Getting from here to there: practical actions to transform global governance

Natalie Samarasinghe, Global Challenges Foundation working group coordinator

Ideas can change the world. However, for them to do so, a process is required: those ideas must establish themselves in the minds of people who start believing in them, as new value systems and new narratives. They must become proper implementable models, policy frameworks, institutional blueprints. This process, whereby bold ideas are made concrete in order to gain impact, marks a new phase in the journey of the Global Challenges Foundation.

The New Shape Process brings together five working groups, yielding concrete proposals to reform global governance that were presented at the November 2018 Paris Peace Forum. Each of the five ideas will be summarized in an article here on Medium.

The Global Challenges Foundation welcomes you to read, discuss and provide feedback on the ideas to advance our mission of global governance reform to better tackle global catastrophic risks.

The views expressed in this article are those of the authors. Their statements are not necessarily endorsed by the affiliated organisations or the Global Challenges Foundation.

The UN is struggling to address today’s most pressing challenges, notably climate change. But we cannot afford to waste time designing the perfect international system — we need better solutions now. So what practical actions could be taken right away to strengthen and transform global governance? We need to overcome four big hurdles that have prevented change in the past — a lack of trust, collaboration and strategy, and insufficient focus on the problems we are trying to solve — by creating a genuinely risk-based agenda for reform, supported by strategies for implementation and multi-stakeholder collaboration which could, over time, become the foundation of a truly global partnership to tackle the challenges we face.

The aims of the United Nations have always stood in tension with the realpolitik compromises that led to its creation in 1945. When the political climate has permitted, the UN has been able to make progress on peace, development and human rights. But this progress has remained partial at best, and subject to the vagaries of governments. It is now seriously under threat.

Today, a confluence of crises — political, economic and social — is fuelling conflict and instability across the globe, exacerbated by long-term risks like climate change and weapons proliferation. Globalisation has increased our vulnerability to shocks and reduced the ability of governments to address traditionally domestic problems, like job creation and fiscal balances, which increasingly have a global dimension. As a result, many leaders are turning inwards, too preoccupied with problems at home to invest in multilateral solutions.

Heavily constrained and under-resourced, the UN is struggling to deal with this grim picture. Yet while we clearly need new and better solutions, we cannot simply walk away from our current system. This would threaten the hard-won gains of the past seventy years, and the lives of those — particularly in conflict zones — for whom the UN remains a lifeline.

So how do we proceed? We need to strengthen and transform our international system. It is not a lack of solutions that has impeded progress. What we need is cohesion, coordination and will. Our aim is to foster a truly global partnership to manage global risks and global commons — one that better reflects today’s power distribution, as power moves to the global South, but also to businesses, cities, communities and civil society organisations.

By analysing previous efforts at global governance reform, we have identified four key stumbling blocks:

What practical actions could be taken right away to strengthen and transform global governance?

To address these complex challenges, we need mechanisms to identify a range of solutions, support strategic approaches, foster multi-stakeholder collaboration, and build trust. We plan to contribute to this process in four ways.

The Paris Peace Forum this November will serve as a launch pad for our initiative, after which we will focus on the UN’s 75th anniversary in 2020 as a key milestone for progress. We believe there is a real opportunity, despite and because of the challenges we face, to build a truly global partnership to address catastrophic risks and, in the process, change the way we do global governance forever.

Contributing authors:

Shontaye Abegaz, Adriana Abdenur, Mila Aliana, Dr. Eamon Aloyo, Dr. Kuniko Ashizawa, Tom Buitelaar, Andreas Bummel, Fred Carver, Ingrid de Beer, Katherine Dixon, Ben Donaldson, Nancy Dunlavy, Dr. William Durch, Carolina Garcia, Farsan Ghassim, Maja Groff, Laurel Hart, Ali Haxhijaj, Carlos José González Hernández, Garry Jacobs, Earl James, Dr. Heidi Kharbhih, Dr. Joris Larik, Hans Leander, Michael Liu, Dr. Rama Mani, Dr. Aaron Matta, Petter Ölmunger, Alanna O’Malley, Marie-Laure Poire, Dr. Richard Ponzio, Edna Ramirez-Robles, Darynell Rodriguez Torres, Valerie Rogez-Muccin, Svenja Rueger, Prof. Joseph Schwartzberg (deceased), Marina Shalabi, Marjolijn Snippe, Dr. Geoffrey Swenson, Arthur van Buitenen, Dr. Victoria Vdovychenko, Antoine Vergne, Dr. Heinrich Cyril Volmink, Prof. Yang Yao, Fergus Watt, Yara Zgheib

Originally published at

We work to incite deeper understanding of the global risks that threaten humanity and catalyze ideas to tackle them by reforming global governance.