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The Zero Draft to Create a Pact for the Future Has Landed. The Hard Part Begins.


Patrols by peacekeepers working for the Unifil mission in Lebanon, July 2023. The baseline draft for the UN’s Pact for the Future, aiming to ensure the world body’s relevance for generations to come, includes a focus on peace and security. One recommendation drawn from a UN policy brief is to create more adaptable models of peacekeeping. UNIFIL

The zero draft of the Pact for the Future — the agreement to seal September’s much-anticipated Summit of the Future — was introduced recently by the co-facilitators, Namibia and Germany, to fellow members at the United Nations. The draft is the fruition of careful consideration, balancing an array of diverse aspirations from all 193 member states.

It is built on the proposals made in Secretary-General António Guterres’s Our Common Agenda and related 11 policy briefs, as well as the report of the High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism. The draft reinforces numerous points of agreement reached during and before last September’s SDG Summit. To their credit, the Namibian and German negotiators encouraged other parties from beyond governments to respond, attracting more than 500 contributions worldwide.

Why is the draft so important? It plants the seed toward instituting much-needed progress in how the world is governed. Some say this is not the time for global governance reform, that the world is far too divided. On the contrary, it is vital that we take responsibility to counter the forces of disintegration — and the UN must lead in this regard. It is imperative that the UN is empowered to move this agenda ahead.

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Germany and Namibia must be aspirational yet practical, forward thinking but attuned to present realities, ambitious but politically feasible. The way to strike such a sensitive balance is for the member states to understand the current challenges, to learn from the past 79 years of the UN’s life span and to project those lessons out a century from now. What steps will be taken at the September summit to set us on that positive path?

The draft can be a constructive point of departure to reach more ambitious levels of agreement. We are pleased to see robust recommendations regarding meaningful youth engagement in its dedicated chapter as well as the treatment of emerging technology — including lethal autonomous weapons — in the peace chapter. But this is just a start.

The Coalition for the UN We Need, which last year produced an interim people’s pact before the five chapters of the Pact for the Future were finalized, supports the principles articulated in the draft. It is also consistent with the Coalition’s open letter on the UN Summit of the Future, signed by more than 50 eminent people worldwide who called on governments to “scale up their commitments and collaboration, taking a long-term perspective to bring about a world that is more equitable, inclusive, secure and sustainable.”

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As promised, the draft commits member states to the principles of human rights and gender equality. Vitally, the pact suggests that member states “commit to concrete steps to reinvigorate this system, fill critical gaps in global governance, and accelerate efforts to keep our past promises and agreements.” This focus will represent the work of the next seven months.

For people who have followed the preparations for the Summit, there are not many new substantive initiatives in the draft. Most of the text reflects internationally agreed language, without committing to specific governance reforms. Repeated phrases, such as “We commit to further developing . . .” and “We will work together to improve . . .” indicate a direction for improving international cooperation, but with the all-important details to be worked out in negotiations before the Summit or during the proposed two-year implementation period (with a stocktaking of progress on reform commitments to be held at the end of the General Assembly’s 80th session, in 2026 ).

One interesting note from the co-facilitators in the draft section on “Transforming Global Governance” indicates an intention to provide initial language for proposed Security Council reform by June 2024.

Fully aware of current political sensitivities, it is now time for civil society to engage member states as constructive partners more formally. Such active participation can catalyze the level of agreement and ambition among governments.

The next steps we propose:

• Generate excitement, political will and public support for cooperative and creative global solutions. Because of the daunting polycrisis we face, this can ensure a valuable outcome.

• Work with a wide range of experts to flesh out additional innovations, consistent with the “new approach” underscored in the draft. These could range from such low-hanging fruit as gender alternation of the president of the General Assembly to more aspirational calls, like enhancing the UN Environment Program and annual climate COPs or upgrading the Peacebuilding Commission into an empowered Peacebuilding Council.

• Build greater trust in the negotiations by allowing civil society access to the proceedings. This will help all diplomats as they forge a common ground, while providing citizens a window into an intergovernmental process.

• As the draft expresses, set in motion efforts “to review progress on the implementation of the commitments in this Pact.” This could go further, in line with a core recommendation of the Secretary-General’s High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism to include a call for an a UN Charter review conference.

The draft represents a promising start upon which to build a successful Summit of the Future.

This is an opinion essay.

We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on the baseline Pact for the Future?

Florence Syevuo is a co-chair of the Coalition for the UN We Need, a civil-society network focusing on transforming the UN system.

Dan Perell is a co-chair of the Coalition for the UN We Need, a civil society network.

We would love your thoughts. Please comment:

The Zero Draft to Create a Pact for the Future Has Landed. The Hard Part Begins.
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Roozbeh Rahimpour
Roozbeh Rahimpour
3 months ago

This is a remarkable initiative. The sooner Zero is established the sooner foundations for future can shape and benefit every citizen of this planet.

Prof Dung Pam Sha
Prof Dung Pam Sha
4 months ago

I love this initiative to expand knowledge of the workings of the global’uniting’ institution. We in Africa will benefit. This is value for academics.

Terje Andersen
Terje Andersen
4 months ago

When the UN needed the world on climate solutions its was asked world wide on contributing into their own CARBO FOOTPRINTS so the UNSG could provide a report on the Climate discussions in Denmark. So now when this important subject of the reform and future of the UN we need to my follow the new updated grouping of the Security council as to get from all ( 5 + 4-5 more regional countries ) a rapport from them so this would have all world countries providing its reports to the UN from 5-10 regional center’s who’s countries concerns and ambitions are provided very detailed and than the UN BODY would make up the draft of the future UN so we all can vote on the future for us all …no more one country rules but the rules for the survivals and in line with the climate solutions and life to 2050 and further to 2100…

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