At the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (or, as everybody says, the COP27), held in Egypt from 6 to 20 November 2022, delegates from 197 countries, civil society and other institutions met again to discuss the further implementation of the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
The usual “too little, too late” refrain usually filling the comments was somehow disrupted by an apparently colossal step forward: the historical (?) decision to establish a new financial instrument: a Loss and Damage Fund. Its goal would be to share among the richer countries the burden on those most affected by climate change, unfortunately mainly classified among the developing or least developed countries.
Yet, reading the papers anyone can quickly realize that the historical decision is an empty one: it is easy to agree on the establishment of a new institution/fund/financial tool (still we don’t know what it will be) if you don’t have to agree to the how, when, where and who…. and especially to who pays and how much.
Yet, at least one decision was taken: who would be on the Transitional Committee in charge of all these decisions. Almost. In fact, this “who” is quite unspecified.
We just know they will represent 24 countries, comprising 10 members from developed countries and 14 from developing countries. Among the 14, we also know that 3 will be from Africa, 3 from Asia and Pacific, 3 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 2 from small island developing States, 2 members from the least developed countries; and to get to 14, 1 from some category non specified above (which?).
Why 24? Maybe because this is the size of the IMF and (until a few years ago) World Bank boards. Does it mean that the fund, more than a financial instrument will be an international financial institution? One that we could classify as an international organization? Maybe.
If so, great opportunities lay ahead. After so many years of discussions on how to revise IMF and WB to make them more equitable and closer to their “clients”, both geographically and culturally, we could just take the new Fund as an occasion to design an entirely different way to build an equitable world organization. In fact, what best opportunity than starting from scratch?
The process in itself is not exactly transparent
The same Decision -/CP.27 -/CMA.4 establishing the Committee (not the Fund) was quite hidden among the COP27 documents. Moreover, it would be interesting to know who are the 24 selected countries and who are their appointed representatives. As these 24 people are in charge of submitting a detailed proposal for the real creation of the Fund on the occasion of the next COP, their knowledge, experience and wisdom are quite relevant.
I would also love – and maybe many experts and activists would as well – to know how to get in touch with them to submit suggestions or, even better, contribute to the work in progress.
I had a very interesting conversation about this topic with Nico Heller, founder and CEO of the Democracy School. You can listen to it here:
And here are a few suggestions to add some democratic features to the new financial institution, if they dare!
A Multistakeholder Assembly, as a second chamber flanking the (usually intergovernmental) Governing Council;
A Ministerial Committee with the same composition as the Transitional Committee to be renewed on a rotating basis, to provide political guidance;
An independent Executive Board, appointed by the chambers after a proposal by the Ministerial Committee;
Membership of regional integration organizations as an alternative to membership of States, with full rights;
Transparency, transparency, transparency (e.g. motivated decisions, to be published online);
An advisory role for civil society (e.g. online consultations on drafts of policy and strategy documents;
Structural links with other international organizations whose role is related or overlapping to avoid duplication of functions, fragmentation and dispersion of resources. We could start with…
It does not happen every day that an interesting case study for institutional engineering is also a crucial tool to tackle a global issue.
And we didn’t talk about financing! There we have an even greater challenge as the new institution should be able to support itself and finance its grants somehow. Would be too much bold to imagine states’ contributions based on some kind of algorithm where both emissions and GDP are part of the equation? Could that not encourage indirectly reducing emissions? Just saying…
SUPRANATIONAL DEMOCRACY DIALOGUE A dialogue among scholars, civil society, and creative thinkers about global democratic solutions to global challenges. V Edition “FOCUS ON TOOLS” Brindisi May 18-19, 2023
The University of Salento will host the new edition of the two days event – the only one of its kind aimed at bringing together scholars from any background, NGO leaders and political activists, businessmen and innovative thinkers to discuss together the big challenges facing humanity.
Those willing to contribute are invited to send an abstract by February 28, 2023, addressing one of the following topics:
I. The Building of a Political Public Sphere beyond Borders. II. Civic Participation and Citizens’ Activism. III. Digital Democracy & AI IV. Litigation for the Advancement of Collective Rights. V. Regional Integrations and Multilateralism. VI. Balancing Conflicting Interests: a Task for Politics and Jurisdictions
Contributions are also welcome if they lay at the intersection of two or more topics (cross-cutting themes such as governance, inequality, transparency…) or if they have a wider focus and include a case study falling within one of the four topics listed above. The ideal contribution is not just an analysis of the problem, but a proposal for addressing it democratically in some original or unconventional way, yet feasible. The abstract (max 500 words), together with a short bio (max 300 words), may be sent to the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org. The authors of the selected abstracts will receive two-night accommodation.
