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Fulfilling the Promise of the UN Charter

Working Document for Consensus Building

Global expectations have been raised once again about significantly improving the role, relevancy and effectiveness of the United Nations.

As the world organization approaches its 60th Anniversary in 2005, Secretary General Kofi Annan has led the initiative to elaborate the next phase of reforms. The intention is to present proposals to the United Nations Member States for their consideration and decisions at the 2005 General Assembly.

This initiative merits support, a participatory dialogue, and the building of a solid consensus to adopt the necessary reforms and implement the agreed changes.

Citizens for a United Nations People's Assembly
A member of the Global People's Assembly Movement

55 New Montgomery Street, Suite 224, San Francisco, CA 94105

Tel: 415-896-2242 - E-mail: sfpa@sbcglobal.net - Web: www.empowertheun.org

September 2004


Before considering changes or reforms to improve the United Nations, stakeholders throughout the world should recall the obligations entered into by each government or state that has joined the United Nations. Member States of the United Nations have endorsed and approved moral and legal commitments in the UN Charter, the Declaration of Human Rights and in other international conventions and agreements.

Thus, to address inherited problems, recurring risks and evolving challenges, all Member States have already agreed to settle their international disputes by peaceful means - actions that do not threaten international peace, security, or justice. The Charter stipulates that they shall refrain from the threat or use of force against other states. In addition, the Security Council is entrusted to formulate plans for a system to regulate armaments - in part to secure the peace as well as to limit the diversion of the world's human, economic and natural resources towards the tools of warfare.

The Charter also requires Member States to promote higher standards of living, full employment; solutions to international economic, social, health and related problems; cultural and educational cooperation. It states that all Members pledge themselves to take joint and separate action to achieve these purposes.

The Charter and the more detailed Universal Declaration of Human Rights require Member States to promote respect for, and observance of the human rights of their citizens.

The Millennium Development Goals, adopted by the consensus of all Member States in 2000, specify global and national objectives and targets for economic and human development.

Within this solid framework of universal values, objectives, and standards, much has been achieved. However, without any doubt, the extent of Member States legal and moral obligations in the UN Charter, Declaration of Human Rights, and the Millennium Development Goals suggests that more can and is required to be attained.

THEREFORE, on the occasion of the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations, it is urged to adopt resolutions that:

1) Put in place specific mechanisms and agreements to ensure to the fullest implementation of and mutual accountability for international commitments and obligations.

2) Seize the opportunity to empower, strengthen, and focus the United Nations -- its mandates, its organizations, its procedures, and its resources - so that it becomes more effective to address both the new and the chronic global and local challenges of the 21st Century.

3) Call for a UN Reform Conference under Article 109 of the UN Charter to consider and debate the need for significant UN reforms.

IN ADDITION, though nearly 60 years have past, we are reminded that governments for the benefit of "We the People" created the United Nations. In fact, the United Nations needs the People; the People need the United Nations.

In the context of not only the unfulfilled promises of the UN Charter, but also the justifiable aspirations and expectations of citizens of every state and nation, it ought not be forgotten that a universal spirit of democracy was embedded in the collective establishment of the United Nations. Moreover, non-governmental organizations have emerged as a near-universal phenomenon of viable, representative entities at the local, national and international level.

It has therefore become overdue for the UN and its Member States to:

4) Strengthen the partnerships with civil society; increase the level of consultations, coordination and collaboration with non-governmental organizations, recognizing both NGO's roles and responsibilities; and Improve the Peoples participation through more democratic institutions and processes within the UN.

Finally, when considering what justifies potentially major changes to the United Nations, every Member State and citizens throughout the world can readily acknowledge that circumstances are significantly different now than 60 years ago when global war and colonialism were so daunting and determinant. A standard to measure success will be whether the United Nations system and its Member States can more effectively facilitate, support, and act so that all countries will fulfill their Charter obligations and all Peoples will become the beneficiaries in the 21st Century of the principles, values and goals that have evolved during the last 60 years.


