By Elizabeth Aguilar and Sydney Lantz
July 1, 2022
On June 29, 2022, WFUNA representatives were in attendance during an exchange with Mr. Volker Türk, Under-Secretary-General for Policy at the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, and civil society organizations. Stationed at the New York United Nations headquarters, Mr. Türk requested an in-person meeting with Geneva-based NGOs to discuss the UN Secretary-General’s general vision for Our Common Agenda.
To begin the exchange, the Under-Secretary-General for Policy discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic shed light on countless issues of global inequality, bringing to attention many shortcomings of the UN system. Mr. Türk addressed the pandemic and its impacts as a main inspiration for the Secretary-General’s Our Common Agenda report. Published in September of 2021, Our Common Agenda outlines the Secretary-General's vision for the future of global cooperation, providing four key areas of progression. Mr. Türk detailed these four areas – a renewal of a social contract anchored in human rights, the significance of youth and future generations, a changing notion of global public goods, and an upgraded UN System – all in the context of civil society’s role in achieving the “breakthrough scenario” illustrated in Our Common Agenda.
The civil society organizations raised a number of broad issues to the Under-Secretary-General, such as youth participation in the 2030 Agenda, children’s rights, human rights and peace and security challenges. Several organizations also called attention to specific structural issues within the United Nations such as budgeting, as well as addressing a communication gap between UN offices and NGOs in different locations. In connection with these topics, the main shared concern within civil society organizations present at the meeting involved a sentiment of disconnect between the Secretary General’s proposals in Our Common Agenda and actual actions being taken. These organizations expressed that simply voicing the idea of multilateralism and the creation of a “UN 2.0” is insufficient instruction for NGOs to follow in order to create the positive impact imagined in Our Common Agenda.
This exchange provided meaningful insight into the continued progression of the discussion surrounding Our Common Agenda. The World Federation of United Nations Associations is pleased to have partaken in this conversation, as Our Common Agenda developments will continue to guide WFUNA’s Strategic Plan and programming.