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A more “networked” UN for stronger multilateralism: how would it work?


09:00 – 10:00 (New York)

A debate about the future of multilateralism and the UN is heating up in New York in the run up to next year’s Summit of the Future. According to a recent report of the High Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism, the UN needs to facilitate a more “networked and inclusive multilateralism” engaging a variety of “stakeholders” such as civil society, the private sector, and local and regional governments.

On the premise that “individual aspirations are no longer principally mediated by national governments, though States continue to play a central role”, the HLAB report goes on to recommend various ways to include other voices in UN decision-making processes. Despite a formal submission of the IPU to the HLAB last October (see Documents on this page), the report does not discuss how parliaments can contribute to UN decision-making processes as a way of making the UN more transparent and accountable to the people of the world.

With regard to non-governmental organizations, the HLAB report recommends in particular: using digital space to involve more groups in UN processes, formally including ECOSOC-accredited civil society groups in common spaces in the UN, and building interactive dialogue with civil society into formal UN sessions.” 

Concerning the private sector, the report’s key recommendation is to include private companies in negotiations of multilateral treaties, as is already the case in negotiations of a plastics treaty, “where major polluting industries have a seat at the table and where all workers in the life cycle of production are taken into account.”  By extension, the UN should “more systematically identify private sector actors playing a positive role in addressing issues of global concern, helping to highlight their work and connect them to multilateral processes.”

Finally, with regard to local and regional governments, the HLAB recommends that institutions representing local governments be offered “a formal and permanent status, independent of civil society and non-governmental organizations, notably in areas of the environment, global health, migration, refugee response, organized crime and sustainable development.”

In the follow up to the HLAB report, released on 18 April, some member States have expressed misgivings about the concept of a “networked UN” as being antithetical to the inter-governmental nature of the UN. For its part, the IPU is growing concerned that the “strategic partnership” between the UN, parliaments and the IPU, as defined by a number of General Assembly resolutions, has yet to register in the current debate on the future of the UN as the key institution of global governance.

This briefing seeks to clarify the concept of a more “networked UN” and explore the limits of multi-stakeholder participation in UN processes.

Leading questions:

  • Are new proposals for greater inclusion of civil society, the private sector and local authorities in UN processes significantly different from existing consultative arrangements?
  • Does the role of parliaments at the UN differ from that of other stakeholders?
  • How can parliaments help strengthen people’s faith in multilateralism and in the UN?

For more information, please contact: [email protected].