New Shape Forum and Prize

Submitted by admin on 4. June 2018 - 1:47

New Shape Forum, Stockholm

Two members of the International Environment Forum, Maja Groff and Arthur Dahl, together with Augusto Lopez-Claros, submitted a proposal to reform the UN Charter to the New Shape Prize competition organized in 2017 by the Global Challenges Foundation. The proposal was one of 14 finalists invited to Stockholm, Sweden, on 25-30 May 2018, for the New Shape Forum and final judging for the US$ 1.8 million New Shape Prize, and came in first. This is the report on the New Shape Forum. See also the story at the Baha'i World News Service.

The Global Challenges Foundation ( was founded in 2012 by Swedish financial analyst and author Laszlo Szombatfalvy, with the aim to contribute to reducing the main global problems and risks that threaten humanity.

The Foundation is particularly concerned about a number of risks that could threaten the existence of at least a tenth of the Earth’s population, referred to as global catastrophic risks. These include climate change, other large-scale environmental damage, politically motivated violence, extreme poverty and population growth. These five main challenges are interdependent and influence each other detrimentally, requiring immediate joint action by the world’s states. As these risks include the greatest threats to humanity, they should be on top of the international political agenda in order to ensure safety for existing and future generations.

In November 2016, the Global Challenges Foundation launched a global prize competition, “The Global Challenges Prize 2017: A New Shape”, which challenged thinkers all over the world to formulate proposals for new models of how the major global risks could be managed more effectively and equitably to avoid an extreme global catastrophe in coming decades. The New Shape Prize was the biggest competition of its kind, seeking improved frameworks of global governance of global catastrophic risks. During the time it was open for submissions from November 2016 to September 2017, it received 2,702 entries from 122 countries. There were proposals from people in every continent and from diverse backgrounds – from academic institutions, think tanks, researchers, and business, to university students and non-governmental organisations. Regional selection panels went through all the entries, and a global selection panel identified about a hundred semifinalists from which 14 finalists were presented to the final jury at The New Shape Forum in Stockholm, Sweden, on 27-29 May 2018 (

The New Shape Forum

New Shape Forum
Participants in the New Shape Forum

Public event and presentations to the jury

The first day was a public event that addressed two questions: How well are the greatest risks to humanity governed today? What are the latest ideas on how to fix them? There were keynotes, panels, and short presentations by each of the finalists with questions from the jury. More than 200 participants came together with the aim of reshaping global governance to better tackle global catastrophic risks.

The opening keynote was given by Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, on the Global Challenges the UN is Facing. He noted both the UN's accomplishments and progress made, and the changes in the world over the last 70 years that make the UN unfit for present challenges. The 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals provide a roadmap for the way ahead, requiring a paradigm shift. The UN needs to take on climate change, the financial system, the gap between rich and poor, the trust deficit, and those walking away from values and norms. He looked forward to the proposals coming out of the Forum.

Michael Moller
Michael Møller

The first panel on Global Governance: What is it, how does it affect you, and what is its current shape? included Inge Kaul (Adjunct Professor, Hertie School of Governance, Berlin), Yang Zheyu (Opinion Editor of Caixin Global), Paul Dickinson (Executive Chair, Carbon Disclosure Project), and Malini Mehra (CEO, Globe International)

The panel described the UN as buildings for meetings of States, reflecting the power politics of States, and civil society had to fight to get in. Now there are companies bigger than most states, and through their lobbying the world is now run by business. It will be important to get corporate money out of politics. With some countries now preferring bilateral to multilateral relationships, the future depends on how countries manage their disagreements. They still look at national interests first, not the global public good. There are bits and pieces of global governance but they do not add up to systemic integrity.

Presentations by the finalists to the jury

The finalists of the New Shape Prize then presented their proposals before the jury, chaired by Maria Ivanova (Professor of Global Governance and director of the Center for Governance and Sustainability at the University of Massachusetts, Boston), with Reshma Anand (founder of the Earthy Goods Foundation, India), Susan Avery (President Emeritus of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA), Jacques Marcovitch (board member of IHEID-Graduate Institute of International Relations and Development Studies, Geneva, and Professor of Environmental Management and International Affairs, University of Sao Paulo, Brazil), Julia Marton-Lefèvre (former Director General of International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and former Rector of University for Peace), Wanjira Mathai (Wangari Maathai Institute, Kenya), Folke Tersman (Chair Professor of Practical Philosophy at Uppsala University, Sweden), and Anote Tong (former president of Kiribati).

