Summit of the Future- Zero draft pact

I have taken a look at the Zero draft, which was presented on 29 January 2024 by the two co-facilitators Germany and Namibia. The text of the Zero draft can be found on the UN website. Here are my comments on this draft:

Comments on the Chapeau:

This declaration is formulated in the context of the UN and represents a pact between and among member states. Tt therefore should lay the emphasis on what the UN Charter states as the primary purpose of the organisation: “to save future generations from the scourge of war”. Consequently “peace and security” should precede “sustainable development and financing for development”, as peace is a conditio sine qua non for sustainable development. Reductions in armaments will greatly enhance the mobilisation of needed financing for development. Similarly in para 7, the order should be reversed to read “peace and security, human rights, development”. In para 8 it should be added that member states commit to the peaceful settlement of conflicts.

Para 9 should state that human rights are the underpinning of everything the UN system stands for, recognizing that this is accepted by all states which have joined the UN and signed the UDHR and/or the 2 covenants. If specific groups like women and girls are singled out, then this special mention should be justified. This pact should recommit all member states to the universal applicability of human rights, while leaving room for changes in the handling of the application and the international response in cases of violations of these rights. The UNHCHR has recently taken some initiatives in this direction and these should be endorsed.

The current para 13 on “peace and security” is too short and does not respond to the demands of “properly managing” current risks to peace and security. The draft lacks a clear indication when and how collective security should occur at the regional, and when and how it should be dealt with at the global level. Provisions and principles under Chapter VI are to be mentioned here!

Sustainable peace demands a culture of peace at the national, the regional and the global level. Peace education is indispensable for creating, maintaining and strengthening such a peace culture, but peace education is not even mentioned in the Zero draft. The opportunity was missed to show how national educational programmes could benefit from international cooperation at the multilateral (UNESCO, UNICEF, UNDP) level and at the bilateral level, with state and non-state actors. For such peace education to produce the desired result, it has to reach all member states, most likely through succeeding international and national programmes for generations to come. UNESCO’s outstanding work in this regard should be endorsed and reinforced.

Under the heading of “peace and security” also falls the whole complex of disarmament and regulations for the trade of weapons, and for which priorities for the coming years should be outlined. In this context, it should be mentioned that Art. 26 was never enacted in full. This pact should say what member states wish to do with this provision of the UN Charter. Implement it, scrap it, or modify it?

Lastly, in this chapter the question of guaranteeing global peace and security through the monitoring of the Security Council and its resolutions has to be raised. The options for possible reforms have to be discussed and the pact should show what the expectations of member states are with regard to the actions by the Security Council as well as their commitment to adhere to and enforce the Council’s decisions.

Comments on individual chapters:

As regards the aspects of financing for development (para 11), the pact should express the expectations for ministers of finance and the IFI to reform the global financial architecture.

In para 12 it should be mentioned that the UN Charter has no provisions for the protection of our planet’s natural resource base. Member states should express how they wish to close this gap. Continue ad hoc as at present, or create a global Resilience Council, which will possibly upgrade ECOSOC and endow it with similar authority as the Security Council.

Within this chapeau, para 14 on science, technology, innovation and digital cooperation lacks very essential elements. For instance, scientific knowledge informs a great many economic and political decisions. Sometimes they are ignored by those in decision-making positions, often to the detriment of great many people. There has to be a better balance achieved between apllying scientific knowledge and leaving it aside to serve particular interests. Technologies and digital system are tools which can be used to enhance human well-being or destroy it. Cyber criminality has raised its ugly head. Again, we need to reach consensus on how to harness the opportunities, and how to control the threats, e.g. hacker attacks on civilian institutions like hospitals. Today most human suffering is caused by human interventions, hence we need to harness science, technology and digitalisation in such as way that they allow for cooperation and finding innovative solutions to problems which heretofore remained unsolved. Details and good practices and how these could be globally mainstreamed should be elaborated in the subsequent chapter.