Among the first responses from civil society to Secretary General Kofi Annan's call for "radical reform" of the United Nations system was a preparatory conference that took place in June 2004 in San Francisco - historic site of the UN's creation. The conference - whose theme was "Toward a Democratic United Nations for the 21st Century" - included representatives of NGO's that have been active at the United Nations and who met for the purpose to prepare a plan of action to strengthen and improve the United Nations. Other related objectives: to advance the important role of NGO's in supporting the UN, and to contribute to building a better foundation and broader consensus for improvement of the United Nations.

The San Francisco conference paralleled the work of the Secretary General's special High Level Panel on Peace, Security, and UN Reform as well as the concerns of many Member States and other NGOs. The conference resulted in a reassessment of needs to empower and improve the UN, and generated proposals about five fundamental issues: Alternatives to War, Human Rights, International Law, Social and Economic Justice and - a special focus -- Creation of a People's Assembly at the United Nations to provide a better substantive voice of "We, the Peoples." in UN decisions and activities.

1. Alternatives to War

Despite the non-recurrence of World Wars and the end of the Cold War since the founding of the UN, nations continue to be engulfed in numerous cross-border conflicts and civil wars. These cause not only devastation and displacement internally but result in grave consequences that spill into other countries. As the 21st Century begins, peace and security clearly remain an elusive dream for our planet and for the millions of civilians, primarily women and children, who are killed or harmed by war.

* The Security Council must function boldly and objectively, in accord with the UN Charter - while taking significant steps at the same time to phase out the veto power.

* In accord with the UN's Charter about the promotion of peace and reduction of armaments: Adopt proposals that will improve operational policies, establish monitoring systems, and achieve more effective results. Take measures that will accelerate the shift toward the goal of smaller national armies, arms control and reduced arms sales, as well as the control and elimination of weapons of mass destruction, and the eradication of land mines.

* Peacekeeping must be more responsive and effective, aided by creation of a UN force and civilian peace keepers who can be deployed promptly when agreed criteria have been met.

A culture of peace must be constructed. This can be achieved most successfully by bold and systematic efforts led by the United Nations. A new political environment should be constructed. It is necessary to mandate and involve more effectively not only Member States and their political leaders, but also all peoples, acting within the framework of the United Nations system.

* Peace building -- promptly and effectively implemented -- remains a necessity in instances after war has occurred. Strengthen mandates and provide resources to enable the introduction of collective measures that are necessary to restore conditions for recovery, security, and the non-recurrence of the use of force or violence. Simultaneously, Member States and the UN organizations should collaborate better in fully funding and providing the necessary humanitarian support, reconstruction, and the resumption of stable, sustainable human development.

* Develop peace education. An adequate global program should be developed, widely promulgated and supported by national governments and their partners (adapted to differing circumstances and cultures) and implemented by all member states. Such a program for leaders and as part of mass education ought to encompass, inter alia, better tools and training in conflict resolution, non-violent communications, and a psychology of tolerance and healing.

Peace education might include adoption of a 'World Peace Curriculum' (as proposed by former Assistant Secretary General Robert Muller).

* Foster national campaigns for non-violence, peace & disarmament. These should be advocated and supported with the media encouraged to exercise an active role.

* Strengthen democratic and participatory modalities of "We the Peoples" in national and global partnerships to augment the ascendancy of a culture of peace.

2. Social Justice and Economic Development: (Millennium Development Goals)

Important objectives and essential foundations for achieving social justice and economic development were broadly articulated in the UN's Charter. Member States agreed to promote higher standards of living, full employment, solutions to international economic, social, health and related problems.

Moreover, unanimous adoption by Member States of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) in 2000 constitutes a most significant milestone: the commitment of governments to achieve a detailed set of economic and human development objectives at both the global and national levels. The MDG have been elaborated into measurable targets within a timeframe ending in 2015. Concerted attention will be required in the coming years focusing on implementation, collaboration and support in order to achieve these targets and Millennium Development Goals. Nonetheless, there is renewed promise and expectations in this new Century to finally make development "work for the People" -- to raise their living standards, eliminate poverty, meet basic human needs, combat preventable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and malaria, as well as create the enabling environment for sustainable human development and attainment of greater social justice. Many of the highest priority needs are generally understood and targeted to better achieve long-held dreams of human development and social justice. Attaining the priority targets now require collaboration, additional resources and concerted action.