With the support of
UNGSC, Maison Jean Monnet, Democracy and Culture Foundation, Atlas, Democracy Without Borders, The Streit Council for a Union of Democracies, CesUE, Euractiv.it, The Democracy School, Italian Association of International Law Professors (SIDI)- Interest Groups on International Economic Law (SIDI DIEcon) and on Humar Rights (DIEDU); Association of Italian Experts of European Law (AISDUE)- Forum on International Projection of European Union (PIUE); Jean Monnait Chair and modules at Università del Salento.
I had the pleasure, a couple of weeks ago, to discuss this topic with two distinguished colleagues: prof. Fabio Bassan (University Roma Tre, Italy), prof. Larry Catà Baker (Penn State University, US).
It was an occasion to reflect on a topic whose importance cannot be missed, as crises are more and more on the global agenda.
The unprecedented interconnectedness of states, populations, markets, is increasingly contributing to generate global crises. The risk of contagion of financial crises, of diseases, but also of social and political phenomena as terrorism – even the risk of spreading fake news threatening democracy – makes the world a global village. Issues which 50 years ago would have been national become now easily global. The International organizations were not created to manage the global village, but for the need to coordinate states i.e. compartmentalized national markets and national communities. The current state of the world was unpredictable when most of the international organizations were created after World War II, so – not surprisingly – they are not equipped with proper competences and tools. They are built on rigid founding treaties which cannot be easily modified.
Some global issues, as rising temperatures, water scarcity, deforestation, generate more issues, as extreme weather events, migrations, conflicts, extreme poverty. Crises are often interrelated, multifactorial, cross-sectoral. The current pandemic crisis is also a major economic crisis and it is generating increasing inequality.
Yet, in international law, we see a fragmentation of roles and functions, as most of the international organizations are sectoral, with a specific focus and field of interest (WFP, UNCCC, UNHCR etc…). Yet, there is a need to deal with the big picture as issues are often interconnected.
There are a few coordination fora, such as the G20 or the UN (and namely the Assembly and the Economic and Social Committee), yet the first lacks legitimacy being a group of self- selected states (just like all the Gs), the second lacks effectiveness, as it does not have legal tools for the enforcement of coordination.
Finally, there is an increasing demand for legitimacy and accountability. We assist in a multiplication of participation tools in the global public sphere – petitions, transnational political movements, structured dialogues of international organizations with civil society. Debates on the improvement of international organizations or the creation of a new international organization cannot avoid taking in these democratic expectations to some extent. The latter cannot be but multilateral as well as multi-stakeholders.
The solution proposed by prof. Fabio Bassan builds on a set of organizing premises. These include, first, that States consider systemic crises a challenge and an opportunity to be seized, in a ruthless competition not only between companies and markets but also between legal systems and between States, which in the dynamic of international relations now devoted to market power, have the effect of transforming the latter into political supremacy. Second, the fact that the marginal benefit thus acquired by one State entails a significant sacrifice for one or more other States and therefore entails a sub-optimal balance, constitutes a secondary but not irrelevant aspect. Given these premises, solutions ought to be guided by a principle of proportionality, among those that minimize the costs for the States in terms of transfer of sovereignty and reduction of competition between legal systems and between States in dealing with the crisis, but at the same time allow to coordinate the reaction to systemic crises.
In this context, IOs must be reconstituted to be able to perform coordination functions of
national actions in the immediacy of the crisis, in its management, and in overcoming the crisis.
In that reconstitution, IOs should be equipped with internal and operational rules suitable for managing and early warning functions and with a coherent power to direct and coordinate the actions of the States that are part of it. This organization should have legitimacy, at the highest level. The decisions would consist of coordinating the actions of national governments. The decisions should consist of identifying ways and forms of coordinated reaction to critical events.
These methods could integrate the use of existing economic institutions. And lastly, an
institutionalized form of connection and cooperation of this organization with the International Organizations responsible for economic, financial, health, climatic matters could also be envisaged, in order to acquire practices, protocols, information necessary for the adoption of decisions.
I entirely agree with the need to fill this gap in the current system of the international organization.
A valid alternative to a new organization is the revision of the existing system of IOs to increase legitimacy and accountability, to create (or upgrade) existing bodies equipping them with the necessary competences and tools, to provide them with data and practices already developed and spread in different organizations, to set transmission chains for information and coordination.