Final jury
Final jury: Anote Tong, former President of Kiribati; Wanjira Mathai (Kenya), Susan Avery (USA), Reshma Anand (India), Julia Marton-Lefèvre (Hungary / France / USA), Jacques Marcovitch (Brazil), Folke Tersman (Sweden), Maria Ivanova, Jury Chair (Bulgaria)

The finalists

A truly global partnership - helping the UN to do itself out of a job
Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations Association – UK

A Global League of Sustainable Cities
Adrian Mihălțianu, science fiction author and journalist, Romania

Evolutionary Organisation
Morya Short, programme designer, facilitator and coach, UK

Maja Groff Maja Groff

Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century
- Augusto Lopez-Claros, Senior Fellow, School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, and World Bank, Bolivia/USA
- Arthur Lyon Dahl, President, International Environment Forum and retired senior official of UN Environment, Switzerland
- Maja Groff, international lawyer based in The Hague, Canada/Netherlands
(see the full proposal)

Planetary Condominium: the legal framework for the Common Home of Humanity
- Paulo Miguel Ferreira Magalhães, jurist and researcher, CIJE-Center for Legal and Economic Research, University of Porto, Portugal
- Will Steffen, Earth system scientist; Councillor, Climate Council of Australia; Emeritus Professor, Australian National University (ANU), Canberra; Senior Fellow, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden; Fellow, Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm
- Maria Alexandra de Sousa Aragão, Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Coimbra, Portugal
- Katherine Meyer, Director, Ecometrics, New Zealand
- Leena Iyengar, Director, Tune Into Earth, Geneva, Switzerland
- Alessandro Galli, International Coordinator, Common Home of Humanity Initiative, and Senior Scientist and Mediterranean-MENA Program Director, Global Footprint Network, Italy

Global Governance by Cooperative Communities
Stephan Bettzieche, Katharina Peter, PacELNoroc civil society initiative, Germany

A (Simplified) Blockchain Approach to Non-Coercive, Decentralized Global Governance
John R. Bowley, Attorney, USA

The “Sponsored Loans Program” – How to Mobilize Private Sector into Global Development
Eduardo Pascual Pouteau, Cofounder, Contrarian-View, and consultant for the World Bank, Spain/USA

Social Conditionality in Patents: Achieving a Paradigm Change in Private Sector Participation
Thomas Höhne-Sparborth, Director, Economics and Analytics, Roskill, Netherlands

Emergent Dynamic Governance Ecosystems (EDGE project)
Andrew Goldring, Chief Executive, Permaculture Association, UK

A Club-Based Model of Global Governance
Luca Rade, student at Princeton University, USA

Basic Tax Control
Aleksandar Ristevski, author and IT professional, United Kingdom/Serbian

Insurance-based Global Governance
Len Fisher, scientist, writer and broadcaster, and Senior Research Fellow, School of Physics, University of Bristol, UK

AI-supported global governance through bottom-up deliberation
Soushiant Zanganehpour, social scientist, entrepreneur and Founder/CEO/Architect of Swae, Canada/UK

Four panels followed:

The UN: Reforms and New Global Actors, with Maher Nasser (Director, Outreach Division, United Nations Department of Public Information), Yang Yao (Director, China Center for Economic Research, Peking University), John Mukum Mbaku (Professor of Economics, Weber State University), and Rama Mani (Convenor of the Enacting Global Transformation Collaborative Initiative, University of Oxford’s Centre for International Studies, Founder of Theatre of Transformation Academy)

The panel noted that the moderate proposals of the 1995 Commission on Global Governance did not come to much, although there is more involvement of civil society and all stakeholders. The new Secretary-General is also pushing ahead with reforms, with more women than men in the Senior Management Group, and aiming for gender parity at all levels. More reform is needed for cross-country issues like climate change and migration. The UN should become a people-driven organization, promoting the values that matter to its stakeholders, especially those that have been marginalized like indigenous peoples, women, the poor and youth. Poverty is the main problem. Students see no jobs after graduation. People need help to develop their own capacities. The UN should help countries with dysfunctional governments to maintain the rule of law and provide basic social services. The veto power is difficult to step around, and UN resolutions are not implemented, so mechanisms are needed to enforce binding agreements. The major machinery should be reformed before 2020.