* Broaden global awareness of, and commitments to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Vigorously secure support and mobilize the resources and other capabilities that will be necessary during coming years.

* Create a stronger partnership to implement the MDG at the global, national and local levels -- involving not only Member States and governments; ensure also that NGOs and civil society are integrated as full partners, participants and beneficiaries and that the necessary funding is provided for this. Partnerships should extend as appropriate to the identification of needs and opportunities, decision-making, implementation, and monitoring. [Principles, values, and Priorities of the Earth Charter and Millennium Forum Declaration should be taken into account.]

* Entrust the UN Development System with increased leadership and operational responsibilities: e.g. help generate and provide adequate funding, advocacy and facilitation, monitoring progress. Simultaneously, continue to streamline and improve coordination of the UN organizations and agencies for operational activities so they can become more cost-effective at the international and country levels.

* Promote the continued evolution and expanded participation of the Global Compact - initiated by the UN Secretary General - and include a full monitoring mechanism. Introduce reforms as rapidly as possible that result in a strong component of private sector partnering in support of the MDG and the more rapid achievement of social justice. "Enlightened self-interest' as well as collective social responsibility are at stake; recognize and disseminate "best practices" within the business community as models to be replicated.

* Improve communications capabilities and access to information for "We the Peoples." Enable civil society to play a larger catalytic role in economic development and social justice. Foster improved communications and access in order to enhance education, self-determination, and participation in the coalition to achieve the MDGs. Accordingly, governments and other stakeholders should support the UN Secretary General's plan for information and communication technologies.

* Empower and reform ECOSOC (the UN's Economic and Social Council) to enable it to improve its critical roles with governments and other stakeholders, e.g. consensus-building, establishing standards and targets, monitoring and joint accountability, and information sharing.

* Reflect much better the voices and capabilities of "We the Peoples" - through NGOs and civil society organizations -- in the deliberations, decision-making, and implementation of the work of the ECOSOC, the UN Development System and UN Humanitarian Organizations.

Experience demonstrates that a preventive approach to war and violence is causally linked to human development, social justice, human rights, empowerment and self-determination of people. (Bold)

* Give greater priority to preventive development. Facilitate coordination and leadership under a stronger UN mandate -- to be partnered with governments, NGOs, private sector and other organizations at the regional, national and local levels. Allot the necessary resources as a cost-effective investment to meet widespread needs.

* Adopt mandates and strengthen institutions at the global, regional and national levels that will put in place the measures to identify growing tension and acute problems. Thus, when causes of violence and war seriously erupt or increasingly emerge - such as suppression and injustice, deprivation and inequality, insecurity and exclusion, frustration and instability -- a collective response capability and programs can be brought to bear as soon as feasible in order to mitigate and defuse causes of violence and war.

Protection of the environment, wiser management of natural resources and the importance of sustainable development have unquestionably become recognized in recent decades - well after the UN's founding in 1945 -- as a paramount concern of Peoples and nations. The Global Environment Facility and many other local, national and international initiatives have emerged as critical responses to the survival of the planet. Funding for these initiatives and programs must be significantly increased. "Thinking globally and acting locally" finds resonance if these challenges are to be surmounted.

* Reconsider and revise the mandate of the UN Trusteeship Council - currently nearly defunct - in the context of current and future global challenges. The "Trusteeship" role might most appropriately be transformed in the 21st Century to the collective stewardship of the Earth and the sustainable use of its resources -- encompassing such "common goods" such as air, water, arable soils, and biodiversity.

3. Human Rights and Responsibilities

Every human being is born with inalienable human rights as well as responsibilities to the common good and to other people. The UN Declaration of Human Rights requires Member States to promote the universal respect for, and protection of human rights. Among the most effective ways to protect human rights is to increase education and general awareness about Human Rights.

