IEF CONTRIBUTION TO UN75
The United Nations is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2020 by reflecting on its future, and everyone is invited to contribute. The following is a brief description of many of the ways IEF and IEF members can participate in this process. As you will see, we are already engaged in various ways.
The UN is holding the “world’s biggest conversation” on “the world we
want, the UN we need”. There are many opportunities to feed into this
• By making a short social media video talking about the “three things that will change the world” and posting them on the #UN75 hashtag
• By filling in this short survey https://un75.online/
• By holding your own meeting and conversation https://www.un.org/en/un75/join-conversation
To mark its 75th anniversary in 2020, the United Nations is igniting a people’s debate, UN75. Launched by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, it promises to be the largest and furthest-reaching global conversation ever on building the future we want.
In a world of dramatic changes and complex challenges, from the climate crisis to population shifts to the unknown course of technology, we need collective action more than ever before. Through UN75, the United Nations will encourage people to put their heads together to define how enhanced international cooperation can help realize a better world by 2045, the UN’s 100th birthday.
At this pivotal moment in history, UN75 asks three big questions:
• What kind of future do we want to create?
• Are we on track?
• What action is needed to bridge the gap?
The IEF has been participating in international discourses on important issues of global concern, especially concerning the environment and sustainability, since its founding over 20 years ago. Many of our members have long experience at the international level, including in intergovernmental organizations. We thus have important perspectives to share.
We participated in a similar wide consultation preparing for the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, and our contributions had an impact. We therefore launched our own consultation, inviting our members to contribute our vision of the future of the United Nations as part of UN75.
The following is the compilation of member contributions to a joint IEF contribution to UN75.
International Environment Forum contribution to UN75
What kind of future do we want to create?
In the future, we want to see a world where all people live in peace with each other and in harmony with the Earth, where all people consider the Earth as one country, and mankind its citizens. This will spread care from one country to others, and all the world will be a better place.
Local and national communities organize a system of governance to provide common services and meet basic needs for security, health, education and well-being. In a globalized world, we need to ensure that the same common services and basic needs are met for everyone on the planet, leaving no one behind. The pandemic has demonstrated that national borders have lost their importance and only a global approach can ensure everyone's health. The WHO needs a stronger mandate and adequate means to respond rapidly and uniformly to such global health challenges. The same is true for other global catastrophic risks.
Are we on track?
The present results are mixed. Some countries think only from a national point of view, but some issues are now clearly seen as global, such as climate change. We made some progress in the 1990s and at the Paris climate change conference, but more recently the trend is in the opposite direction with people closing their hearts, minds, and borders to people in need and ignoring the accelerating environmental crisis. Nationalism and populism are on the rise, and actions to mitigate climate change are far from commensurate to its enormous threat to human civilization. Many of today's problems such as the increasing gap of wealth and poverty, climate change, and the refugee crises are all interconnected and require a fundamentally new perspective. These challenges call for a change in the way we look at the world, at other human beings, and at nature. For too long, the rich have exploited other people and nature for their own personal gain. As long as we continue to only seek the best for our own selves or for our own nation, these global problems will exacerbate despite enormous efforts to address them.
Multilateral cooperation in particular has been under attack in recent years, with increasing social fragmentation within and between countries, governments losing trust and failing to meet the needs of their citizens, and increasing numbers of displaced persons and marginalized groups no longer under the protection of any government. Despite our technological progress, the world is today in an advancing state of disintegration, with the pandemic just the latest blow. The forces of progress and integration are still too weak to reverse the negative trends, both social and environmental, although the present crisis could weaken or remove some obstacles to change.
What action is needed to bridge the gap?
The lessons now being learned from the present crises should be used to take another step forward in global governance, at least as incremental improvements to the UN system. In particular, the mechanisms to focus scientific research, capture the emerging knowledge rapidly, and put it in action all around the world, need to be strengthened. Health is one obvious area, but the climate crisis and biodiversity loss are other areas where science must become a stronger driver of policy and action, with the common global good taking precedence over national sovereignty. If trust in global institutions can be built in these areas, then further steps towards UN reform may become possible.
One idea is to promote and develop a new consciousness by the leaders as well as by the citizens of all countries that humankind is one, that all people are created equal and no nation is better than any other nation, and that humanity is one big family with rich cultural diversity. People need to deeply understand that the well-being of each individual and each country is intricately interconnected with the well-being of society and all of humanity. We also need a holistic approach to make progress with the Sustainable Development Goals. Climate change mitigation and adaptation cannot be addressed in isolation, but need to be considered together with fundamental economic and agricultural changes to eradicate hunger and poverty. We humans are all interconnected with each other and with all other life.
Education is one key. The students all over the world must learn that they must take care of the entire world, and not only their own country. Students are often not motivated to study, with high drop-out rates in universities. It is possible to better motivate this generation if we empower them to tackle our global problems. Students must learn about UN SDGs and make a link between the knowledge they are learning and how they can apply it to achieve the SDGs. Instead of just learning mathematics, for example, how can anyone use this knowledge for the betterment of the world? This can be used in universities too! The high drop-out rate at engineering courses, for example, could be reduced if the undergraduate students could understand that they can apply this knowledge to help others around the world.
In recent weeks, we have seen a world-wide successful effort to raise consciousness about the importance of washing one's hands because of the coronavirus. Similarly we could create a new awareness that the Earth is one country and all its peoples one family. This concept could be shared, nurtured, and deepened in numerous and different ways. There could be media announcements, videos, concerts, and conversations from the local to the international level. The following words by Baha'u'llah, prophet-founder of the Baha'i Faith, may provide the impetus and enthusiasm for this emerging consciousness: “Let your vision be world-embracing rather than confined to your own self.” “The Earth is but one country and mankind its citizens.”
Another opportunity opening up with the present crisis is to accelerate the needed paradigm shift in the economic system, away from an almost exclusive focus on return on capital and shareholder value with increasing inequality, towards a system founded on altruism and cooperation, creating meaningful employment for all and reducing poverty. Many vested interests in the present system are being weakened, and a financial collapse from excessive debt is a real possibility. This could remove blockages that have impeded progress on the 2030 agenda, allowing transformative change. Now is the time for the forces for international reform to organize and prepare to move forward, before we slip back into business as usual, as we did after the 2008 financial crisis.
This movement forward should combine the best efforts of willing governments with a much larger circle from science, academia, civil society and progressive businesses.
Last updated 31 March 2020