There is a long record of proposals to create a UN Economic Security Council. In this line, an interesting one has been put forward by J. Ocampo and J. Stiglitz: the creation of the Global Economic Coordination Council (GECC). Even if this body, inside the UN institutional system would not be focused on crisis management, yet it would complement and complete the organization flanking the Security Council. It would meet at leaders’ level (Heads of States) and its representation would be based on the constituencies mechanism (a restricted yet elected body). The option for multilateralism is clear as well as for a more legitimate and representative system. The new body would be in charge of coordinating all branches of the UN that operate in the economic, social, and environmental fields, including the Bretton Woods institutions, so encompassing the ECOSOC competence. Even the WTO, would be brought into the UN system by appropriate agreements.
Another way to manage (economic) crises would be the upgrade of the Ministerial Councils inside the Bretton Woods institutions– now just advisory bodies -to entrust them with a role of political guidance similar to the one currently played by the G20. The IMF has been created to deal with conjunctural crises and it could play a much bigger role in such occurrences, yet it can just manage national crises, not really systemic, transnational, and global ones. This is due, in our opinion, to its governance: a Board of Governors made up of 189 members representing governments of all member states (usually at ministerial level) and an Executive Board of 24, each representing a single country or groups of countries appointed for two years and full-time officials. So, the political body is just too big to make decisions (which are taken instead in G20, as previously in the G7), the body in charge for the administration lacks political legitimacy and the competence to take the most important decisions. The Ministerial Councils, instead, would represent not just themselves, but the whole membership of the organization through the constituencies’ mechanism. I have described this proposal in detail here.
In more general terms, the eminently technocratic management of many IOs has proved often inadequate, when it gets necessary to move to politically sensitive decision-making (hence the fortune of the Gs) so, the need for a political dimension in the global sphere appears evident. The two problems which need to be solved are the deficit of politics and the crisis of multilateralism (due also to its lack of effectiveness). Action can be taken on both fronts giving to a high-profile, adequately legitimized political body the competence to build strategies, inside a genuine, multilateral organization.
Multilateralism itself could be improved, as we see emerging actors such as the global civil society or companies having now a systemic impact on transnational public opinion and lifestyle, as the “Big Five” (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft). So, multilateralism could now evolve towards multi-stakeholders’ platforms, something we have already seen, for instance, in the internet governance, in some environmental bodies (as UNEA) or in the Committee on World Food Security. Nothing would prevent to give, right now, a small but significant role to civil society. For instance, it could play an advisory role, by commenting and contributing to the first drafts of policy and strategy documents of IOs posted online. No reforms are needed to spread such best practices already tested.
Coming back to the proposal by the colleague Fabio Bassan, it seems to respond to these needs as well as to fill a real gap, nowadays increasingly important, as the management of cross-sectoral crises. Of course, it fits in the European Solution as described in the video by professor Catà Baker – i.e. grounded on common institutions and shared values- and I suppose my comments and additions fit in the same box. It is maybe more than a cultural tribute, our European forma mentis.
I know both solutions are difficult to imagine in the current political agenda of many countries, and especially of some key actors, such as US, China, Russia, or Brasil. European Union, at the moment, is focused inward, on its own upgrade. Yet, as you know, it is not in the spirit of this blog to skip reasoning on something only because it looks unlikely at the moment. Let’s keep reasoning!
The current global health crisis shows an unprecedented interconnectedness of the human family. Moreover, it has fostered an unprecedented debate over the borders.
Networks and networks of networks are now debating about the “new normal” and are wondering if we really want to go back to the “old” normal.
It is strange. It seems that we needed such a traumatic event as a pandemic to really stop and think about our development model. We had already plenty of reasons to do so: the unsustainable inequalities, the unacceptable damages to our beautiful planet.
But it seems that we really needed to stop and think. To be forced to do so.
And here we are.
This series of debates was imagined well before the pandemic. A call for papers was put out in October 2020. And it looks like we are going timely to the point, to discuss a change which is necessary, to imagine new scenarios and new models for cooperation, sustainability, and resilience.
The next events in the series are going to focus even more on the needs, and on the awareness required to prioritize them.
