Global Policy Forum

Millennium NGO Forum Theme Six Discussion Paper


"Strengthening and Democratizing the United Nations
and International Organizations"

May 30, 2000

[NOTE: the following document represents the views of the organizers, co-convenors, moderators, and rapporteurs of the Theme Six sub-group sessions on where general consensus lay.]

6.1 Thematic Paper Six

A major task of the world community in the twenty-first century will be to strengthen and augment national and international institutions capable of implementing and enforcing the international standards and norms and law developed by the UN.  As humanity enters a new millennium, however, UN member states appear too paralyzed to act on major institutional reforms.  Moreover, far reaching institutional change of the UN system will be difficult because it requires the broad support of member states. 

The Millennium Summit and Assembly provide an opportunity for member states to affirm an animating vision for "The United Nations in the 21st Century."  The following proposals to strengthen and democratize the UN and to establish new institutional arrangements are addressed on the level of principle, as distinct from pure pragmatism.  While these proposals do not pretend to predict the future conduct of world affairs, we hope to offer from our civil society perspective a vision of global community that would secure peace and justice for all.


6.2  Funding the United Nations and UN System Organizations

The United Nations and the UN System suffer from a deep financial crisis. The UN's regular budget of $1.2 billion (about 3% of the budget of the City of New York) is far too small and unpaid assessments are dangerously in arrears. The UN's peacekeeping budget (currently about $2 billion, compared to $850 billion spent annually for the world's military budgets) is not nearly large enough to support serious peacekeeping operations and adequate headquarters support. Almost all UN system agencies and funds (whose joint budgets amount to about $7 billion) have suffered from budget cuts and reduced voluntary contributions from member states in recent years. As a result, the UN has been forced to cut back vital activities for peace, health, refugee aid, human rights, the environment and other vital needs.


A. Substantial Increases for the Regular and Peacekeeping Budgets

The UN cannot carry out its many urgent tasks without substantially more resources and more staff for the regular budget. This budget could be doubled immediately, to very good effect. The UN's budget problems have also had a serious negative effect on peacekeeping, where the current budget crisis is even deeper. If all states would pay their peacekeeping dues as a matter of law, United Nations peacekeeping would be enormously strengthened and could be expanded to meet the many pressing needs.


B. Payments on Time, in Full and without Conditions

Member payments of regular budget assessments should be strictly payable by January 31st, in full and without any conditions. Strict penalties should accrue to late payments. We note with alarm that the United States currently owes $1.78 billion for its regular budget and peacekeeping assessments and arrears (about twice as much as all other member states combined) and is the only country that openly withholds dues on political grounds. Peacekeeping assessments should be similarly subject to interest charges when they are not paid before the established due date.


C. Penalize and Eliminate Arrears

Arrears cannot be allowed to accumulate or to continue for a long period. Members' arrears should be penalized according to a rising set of strictures. First, all arrears beyond a full year from the due date should be charged at a penalty rate of interest. Arrears that are still due at the end of the second year should be charged interest at an even higher rate, lead automatically to loss of vote in the General Assembly (re-interpreted Article 19) and possibly also trigger a loss of some or all privileges in the organization like elected offices, right of Security Council membership or veto, etc.


D. Create Robust Reserve Funds

The UN must have far more adequate reserve funds. At present, it has two small reserve funds totaling about $200 million. In future, the UN must be provided with reserve funds of at least $1 billion, as the Secretary General has requested, for both the regular budget and the peacekeeping accounts, allowing funding flexibility and instant funding of urgent peacekeeping missions. Such reserve funds could be built up over a ten-year period on a basis of assessment.


E. Authorize Borrowing

To supplement its reserve funds, the UN should be permitted to borrow funds (including bond-issuing). Borrowing could help the organization meet temporary cash flow needs or longer-term mortgage-type requirements such as funding urgent building repairs.


F. Raise Budgets of Agencies and Funds

Most agencies and funds have recently suffered cuts in their budgets, especially UNDP, an agency that plays a key coordinating role for the UN presence in most developing countries. These budgets must be substantially raised if the UN system is to be able to respond effectively to the many challenges it faces. A doubling of their budgets with special strengthening in some neglected areas like the environment could fulfill many urgent tasks and mandates.


G. Shift towards Assessments over Voluntary Funding by Member States

Voluntary contributions by member states are always welcome, but the UN system depends far too much on voluntary funding for key activities and emergency programs like relief and refugee aid. Voluntary funding can fall far short of needs and may be sacrificed to less important priorities or military spending at the national level. Ad hoc voluntary funds are particularly prone to failure. Though set up to meet real needs and concerns, they tend to attract only the most minimal contributions. To correct this, the UN should move to steadily broaden its assessments and narrow the program areas depending on voluntary contributions. At the same time, voluntary contributions for supplemental programs should always be welcome.


H. Cautious and More Democratic Approach to Private Funding Strategy

Recently, the UN and its system organizations have tried to overcome falling income from member states by tapping charitable private voluntary funds - especially from wealthy individuals, foundations and corporations. Such sources should be tapped cautiously, as dependence on them could undercut the intergovernmental decision-making process. Multiple sources of revenue have advantages, as the case of UNICEF demonstrates, and the UN should consider appeals to ordinary citizens and citizen organizations for direct contributions. But the UN should concentrate on improving its income from member states and at the same time develop income from alternative international public sources.


