Give citizens a voice at UN

Dr.Varun Suthra
The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the world has been devastating but as the saying goes, there’s always a lesson to be learnt from every catastrophe.
Now is the moment to promote the notion of global citizenship. The relation between cause and effect is now obvious at a global scale. Actions in one part of the world could have a huge impact on the lives of others residing thousands of miles away under different political regimes, environmental conditions and cultures.
The Indian cultural ethos has always asked us to look at the world as one family – ‘Vasudhaiva Katumbakam’. This school of thought leaves no room for any competition. In a family we should not compete with each other. Rather we should do our best to lead a peaceful and joyous life by extending love, care and support to our family members.
Unfortunately competition is still a dominant trait of international relations today. Expansionist and colonialist aggressions of a few power hungry are not a thing of the past. This makes it much more difficult to achieve a world order which ensures peace, justice and equality. The climate and the environment of the planet are hit hardest.
The United Nations (UN) was constituted with the aim to find solutions for global problems. Now 75 years after its inception, it is high time to review its achievements.
Minorities are still looking for the protection that was promised to them after creation of the League of Nations.
Ineffective global governance has pushed much of humanity to a very dangerous point where existence has become a challenge, not to speak of growth and development.
Is the UN still relevant? India has made her position clear. Prime Minister, Narendra Modi in his recent speeches stressed the need of UN reforms. Most member States agree that change is necessary but there is no consensus as to specific proposals.
Structural adjustment such as enlarging the Security Council has been delayed for decades because threshold is high. Any amendment of the UN’s Charter requires not only the approval of 2/3 of all member states in the General Assembly but also of the Security Council including all its five members.
Nonetheless, there are two important proposals that the General Assembly could implement on its own without Charter amendment: the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly (UNPA) and of the instrument of a UN World Citizens’ Initiative (UNWC). Both would help overcome the logic of national competition and help strengthen global citizenship.
A UNPA would ensure that citizen-elected representatives discuss global challenges from a transnational perspective that puts the common interest of humanity at its heart. A UNWCI on the other hand would enable citizens from across the world to put proposals in front of the UN if they manage to collect sufficient support. This would open up a new political space and connect the UN with the citizens across the globe.
These proposals enjoy support by many civil society organisations across the world and there are international campaigns promoting them under the leadership of Democracy Without Borders (DWB) in collaboration with partner organisations.
As the world’s largest democracy and one of the most diverse nations, India should endorse these efforts towards making the UN more open and inclusive. In the end, every nation and every person will benefit.
Recently, in a declaration adopted by the General Assembly on behalf go world’s heads of the State and Government on the occasion of UN’s 75th anniversary, the UN renewed a commitment to democracy and human rights. These lofty words should now be followed by the deeds. How can the UN be a credible advocate for democracy if it does not allow for better citizen representation and partnership itself ?
(The author is Founding Secretary, Democracy Without Borders, India Chapter)