In para 17 transforming global governance: rather than to formulate a wishlist of what member states aspire to, a set of guiding questions/principles need to be formulated in order to effectively transform the global peace and security architecture, economic globalisation and protection of the planet’s environmental resources. It needs to be emphasized that sustainable solutions can only be achieved in close collaboration with other UN organisations and multilateral actors beyond the UN and through bilateral cooperation between state and non-state actors. Principal questions would be: Can  the current arrangements for peace/security remain in place? Shall the present system continue, where bigger nations have a greater say and room to act than the majority of middle-sized and small nations? Is the P5 arrangement still valid? If so, how should it operate? Should international conventions and treaties be binding for all, once a large majority of countries have signed/ratified? How to make economic globalisation work without creating huge social and economic inequality? How to balance national and common interests? Only if the members of the UN can reach agreements in response to these questions/principles will we be able to effectively transform global governance.

As a follow up to the SOTF there has to be a general conference under art. 109 envisaged. Preferably by 2030 with the aim of having a revamped UN by 2045.

Lastly, the Chapeau clearly sets the stage what follows. But there are many redundant formulations in each chapter. The subsequent chapters should be focussed on what appears doable at the present time and during the years until 2030 with an outlook which elements still await further discussion and agreement.

Comments on subsequent chapters:

We recommend to reverse the order as follows:

  1. Peace and Security
  2. Sustainable Development and Financing
  3. Science, technology…..
  4. Youth and future generations
  5. Transforming global governance

In the chapter “Peace and security” the difference between a global peace and a global security architecture needs to be spelled out. The peace architecture embraces the whole society, the security architecture is built on the strength of armed forces and the concept of deference. Because the UN was and is in fact not in charge of the global security architecture, as this was left to nation states and their alliances, we have seen at all times since 1945 wars and armed conflicts. The tool box of the Charter, namely art. 26 was never fully used, and UN peace keeping operations were not foreseen in the Charter, but were developed pragmatically by the organisation. Prevention, mediation and peacebuilding have not yet reached the level of sustainable results and the chapter should make concrete proposals how the nexus between enforcement action, political efforts and other non-military approaches (para 74) could be improved. While the overall aim is to make wars and armed conflicts redundant, they will continue to occur. Hence the need to protect civilians and to enforce such protection.

The two paras 76-77 on counter-terrorism are not articulating a clear guide on how the member states under the umbrella of the UN want to avoid terrorism. Addressing “drivers and enablers of terrorism and violent extremism conducive to terrorism” cannot be done in a “balanced manner”. A thorough and rigorous analysis is required as is decisive action against terrorist threats. Human rights protect against the discrimination because of religious beliefs. They do not protect violence committed in the name of religion. Within the UN, especially its judicial courts are in charge of addressing terrorist crimes.

In the chapter on “Sustainable development….” we propose

  • to include in para 29 estimates of the volume of resources required in order to implement international conventions,
  • in para 30 to give priority attention to the cleanup of oceans from plastics pollution and the careful management of sea-bed mining, reaffirming the authority of UNCLOS,
  • in para 32 to appeal to the two biggest emitters of CO2 to accelerate their emission reductions in order to give smaller countries a partial breathing space with their reduction plans, and to combine this with para 36,
  • para 39 is too vague and should include clear demands on the IFIs and regional development banks,
  • in para 40 welcome the global 15% tax on all multinational corporations and urge speedy implementation by all member states.

The chapter on “science, technology, innovation and digital cooperation has to be recast in order to capture

  • the opportunities and threats,
  • and how to manage both.

Furthermore the chapter has

  • to highlight implications for peace and security and the possible involvement of the Security Council,
  • to reference the multilateral organisations which are in charge of various aspects in this wide field.

The chapter “Youth and future generations” lacks an elaboration why mobilising today’s youth is important and why decisions today need to be thought through from the effects they have on the life of future generations.

Finally in the chapter “Transforming global governance” we propose the following modifications:

The chapter needs to start with the obvious: all member states are equal in their rights and voting, and decisions are made preferably by consensus. However, majority votes are permissible and when taken by a specific majority in the GA, e.g. by a 3/4 majority, they should be regarded as binding.

The chapter should present all envisaged changes to various bodies of the UN under this aspect “equal rights and equal obligations”. If some members have privileges, then they also should have greater obligations to strengthen the peace mandate of the UN. The emphasis in this chapter should be on enforcement mechanisms, always starting from the premise that member states voluntarily will implement decisions taken by UN bodies.

While this pact will primarily define the building blocks which need to be put in place, the SOTF should be concluding with the agreement that a general conference (art. 109) will be convened within the next five years, to formally amend the UN Charter and organisation, which will render it more effective in the coming years.

Autor: Kerstin Leitner

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