The role of rigor (and austerity) as a way to correct fiscal imbalances in the midst of the economic crisis, has been extensively debated over the last few years, and it is still a contentious issue to this date. The recipes imposed by the Eurozone authorities and by the IMF in the European sovereign debt crises have been widely criticized and contested. In one specific case, they have even been recognized as wrong. Well-known economists Carmen Reinhardt and Kenneth Rogoff have been questioned in their main research finding of an existing inverse relationship between public debt levels and growth rates, beyond a certain critical threshold. On the other hand, there is a consensus that high levels of public debt are not desirable as they may pose a serious issue of sustainability and financial vulnerability. As a result, the need to keep the public budget under check is a broadly shared policy objective. A hotly debated issue, though, is whether the fiscal adjustment should be done during the crisis, at the risk of depressing growth, or whether it should be backloaded thus allowing the fiscal budget to support output and employment.
But, one fact is a logical antecedent to the debate itself: which institutions are supposed to be the best judges for choosing the optimal balance between rigor and growth?
A tentative way to start addressing this question is to assume a division of tasks between global agencies (like the IMF and G20), regional institutions (like the EU), and nation states. Each with its own set of competencies and responsibilities.
We then need to have some understanding of growth and rigor.
It’s hard to define growth. It is the result of a mixture of heterogeneous ingredients. Most of them are economic ones: the state may stimulate growth through public policies aimed at supporting investment and entrepreneurial initiatives. Similarly important are the institutional ingredients, such as the set of norms and rules aimed at encouraging certain economic behaviors or discouraging others, or the measures to make public administration more efficient or to reduce its costs. Other ingredients are social ones, such as public investment in health, education, and inclusiveness, which produce results in the long run. The whole mix of ingredients, moreover, has to communicate a sense of social justice and of shared efforts in order for it to be acceptable for the population.
Even though good practices may be of inspiration to countries engaging in pro-growth strategies, there is no such a thing as “the” right recipe for growth. Successful growth strategies differ from country to country, and across periods, and vary according to the strengths and weaknesses of each country, its culture, institutions, and level of technological development. The international context may influence domestic growth significantly.
It may be argued that growth has some kind of conceptual primacy inscribed in the mission of international institutions such as the IMF and World Bank, as well as of many regional organizations aimed at economic and financial cooperation. Of course, the way growth and other objectives are articulated in the charters of such institutions reflects, besides the different purpose and peculiarities of each, also the different times when their charters were written. Therefore, for instance, while the IMF Articles of Agreement (1944) show a conception of growth that is deliberately based on purely economic terms, the EU Treaty (1957 and revised many times) aims at a different, holistic, idea of growth, complemented by social elements, reflecting the cultures and politics of the region, as it has evolved over time.
Let’s explore now the meaning of rigor: it is understood to be a conduct (or even a set of rules) aimed at limiting excessive public debt and state deficit, and at restoring good governance and sound public finances. In practice, in the case of excessive deficits and/or debts due to cyclical or structural difficulties, rigor often translates into austerity policies, with cuts to public expenditures and high social costs.
Moving to the responsibilities and tools of international organizations, we do find many examples of interventions aimed at strengthening rigor rather than supporting growth. On the occasion of the recent European sovereign debt crisis, both IMF and EU engaged in supporting and restoring public finances in several countries. The Eurozone itself, in the process of strengthening its governance, added new instruments and regulations for disciplining public finances more effectively.
In the Treaty on the Functioning of European Union (TFEU) we find several rules of hard law that are intended for achieving more rigor, like, for instance, the articles 123-126 on fiscal discipline.
The best-known one is art. 126:
“1. Member States shall avoid excessive government deficits. (…)”
There are, moreover, various legal acts specifying rules for rigor and the sanctions for violating them.
Frameworks for growth have also been contemplated at the global and European level, of which many G20 communiques and the Europe 2020 strategy are good examples. Yet they are all nothing more than good intentions, or soft laws at best. All the relevant policy instruments – and especially the budgets – are in the hands of national governments and parliaments.
We can draw the first conclusion: while international multilateral organizations have economic growth in their statutory mission, they are in fact best equipped for delivering rigor.
Why is this so? A simple but nonetheless convincing line of reasoning is that rigor is unpopular. And since the ultimate goal of politicians is generally to be elected
(or re-elected), policies for rigor tend to be avoided as much as possible by democratic governments (and, even more, by populist governments), unless they can be blamed on somebody else. On the other hand, nation states are best positioned and equipped to deal with growth policies, since it is at this level of government that one finds (i) democratic representation of citizens in order to have legitimate choices; and (ii) resources necessary for growth initiatives.