* Reaffirm and strengthen the mandates of the UN, national and local governments to promote and protect Human Rights. Encourage and monitor government's efforts to establish or reinforce their capabilities and institutions to ensure adequate promotion, protection and defense of Human Rights for all persons.

* Mandate the UN and especially the Human Rights Commission of the UN to set higher standards and to put in place enhanced, objective processes to monitor and facilitate compliance.

* Provide more resources, technical support and models through the UN, and in conjunction with other stakeholders and partners, in order to improve Member States' performance and compliance.

* Take steps that will enlarge the roles, responsibilities, capabilities and operations of independent, non-governmental institutions to better encourage, support and monitor how governments and national institutions fulfill their fundamental lead roles and responsibilities.

* Disseminate, promote and implement more widely the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Utilize all forms of media, including television, radio and print media to raise the level of awareness and the respect for the rights and responsibilities of all people.

* Promote Human Rights more holistically: not limited to protecting people from abuse, discrimination and violence, but also linked to strengthening rule of law, due process, freedom from poverty, self-determination and other goals of economic and social justice.

4. International Law

The present global system for international law places the United Nations Charter, the UN system and its institutions at its heart. Indeed, progress has been made during the past 60 years to strengthen the rule by law and its application. Nonetheless, despite endorsement of key principles and commitment to international agreements, the system falls well short of fulfilling its ambitious goals. Moreover, an urgent need exists to raise international law to higher standards. This need is exacerbated due to greater challenges of an increasingly globalized planet, spasmodic lapses of peace and security, abuse of human rights, and unforeseen challenges to environmental sustainability and protection of "common goods." "We the Peoples" and our nations are being denied benefits promised and promoted by Member States when they created the United Nations.

The UN's 60th Anniversary offers another timely occasion for Member States and the UN to introduce greater legitimacy, credibility, respect for, and compliance with, international law. It is also necessary to reinforce the accepted principle that no individual, no groups, no nation is above or outside the rule of international law.

* Review and strengthen mandates for the application and enforcement of the rule of international law. Give consideration to formulating a more coherent, consistent and effective 'world judiciary system' within the framework of the United Nations.

* Affirm and clarify standards, linked to more robust systems and UN institutions for collective monitoring and accountability.

* Enhance legitimacy and credibility of international law, not only by greater government compliance. Additionally, enhance the greater democratic involvement and a participatory role of civil society and NGOs in the processes of application, monitoring, and institutional strengthening.

* Strengthen the capacity and mechanisms for compliance of international law. "Best practices" should be better identified, promulgated and applied by UN, governments, and all relevant organizations.

* Call on all nations to support the International Criminal Court and the World Court. Jurisdiction and decisions should be respected to reinforce their credibility and the application of law.

* Consider establishing a World Ombudsman supported by a UN Office of Ombudsman, which would fill the need of an international 'public defender' - parallel to what a growing number of countries enact at the national level.

* Encourage and support public information, education and media to promote the principles, practices, and improved legal paradigm of international law. Member States and all relevant partners should also reinforce the principle that self-interest and national interest are understood as best served by taking part in a binding system of international law/world law. A shared perception of common interests needs to be developed and recognized among states, individuals, and non-state actors (multi-stakeholders).

5. Creation of a People's Assembly

An international movement has emerged that calls for a forum for the voices of the People to be more clearly heard in the global arena and at the United Nations. People want to be, and should be, directly represented and fully included in discussions of issues that affect their lives and that of future generations. Progress has been made towards the formation of a Global People's Assembly in which democratically elected people, as citizens of the world, will have an influential voice in issues that shape their common destiny, especially at a global level.

