WFM-NGO Discussion on UN2020 - 4 May 2017



On May 4th, 2017, WFM-IGP held a meeting with nearly two dozen civil society representatives regarding the upcoming 75th anniversary of the United Nations. The informal gathering intended to establish the best course of action to take in 2020. The UN celebrated its 50th anniversary in 1995, in the wake of the Cold War. States, civil society and other key stakeholders came together to imagine what the UN would look like in a post-Cold War global climate, and proposed significant projects and agendas for peace, development, security. Ultimately, little came from both the 50th and the subsequent 70th anniversary, despite these expectations.

The UN and global political agendas of recent years, including the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement, and the Responsibility to Protect, call for a push from civil society in 2020. The question now is to determine what kind of action should be undertaken for the anniversary. Different propositions and approaches were raised during WFM’s meeting, such as the need for the coordination of as many civil society stakeholders as possible, inclusive discussions with UN officials and government representatives, emphasis on prevention, the need for reform, and ultimately—whether or not the anniversary is the right opportunity to raise these questions.

WFM, through the voices of Executive Director William Pace and WFM-Canada’s Executive Director Fergus Watt, introduced their approach and preparatory work to participants: the challenges faced by civil society, some possible strategies for coordination, overviews of recent meetings held with Ambassadors and UN officials. Through the fruitful discussions, it was agreed upon that it is not too early to start preparing now but may be too premature to start putting concrete proposals on the table just yet.

These opening remarks were followed by fruitful discussions and active participation from the wide variety of civil society representatives in the room. It was first recalled that a number of agenda points are up for review between now and 2020. For instance, the end of the 4-year cycle for reviewing progress on SDGs, the High Level Political Forum review, the review of the General Assembly; 2020 is the next Quadrennial Comprehensive Policy Review to be negotiated. The upcoming American Congressional (2018) and Presidential (2020) might also reshape the outcome and the stakes of this UN anniversary - and may even have further implications for the international community beyond that.

The issue of whether or not to push reforms was undoubtedly the core of the discussion. The reforms brought up included the Security Council reform (regarding the veto and P5), the General Assembly reform, and the process on the ban of nuclear weapons, among other. Several participants also mentioned taking a different approach by celebrating achievements of the UN, not only focusing on the challenges it faces.

In short, the meeting was the catalyst for what will hopefully be active and inclusive discussions on the future of the UN at its 75th anniversary. Participants across the board agreed that it is above all important to engage and coordinate a united civil society that will be prepared to tackle the UN2020. In this context, additional consultations will be held in July and September.



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