Key Risks threatening Human Existance: What is being done about them?

Janos Pasztor (Senior Fellow, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs and Executive Director, Carnegie Climate Geoengineering Governance Initiative), Ruhee Neog (Director, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies, New Delhi), Mosoka Fallah (Deputy Director for Technical Services, National Public Health Institute of Liberia), and Philip Osano (Deputy Centre Director, Capacity Development and Partnership, Stockholm Environment Institute, Africa)

For the panel, the world is getting scarier, with rising risks of the use of nuclear weapons. Emerging technologies are leading to new vulnerabilities. We are facing environmental collapse and climate change, while the economic system does not signal environment impacts and growth is destroying our life support systems. There are 1300 multilateral environmental agreements, but they are voluntary with no enforcement. Pandemics are another threat, with climate change amplifying outbreaks. We need carbon removal from the atmosphere to reach climate change targets, but there is no governance for solar geoengineering proposals which may not be reversible. Governments make irrational decisions. Which is more terrifying, climate change or geoengineering solutions? There is tension between local and global governance mechanisms. The geopolitical situation is more insecure, requiring more cross-domain conversations and holistic policy perspectives. Today we are deciding for generations to come.

What is the power of visionary thinking to change institutions? A discussion between two pragmatic visionaries, Helen Goulden (CEO, The Young Foundation), and Maina Kiai (Co-director, InformAction, and Former UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights to Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and of Association)

This dialogue highlighted the importance of visionary thinking to overcome our fear of change. There is no incentive for civil servants to make decisions if mistakes are fatal. The UN is more resistant to change because there is no benefit to doing anything right. Human rights are still a constant struggle. There is a rebellion against the elites who think they deserve to be there, but this is leading to populism and the new serfdom of the gig economy. Change must come from both the bottom up and the top down. Desperate communities need to rise up and find their own solutions, bringing respect to the poor, marginalized and vulnerable. How do we deal with rotten corrupt societies that glorify in theft, with two thirds of young people saying it is fine to be corrupt and benefit from one’s position? We must change our cultures.

Overcoming Challenges in Relating to the UN and Global Catastrophic Risks, with Anthony Banbury (formerly United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Field Support), Hajer Sharief (Co-founder, Together We Build It, Libya), and Cristina Manzano (Editor-in-chief, Esglobal).

One key issue for this panel was the challenge of informing the public of risks when the media are changing so rapidly, and the Internet revolution is making old news outlets disappear, while we are overwhelmed by too much information. Global issues are pushed out by local and national events that attract clicks. What news is available reflects a mostly Western world view. There have been some successes like the global network against corruption and the save-the-bees campaign. The UN is essential, but it is failing, facing backwards and changing too slowly, influenced by the most important states. It is input-driven rather than looking at outcomes. It does not reflect the pressing needs of today. People feel disconnected from it. It is important to build bridges between the global and local. The UN needs to be relevant to people on the ground. If you are affected by a local issue, you are the expert. The Ebola crisis pushed the UN to create an emergency health mission, engaging with communities, using local leaders as communications channels. The challenge is to create global narratives when the global does not affect everyone the same way. There is a growing global consciousness, changing the parameters in society against injustice. Each of us can do something, for example against plastic pollution. No other organization can find solutions, so what can we do to support the UN?

Second day of the Forum

The second and third days were more interactive. Notable policy-makers in global governance and cooperation and leading academics, among others, came together in the beautiful setting of Münchenbryggeriet, Stockholm, for creative workshops and discussions to examine what the future of global governance could look like.

Johan Rockström, Director of the Stockholm Resilience Center, a board member of the Global Challenges Foundation, and a leading researcher on planetary boundaries, provided a scientific overview of the catastrophic risks that have emerged in the last 50 years with the Anthropocene, when human impacts have reached planetary scale, causing climate change and pushing us over planetary boundaries. The world needs governance capabilities for global catastrophic risks that are operational, legitimate, viable and scalable.