In fact, since the 1990's, an important precedent about civil society's role has been widely accepted by Member States, by organizations and agencies of the United Nations, as well as by NGO's and representatives of civil society. The series of United Nations global conferences often have an NGO forum or people's commissions that has consulted and made recommendations about the principle issues of the respective conferences' agenda, and had their voices respected by Member States (who retain the authority to make decisions on behalf of their nations and governments) (delete the previous clause. It is not needed and we certainly don't need to reinforce this limiting idea). The Report of the UN Secretary General's Panel of Eminent Persons about Civil Society Relations entitled "We the Peoples: Civil Society, the United Nations and Global Governance" makes 30 proposals with regard to the roles and responsibilities of NGOs and civil society in the many aspects of UN mandates and consultations. These recommendations merit careful consideration and substantial support.

Within this constructive dialogue, the movement of the Global People's Assembly suggests a variety of strategies that could be followed to form a world body truly representative of "We the Peoples."

* Invoke Article 22 of the UN Charter, which allows the General Assembly to set up an advisory body that could be an Assembly elected democratically by the people, and which would thus not be subject to Security Council veto.

* Work with a core group of countries to draft a process to democratically elect representatives to a People's Assembly.

* Assist countries to put in place the means to democratically elect parliamentarians or globally minded citizens to serve as delegates to the General Assembly, to a Parliament of the Peoples or to a Global People's Assembly.

* Assist civil societies to provide effective leadership and to participate fully in establishing the foundations for a People's Assembly or global parliamentary body.

* Take initial measures within the scope of this initiative to formulate a global constitution upon which the international rule of law could be based.



Secretary General Kofi Annan has initiated another phase of United Nations improvement. His call for substantial, even "radical" reforms have sparked renewed interest. This opportunity should be seized as the 60th Anniversary of the United Nations approaches. As argued above, it is urged that all stakeholders support the Secretary General's initiative.

Member States, with power reserved to themselves to legislate change in the United Nations (again this phrase is not needed and we do not need to call attention to it. Our goal should be to further empower the role of the people and civil society not to limit it) continue to bear a major responsibility to improve the United Nations organization they created or have subsequently joined. They can exercise this responsibility, and should utilize the provisions for reform that they incorporated within the Articles of the UN Charter.

However, more than government deliberations and decisions are necessary if the United Nations is to better serve the Peoples and nations of the world. A coalition of government sponsors and other supporters has proven to be an important asset in adopting prior reforms to the UN and in implementing improvements. Initiatives by, and collaboration with, other interested partners ought to be welcomed.

Thus, it is strongly urged to progressively reinforce during the coming months a participatory consultation, campaign and consensus-building process.

This would not only make the process of formulating reforms more democratic, but also more likely to reflect a collective wisdom that justifies change. A collaborative campaign would reinforce the Secretary General and those Member States that seek reforms. It would additionally help establish a firmer "ownership" of the UN as an organization, increase credibility for the decisions taken by the Member States, and foster more robust support for the activities and programs that the United Nations organizations and agencies will implement.

In more practical terms, assessments of priority needs for UN reform and proposals for improvement should continue to spring from the Secretary General, his High Level advisory panel, Member States -- and from an improved dialogue that will involve all affected stakeholders. Non-governmental organizations and the voices of civil society should be invited to participate fully within appropriate inter-governmental consultations. UN and Government Officials are encouraged to participate fully in Civil Society Processes. Initial preparatory meetings and electronic networking should be broadened. Public information and media should be expanded in order to ensure broader awareness and more informed participation in the process. Increased information dissemination by the United Nations Secretariat and leading stakeholders ought to enhance public support and international "ownership" of an increasingly responsive, effective United Nations.

In this context, it is hoped that contributions such as this paper, the San Francisco conference in June 2004, the DPI-NGO Conference in September 2004, the UBUNTU UN Reform process, Conference of the Forum International Montreal, Helsinki Process, and a growing number of other initiatives will facilitate a more structured, more inclusive, and more productive process.

The goal of the coming year is to build a strong coalition of partners that contribute to, and support proposals that will be presented to all 191 Member States at the UN's 60th anniversary in 2005.

The secondary objectives, for the longer term, are to strengthen the common vision and the foundations for more participatory, democratic and united action.

The ultimate hope and expectation is to empower the United Nations so that it can better meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

Citizens for a United Nations People's Assembly (formerly San Francisco People's Assembly)
Rev. Sept 04


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