The future of the United Nations? The United Actors!
When the United Nations (UN) was founded 70 years ago the world was a different place. Unfortunately, the UN has failed to adapt to the changed global reality. Due to the UN Charter, structure and vested interests, fundamental reforms have not happened and will not happen even if many experts realise how necessary such reforms would be.
At the same time, the world is ever more integrated and facing diverse and complex global challenges, which need to be addressed at global level. Think of climate change, health and pandemics, trade, internet governance and so much more. All these challenges cannot be ignored and can only be solved if several actors globally are working together to address them. This status quo leaves a gap: while the need for effective global governance has increased, neither the UN nor any other organisation is fulfilling this need in the most effective way, despite the urgency and scale of the challenges. Seen from the perspective of a dynamic entrepreneur, this gap becomes a market opportunity.
Who or what can fill that market opportunity to everyone’s benefit? A new organization: the United Actors (UA). The United Actors bring together
- local and national governments,
- Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), and the
- private sector.
These groups all fulfil important global roles, yet there is no central global forum for them to meet and exchange on equal footing, where each entity is taken seriously in accordance with their roles and capabilities. In the United Actors, inclusiveness is an important principle so that diverse relevant voices are heard.
Recent developments such as the UN climate change conference in Paris have demonstrated that bottom-up, voluntary agreements are possibly the best feasible option for addressing common challenges in the current global reality. This sort of bottom-up, voluntary agreement is what the UA will facilitate in a dedicated, unique and innovative way and with the active participation of all relevant actors. The UA will use unusual and interactive session formats to engage the participating individuals both as human beings and as representatives of their organisations. They will listen and learn how the other actors think and act and what their motivations and objectives are. Such interaction will build understanding, knowledge and trust, which in turn forms the basis for improving each actors’ own activities as well as increasingly creating synergies and developing joint initiatives to the benefit of multiple actors and the world at large.
The United Actors will hold Councils once or twice a year, hopefully starting with the first Council meeting in New York in September 2016 to create synergies with the United Nations General Assembly. Future Councils can be held at suitable locations around the world. Each UA Council will focus on a different issue, which can range from sustainable cities to pandemics or cybersecurity.
Does this sound so logical to you that the real question is only “Why doesn’t it exist yet?”. If so: let’s create it. Or does this rather sound totally crazy to you? If so, consider that the World Economic Forum was founded in 1971 by one man – Klaus Schwab – and what it has become by today. Where there is a need, innovative, visionary and ambitious ideas can and will succeed. But only if the vision spreads and finds support. It is early days for the United Actors and critical feedback as well as support and partnerships are actively sought.
Let me end this on a personal note. As a 15-year old German exchange student in Australia, I wanted to contribute to intercultural understanding. As a university student of International Relations, I dreamt of one day working for the UN. As a young professional, I worked closely with the UN and saw its strengths and its weaknesses. At that point my dream changed: I still strongly believe in the aims and vision behind the UN, but I no longer believe that the UN is able to get us there by itself in its current form and set in the current global reality. To fulfil its original vision, the United Nations needs to be complemented by the United Actors. Only with everyone that matters on board and being truly heard can we hope to make real progress together with the necessary speed. My dream now is to contribute to making that vision reality.
Susanne Salz is the Visionary and Founder behind the United Actors. She holds a Masters in International Relations from the London School of Economics. As Head of the Secretary General’s Office at ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability she was the voice for cities (or in UN speak the “Local Authority Major Group Organising Partner”) for the UN Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development. She has also worked as a Project Manager at the non-profit ‘Think and Do Tank’ Collaborating Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production. Susanne is a member of the Global Diplomacy Lab and an alumnus of the Global Governances Futures program.
Susanne can be reached at: founder [at] united-actors.org
Posted by Future Justice on 4 April 2016