global labour standards, it’s time to think bigger.
At a time when rights are often being cracked down upon by authoritarian countries and democracies alike, it is fundamental for the UN leader to put the protection and promotion of rights above all else. It is unacceptable that in 2021 people are being discriminated against based on their gender, race, sexual orientation, religion or other. It is unacceptable that people do not have the same opportunities. Countries not meeting their obligations must be shamed and be held accountable, while others must be hailed as best practices. The UN leader must do much more to push countries to adopt higher standards, such as taking the lead to coordinate targeted actions to protect human rights defenders, having a solid stance against abuses of authoritarian regimes and strengthening the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to act against violation of human rights. The UN leader must take the lead to coordinate targeted actions to protect human rights defenders
In addition, amidst the displacement of millions of people due to violence and persecution and the fact that they are too often left stranded, the UN Leader must push for a stronger global refugee system. We must have an international administration to cooperatively address refugee flows proactively, with agreed financial and responsibility quotas.
The technological advancements over the last decades have the potential to eradicate poverty, guarantee food security and increase well-being for every person on earth. They also have the potential to cause harm if not regulated.
The UN leader must press for a tech-focused body to be created to regulate new technologies worldwide, ensuring that they aren’t discriminatory nor harmful to humans. There should be a special focus on artificial intelligence and its potential benefits and risks.
In addition, technology and related development must be for the benefit of the people. This means that a free and fair internet must be promoted by the Secretary-General, but not only. As the COVID-19 pandemic has proved once more, too often countries and companies have a profit-first approach, despite catastrophes plaguing the world. During emergencies, knowledge, licenses and technological solutions must be shared in order to ensure that lives are saved fast. Life-saving medicines must be shared between countries and continents.
III. Imagine and co-create our future, through consultation
The upcoming UN leader’s most important task might be the one of creating a new moonshot, a modern utopia. By enabling the world to come together and think about what we want to be in 2100, the UNSG will make us all leap forward. Only then, once unity and vision concorde, can we discuss today’s institutions and their capacity (or lack of) to take us there. Only then can we see whether the post-second world war order should stand, and what should replace it.
Throughout their mandate, the UN leader must organise worldwide consultation efforts with countries, citizens, businesses, experts to create a vision of the future of the world. In the year 2100, what do we want our planet to look like? How do we want to live? One broad but clear answer can unite this world and it is the United Nations Secretary-General role to start this process.
While the role of UN Secretary-General lacks some of the key competences to achieve the required change, the leader should be a diplomat-in-chief, using all their political capital in the term to affect change fast.