Thus, it is really not surprising that states have transferred the political price of unpopular (but necessary) measures for rigor to different levels of government, levels where there are no political elections. One of the consequences is that states are risking to kill international levels of government with unpopularity.
This dichotomy suggests a number of questions: (i) is nationally driven growth the best solution? Is it the best solution, if international organizations are responsible for imposing rigor?
The choice to place the tools for growth at the national level may appear in contradiction with the goals attributed to the IMF and the EU (as already mentioned), but also with the plans and guidelines for growth formulated periodically by the European Council and the Groups of States (G8, G20), which point to the need for making growth a commonly shared objective by the global community, one which requires international cooperative governance frameworks. At the same time, nation-states run against formidable obstacles to growth, as the international orientation to rigor inhibits their efforts to that end.
Back to growth: which are the main obstacles met by international organizations when they want to deal with growth? A first take involves responsibilities
If we believe that growth involves creative thinking and requires discretion, then we necessarily end up in the field of Politics (with capital P!), and leave the realm of technocracy.
This is substantially different than simply applying rules, which is what happens when international organizations intervene to enforce discipline.
Another obstacle is related to the budget. It’s not just a matter of having limited resources (even though, of course, larger budgets expand the set of feasible choices), but there is also an issue of “who” controls the budget. Only resources that are truly “owned” can guarantee independent (and creative) thinking.
Finally, there is an institutional issue. Growth requires a participative approach and a democratic institutional setup. A hard problem to be addressed is the coordination between the global and the national (as well as regional and local) levels of government. This is an area for multilevel governance and subsidiarity. Regional and global economic institutions may not impose growth recipes over populations but can offer useful fora for governments to discuss policy options and choices, which in the end only they can enforce.
In conclusion: if we consider rigor and growth from a purely “governance perspective”, we easily see that:
rigor is basically the application of rules;
it may be handled technocratically;
it has to be impartial (rules based);
it requires negligible budgetary resources;
it is easily and more conveniently delegated to supranational levels of government.
Growth, on the other hand, lays within the realm of political decisions. It implies a vision and requires making choices out of an infinite number of possible alternatives and combinations. The number of feasible choices grows with the increase of budgetary resources. Deciding on a growth strategy that is sustainable and inclusive demands democratic institutions.
Rigor may, in fact, overrule growth preferences. The consequences are not merely economic, as they can have a significant impact on the democratic governance as well.
Public opinion’s demand for democracy at a global level has significantly increased in the last decade, due to the number of global challenges affecting humanity as a whole and the growing feeling of transnational interconnectedness generated by the internet. Unfortunately, international organizations are not (yet) equipped for democratic participation of individuals as they are basically intergovernmental.
An institutional formula for global democracy doesn’t exist yet and it’s time to invent it, reframing the very notion of democracy for this space which is not the familiar nation state we know since the Westphalian order.
Of course, we cannot imagine simply transferring what works at the national level – institutions and procedures – given the variety and complexity of organizations at international level. Moreover, we should consider the intrinsically difference of legal orders grounded on the membership of States instead of individuals, where even the basic principle of equality doesn’t fit.
The approach I suggest is grounded in a constructivist method: after deconstructing democracy in three basic components— legitimacy, accountability and inclusiveness—it is possible to reassemble them originally with the aim of their progressive strengthening.
This method will allow a realistic assessment of the level of democracy in international organizations and it will help promoting institutional reforms in line with the expectations of democracy in the global civil society.
A fundamental shift will occur from the typical intergovernmental model towards a more supranational one—as improving legitimacy, accountability, and inclusiveness naturally implies an increasing relationship between individuals and international organizations. The existence of a direct correlation between the role of individuals (or if you prefer of a demos) and the level of democracy appears to me a crucial topic.
The inadequate attention that international organizations’ statutes give to legitimacy, accountability and inclusiveness hails from the limited role that IOs played at the beginning of their history and from the subsequent scarce attention to democracy in a setting different from the national state.
In today’s different international context, it is worthwhile to challenge the unsurmountable hurdles stemming from the use of the word “democratic” in connection with an international organization.
Even though there isn’t a generally accepted theory of democracy – or more broadly of supranational democracy – in international organizations, we can examine the possible portability of the individual elements that make up this notion from the state level – for which they were originally created – to the international level. This is the experiment I’m almost obsessed about.
However, two kinds of difficulties arise from the fact that we are not considering a community of individuals, but of nations.