Carin Ism, Executive Director of the Global Challenges Foundation, presented the challenges for the forum. We must raise the level of global governance if we are to reduce the risks. There were so many ideas in the 2,700 entries for the New Shape Prize. We need to refine these ideas and put together many more. The GCF Library has all the semi-final propositions as building blocks. The GCF is working with the Stockholm School of Economics on business risk. We need to inspire and organize individuals to work together, and form groups to take these proposals further towards acceptance and make them operational. In the next phase, the GCF will support groups on the reform of existing institutions within global decision making, new institutions within traditional global decision making, beyond traditional global decision making, and the emergence of a movement for global governance reform.

The participants were divided into work streams on:
- New models for global decision-making
- Reforming existing models for global decision-making
- Global governance beyond traditional political systems and mechanisms.
They were asked how to approach operationality, legitimacy, and viability to create change.

Third day of the Forum

The third day opened with a keynote by Margot Wallstrom, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs.

She emphasized the power of multilateralism and the 2030 Agenda as a unique framework for equitable and sustainable development, with national government implementation plus multistakeholder partnerships. The UN needs the capacity to deliver on the 2030 Agenda, with its targets for measuring progress. More inputs are needed from behavioural scientist if we are to change behaviour for our grandchildren’s future. The top Swedish priority in their feminist government was more actors and more engagement in society to do their share, since national and global issues cannot be separated. She saw four challenges: the increasing complexity of issues, requiring a long-term planning perspective of generations; the emergence of new powers, both state and non-state actors; defending the legitimacy of democracy, western liberal values and the freedom of the press against those for whom multilateralism is no longer a given; and mastering technological innovation, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. The international order needs to be strengthened and reformed for a multipolar and highly changeable world, with inclusive globalization to spread economic benefits more evenly, and a social dialogue on decent work. We all have a personal responsibility to be kinder and do something unselfish. We cannot give up if we are to make the world a better place to live in. She wished good luck to the winners of the New Shape Prize.

The collaborative work-streams prepared presentations to share and discuss with all the forum participants

Gala Prize Awards Ceremony

The New Shape Forum concluded on the evening of 29 May with the New Shape Prize Awards Ceremony Gala, where the winners were to be announced. The dinner was entirely vegan.

Finalists for New Shape Prize
Finalists for the New Shape Prize

Mats Andersson, Vice Chairman, Board of the Global Challenges Foundation, announced the winners of the New Shape Prize.

The distinguished final jury, led by Professor Maria Ivanova, selected the following three proposals out of the 14 put forward by the semi-final review panel:

Global Governance

Global Institutions table

"Global Governance and the Emergence of Global Institutions for the 21st Century"
Augusto Lopez-Claros, Arthur Lyon Dahl, Maja P.C.E. Groff

"A truly global partnership - helping the UN to do itself out of a job"
Natalie Samarasinghe

AI-supported global governance through bottom-up deliberation"
Soushiant Zanganehpour

Maja Groff, Arthur Dahl, Laszlo Szombatfalvy, Natalie Samarasinghe, Soushiant Zanganehpour

The Global Challenges Foundation decided to award a total of USD 1.8 million, rewarding the three submissions with USD 600,000 each. Speaking about the process, Professor Ivanova noted that “This competition has unleashed the creativity of thousands of people around the world and has launched a new community of thinkers, advocates and doers.”

An invitation was extended to participate in the Paris Peace Forum next November.

The New Shape Prize initiative had an ambitious goal: to inspire ideas and stimulate debate around new, more effective forms of global cooperation at the highest levels about how the world community manages global catastrophic risks, ranging from climate change effects to weapons of mass destruction. The New Shape Forum was a starting point in efforts to reshape global cooperation in order to better tackle global catastrophic risks based on the proposals put forward in the New Shape Prize. The best ideas from the New Shape Prize can be improved and repurposed for individual objectives and concerns in companies, cities, organizations and communities.

The New Shape Forum marked the starting point of a new phase in the Global Challenges Foundation’s efforts to find new global governance models. It will support the reworking and refinement of the best ideas toward more holistic models that emerge from this process. Working groups began to convene at the Forum and will continue to develop frameworks for global governance. As the models evolve over the next five months, these ideas will come to life, and the most promising ones will be presented in Paris in November at the Paris Peace Forum.

For the report with more pictures, see

Last updated 23 August 2018