The first obstacle is the difficult applicability of the principle of equality, inherent in the notion of democracy. It is based on the concept of equal dignity for all human beings which leads to ignore and even amend the differences that give some people a “birth right” to succeed. All states are sovereign and therefore equal inside the international community, but this principle is nothing but a fictio. Far from wanting to ignore or minimize the differences, the international community focuses upon the preservation of the status quo, which is attenuated only by the shared goal of the sustainable development and protection of fundamental rights. Even when all the countries will get, as we hope, to share similar levels of prosperity, they would be far from equal. Too many facets help mark the differences: the size of territories, populations and economies, as well as the control over natural resources and the weapon supply.
As a consequence, several organizations agree on the principle that states are differently represented to reflect their different situations. Other ones simply ignore their substantial difference, but special provisions or practices make some States more equals than others.
Important scholar studies try to offer solutions to this dilemma, but there isn’t any adequate diffusion and sedimentation of shared assessments. The reflection on the subject has followed two clearly distinct lines: the statism theory, which sees international democracy as the result of the joint action of the states, as essential building blocks; and the doctrine inspired by cosmopolitanism and transnationality, which is based on the assumption of a global demos.
Even if an international organization achieved the perfect representation of all its members and was thus fully legitimate to act, we couldn’t conclude that it was also, indirectly, fully representative of their citizens. In fact, if some of its member states weren’t democratic, or only partly democratic, they wouldn’t be representative of all their citizens. According to the Democracy Index 2015 of the Economist Intelligence Unit, only 20 countries out of 167 are full democracies.
Such a lack of legitimacy is inevitably reflected on the state’s opinions and stands in the institutions of the IO it is part of and on the overall credibility of the institutions themselves. This is a difficult legal dilemma, that can only be solved if the organizations require their members to be democratic – as the European Union does (even if it should keep a closer eye on their evolutions). It is obvious that in organizations with a universal membership the issue must be labeled as “non permanently solvable”and shelved.
There is so a good point for the cosmopolitan approach: only building on some kind of legitimacy driven directly from the global demos we can overcome the “states obstacles” which are their inequality and their imperfect democratic representation.
Even so, the imperfect representativeness that we assume as inevitable, could be compensated by accountability, which can be fully obtained at the supranational level also by designing and experimenting new legal and institutional forms.
International organizations are not really equipped for substancial legitimacy as they are not for full accountability. New channels and tools need to be imagined to provide that their decisions and lines of actions reflect the values and the will of the people.We need new and fresh ideas, in line with the reality (and the technology) of an interconnected society.
Unfortunately, we are now accessing the realm of imagination, and here there are two more powerful obstacles.
The first one is the power of the status quo: the resistance of political and economic elites, the power of traditions and cultural heritages and the trite old say “it has always been so”.
The second obstacle lies in the fact that economic and legal minds are not really educated to work with imagination, at least not on a big scale. It’s easy to imagine a new interpretation of a rule or a new financial product, but what about a whole new system? Do we feel really empowered to do that?
We hear almost every day that challenging the status quo, working with imagination, “disrupting” are the new frontiers for entrepreneurs and marketers, but this is also true for those who want to prove themselves on institutional engineering… and maybe change the world, for the better.
The Istanbul Summit is approaching, the first of its kind: a world humanitarian summit.
When the UN Secretary General called it in 2012, he could not imagine, that in May 2016 it would have been the no.1 issue on the agenda, because of all sort of humanitarian crises.
Every day, more funding and more organization is needed to save life and to offer first aid, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance exploded in the last 12 months. Frustration is growing on both sides: the one of those who need help and that of those who do not know how to help.
Here is the annex Agenda, summarizing the core proposals and the envisaged actions and tools.
Among others, a clear effort is needed to enhance law and governance tools, as pointed out in the Core Responsibility II. Uphold the norms that safeguard humanity, where we find under letter D:
“Reinforce our global justice system
Adopt national legislation encompassing the full range of international crimes and universal jurisdiction over them, and strengthen and invest politically in national law enforcement and invest financially in strong and impartial judicial systems.
Carry out systematically effective investigations into and prosecutions for allegations of serious violations of international humanitarian and human rights law.
Provide adequate political, technical and financial cooperation and support to the International Criminal Court and for the systematic investigation and prosecution of international crimes”
and under letter E:
“Uphold the rules: a global campaign to affirm the norms that safeguard humanity
Launch a global campaign
Launch a global effort to mobilize States Parties, civil society, and other global leaders to prevent the erosion of international humanitarian and human rights law, demand greater compliance with them, and ardently pursue the protection of civilians.
Adhere to core instruments
Urge all states to accede to core international instruments aimed at protecting civilians and their rights and implement them.
Promote compliance by engaging in dialogue on the law
Hold regular meetings of States Parties and experts on implementation of international humanitarian and human rights law and new challenges to reinforce its relevance, identify areas requiring clarification, and offer opportunities for legal assistance to ultimately compel compliance.
Use high-level United Nations Member States forums, such as the General Assembly, Security Council or the Human Rights Council for dialogue on compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law.”
But what we find really innovative and important is the last para. in Core Responsibility IV. Change people’s lives – From delivering aid to ending need
Commit to the following eight elements in order to move beyond traditional silos, work across mandates, sectors and institutional boundaries and with a greater diversity of partners toward ending need and reducing risk and vulnerability in support of national and local capacities and the achievement of the 2030 Agenda
Create a joint problem statement driven by data and analysis
Collect, analyse, aggregate and share reliable and sex –and -age disaggregated data with adequate security and privacy protection as a collective obligation to inform priorities.
Make data and analysis the basis and driver for determining a common understanding of context, needs and capacities between national and local authorities, humanitarian, development, human rights, peace and security sectors.
Develop a joint problem statement to identify priorities, the capacities of all available actors to address priorities, and where international actors can support or complement existing capacities.
Identify and implement collective outcomes
Formulate collective outcomes that are strategic, clear, quantifiable and measurable, and prioritized on the areas of greatest risk and vulnerability of people identified in the joint problem statement.
Aim for collective outcomes to have a positive impact on overall national indicators of advancement toward the 2030 Agenda and for multi-year plans to be installments toward achieving national development strategies in line with the 2030 Agenda.
Develop multi-year plans in three to five year duration that set out roles for various actors, adopt targets and drive resource mobilization to achieve collective outcomes.
Draw on comparative advantage
Deliver agreed outcomes based on complementarity and identified comparative advantage among actors, whether local, national or international, public or private.
Promote a strong focus on innovation, specialization and consolidation in the humanitarian sector.
Coordinate collective outcomes
Coordinate around each collective outcome with the diverse range of actors responsible to achieve it.
Empower leadership for collective outcomes
Empower national and international leadership to coordinate and consolidate stakeholders toward achieving the collective outcomes
Empower the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator to ensure coherent, collective and predictable programme delivery of the United Nations and its partners toward the full programme cycle of the multi-year plan and the achievement of collective outcomes.
Empower the Resident/Humanitarian Coordinator to request and consolidate data and analysis to develop the common problem statement; moderate and conclude the setting of collective out comes; ensure implementation and monitoring of progress; and to steer adequate resources to ward the agreed multi-year plan.
Adapt structures, processes and financial systems at headquarters of agencies and donors as appropriate to reinforce this approach towards collective outcomes.
Ensure clear performance benchmarks and arrangements are in place to monitor and measure progress toward achieving collective outcomes, to ensure timely adjustments, and the right re sources and political support are in place.
Retain emergency capacity
Enable and facilitate emergency response and people’s access to life-saving assistance and protection in contexts where meeting longer-term collective outcomes will be difficult to achieve.
Recognize the provision of emergency response as a short-term exception and all efforts should be made to reduce need, risk and vulnerability from the outset.”
Infact, one of the (many) problems to overcome is the fragmentation of each emergency response among an impressive number of actors, acting at different level and often without a shared vision. Not only state actors and international actors may address different priorities or have in mind different goals, but also at the same state level (even at the same international level) different actors could contradict each other, not to speak of the not always clear sharing of competences among international institutional actors (as the UN and the many specialized agencies).
What the Agenda do not get to say is that we need a control room, possibly in the UN, and we need an holistic approach to include development policy, equality, humanitarian emergencies and peace-keeping.
Of course, these are different problems that need tailored responses and dedicated specialists, but we could not deny that they impact each other significantly. A common vision on preventing conflicts would avoid displacements – having an impact on development, equality, health emergencies. Working on development and equality, on the other hand, reduces the risk of conflicts, and so on….
My best wishes to the World Humanitarian Summit, my hope is that – approaching the date – it becomes even more ambitious and far-reaching (as it just happened in Paris).
They are designed to assess trends and level of democracy inside countries.
Democracy is never a yes or no, or maybe it may be a clear no, but never a clear and final yes. Democracy standards evolve, societal challenges require a continuous update of democratic tools and indicators and citizens should never stop to claim for better and more efficient participatory and accountability tools. Democracy is a work in progress.
Let’s have a look at same of these democracy indexes:
The Economist Intelligence Unit Index of Democracy compiles an annual ranking of countries by democracy level. The index is based on 60 indicators grouped in five different categories measuring electoral process and pluralism, civil liberties, government role, political participation and cultural participation.
The Index distinguishes between full democracies and flawed ones, hybrid and authoritarian regimes on the basis of their scores within each category. In 2015, democracies appear to be complete in only 20 of the 167 countries surveyed!
Other interesting indexes and measurements are on other sites, such as the Democracy Barometer, whose theoretical basis is in this chart:
Even if the theoretical approach and the data sets may differ, all these indexes and rankings have something in common: they all refer to states. These parameters can only be used to a limited extent when evaluating an international organization.
There are some good reasons for that: first of all they measure the efficiency of representative democracy, i.e. the electoral system (are there free elections? do all individuals enjoy voting rights? is the electoral process transparent? and so on…)
Second, many indicators refer to human rights and quality of legislation (freedom of press, judicial rights, gender equality, access to education, et cetera).
Finally, some of them evaluate the economic environment: economic freedoms, free competition, inequality.
All of them, so, assume the existence of a demos and a territory of reference and a government responsible for them. They are definitely useful to inform us on how things work, how they evolve over time and how they can be improved.
But still, I think that we miss an important tile in the mosaic of our democratic rights. What if the decisions which have an impact on our rights do not originate from states, but instead from the UN, the IMF, the Eurogroup? Are still the states to blame? and if so, what can we do to address the issue? The Greek crisis offered a powerful example, but should we speak of the UN Security Council listing potential terrorists without any respect for their defence rights?
I have spent some time reflecting on possible indicators to measure democracy in international organizations, once again to assess how things work, how they evolve over time and how they can be improved. The main difference with democracy indicators for states is that they concern only the relationship between citizens and a governance system.
Here is my concept tree:
What I came up with, is a chart based on three core indicators: legitimacy, accountability and inclusion. All the three may , in turn, be split into different substantial elements, in order to explore possible improvements. Only through a prismatic factorization of each of them in their multiple meanings is possible a real assessment of the existing democratic toools as well as a verification of what is really missing.
There is a close relationship between democratic legitimacy, accountability and inclusiveness; several tools serve more than one of these values (you’ll see repetitions in the chart) and transparency serves them all.
What seems interesting to me is that this chart imagined for international organizations works very well for any kind of organization expected to be democratic (even if not all the yellow elements – the practical tools – would apply, or we could imagine other ones).
I don’t know how to convert these elements in numeric values in order to build an index, but I’d like very much to join a team to imagine one.
For the good and the bad, no doubts that we will have many reasons to remember this year.
From the summer on, it has been a crescendo of multilateralism: the third Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa in July, the adoption of the sustainable development goals in September. Finally, the adoption of the new Paris Agreement on climate change in December. Even the new committment by OECD and G20 to improve international tax co-operation to counter international tax avoidance and evasion looks promising.
There is a new, evident and increasing awareness that many problems of this globalised world cannot be managed by single countries. The international commitments look ambitious, even if their enforcement is still problematic.
Together with the official initiatives, many private ones show the same awareness, if not a bigger one. So many organisations from the civil society joined their efforts to support the SDG, a big number of them worked to make the Paris agreement feasible, pushing their governments to commitments to heal the planet. Many important initiatives were launched which are a real force for good (to quote the beautiful one promoted by the Dalai Lama).
But we have also other reasons to remember this year: one million of migrants reached the European shores, several thousands died in the Mediterranean sea, innocent victims fleeing wars or poverty. Bloody regimes still oppress their people – whose ISIS is only the scariest example. The death toll of terrorism counts in thousands in middle east and in many near countries, the Paris events being only the tip of the iceberg. The price paid by children is impressive: Boko Haram has kept more than one million children out of school across Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger , according to UNICEF.
You can be wildly optimist if you focus on one part of the story or desperately pessimist if you chose to pay attention to the other part. The truth is: this years fed both the narratives and it’s up to us to select the one which empowers us to do more and better or the one which scares us to death.
I don’t remember another year like this one.
I have never been a Manichean, so I wonder if it is only my impression or really the world is stretched between these two opposite forces, the force of connection and that of discord.
Do you feel, like me, that we should contribute somehow to the bright side?