I. Special Drawing Rights and Currency

The UN should consider the use of Special Drawing Rights as a source of funding.


J. Create Global Taxes and Fees

UN discussion of global taxes and fees has been stifled by the threat of a funding cutoff by a single member state. This blackmail must be rejected and the UN must vigorously explore the possibilities of alternative funding from such sources, as has been proposed by many member states and NGOs. The UN should set up expert groups and begin the necessary intergovernmental negotiations towards establishing such revenue sources, which could include fees for the commercial use of the oceans, fees for airplane use of the skies, fees for use of the electromagnetic spectrum, arms export taxes, fees levied on foreign exchange transactions, and a tax on carbon content of fuels. Many other proposal exist. New taxing and revenue-raising instruments would have to be accompanied by strong new means of oversight, based on further democratization of the UN system.


6.3   Strengthening the UN General Assembly and Auxiliary Bodies

The authority of the UN General Assembly is based in part on the value of consensus.  Yet when consensus is tantamount to a veto by any nation, the whole world is deprived of substantive progress which has the support of the vast majority of states and the peoples they represent.  New mechanisms are needed for enhancing the authority and accountability of UNGA actions within a framework that represents the needs of people as well as governments.  Many proposals have also been put forth for enhancing or transforming selected auxiliary bodies of the UNGA to make their area of concern more relevant to the global problems of the 21st century.  Decentralization of UN programs and decision-making can enhance both democratization and effectiveness.


A. Create a More Representative UN General Assembly

The General Assembly should be more open, inclusive of different voices, more representative of "We the Peoples" and more transparent in its deliberations and decision-making. National delegations to the GA should include representatives of parliaments and civil society.


B.  Change the Trusteeship Council mandate

Member states should consider expanding the mandate of the Trusteeship Council. Member states should utilize the Trusteeship Council to exercise stewardship over the global commons such as oceans, the atmosphere and outer space.


C.  Create a UN Parliamentary body related to the UNGA

  1. Encourage the growing cooperation between the Inter-Parliamentary Union and other parliamentary bodies and the United Nations in more regular consultation.
  2. Support the establishment of a consultative UN Parliamentary Assembly comprised initially of representatives of existing parliaments from around the world who would convene on an annual basis prior to the UN General Assembly in order to make recommendations concerning the agenda before the GA.  Representatives from the parliaments should be elected and the UNPA must be open and transparent. NGOs of civil society must be able to have a consultative relationship to it.


D.  Enhance the Structure and Work of Economic and Social Council

Member states should explore ways to fundamentally strengthen the role, authority, and financial capacities of the Economic and Social Council. ECOSOC should have responsibilities for proposing formulas for the harmonization of conflicts which arise through the application of different international standards and policies of UN bodies, the Bretton Woods Institutions, the World Trade Organization, and other relevant conventions and organizations.


E.  Strengthen the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD)

  1. Support establishing an open-ended informal consultative process in order to facilitate the annual review by the General Assembly of developments in ocean affairs. This process would serve to bring greater coherence between the Law of the Sea Treaty negotiations and the Commission on Sustainable Development.
  2. Give more authority to the CSD in relation to the Bretton Woods Institutions and the World Trade Organization.  Representatives of the CSD should be invited to the annual meetings of the Bretton Woods Institutions and the WTO, and representatives from those bodies should attend CSD sessions.
  3. Create CSD subcommissions along the lines of the Human Rights Commission in order to give better focus to discrete environment and development matters.
  4. Other UN bodies such as UNCTAD should be enhanced along similar lines.


6.4 Making the UN Security Council More Representative, Effective and Accountable

The Security Council is the UN's most powerful organ. Charged with the maintenance of international peace and security, its resolutions are binding on all member states. The Council has become very active in the past decade, but many see it as unrepresentative of the world's people, unaccountable for its actions and far less effective than it should be.


A. Permanent Membership

Permanent membership in the Security Council is very problematic because it blocks change and fails to accommodate evolving realities. Adding yet more permanent members, as some propose, would make matters worse. The UN's member states should reject expansion of permanent Council membership. Then, member states should begin action to replace the existing system of permanent members with a more flexible and accountable system based on regular renewal. Even if this change cannot happen tomorrow, a far-sighted strategy can be agreed to now. If the fixation on permanent membership as a privileged club is removed, all member states can focus on a single goal: a more effective and representative Council for all the world's people.


B. The Veto

Even when the overwhelming majority of Council members favor action to address a threat to peace, a single permanent member can block Council action, purely in its own state interest. Adding new veto-wielding Permanent Members would greatly worsen the Council's gridlock. But as long as the present permanent members and their vetoes exist, the UN must move as swiftly as possible towards veto restriction and abolition. A first step could be the enlargement of the area of "procedural votes" for which the Charter excludes the veto (the GA or the ICJ could render an opinion on this). Then, the veto might be restricted to Chapter VII peace issues only. Complete veto abolition should eventually be sought as part of the movement to eliminate permanency.


C. Representativeness of Membership and Efficiency of Size

To improve the representativeness and legitimacy of the Council, a modest increase (up to five) in the number of elected members is advisable. The Council may already be close to the limit of effective size. Substantial expansion could make it less capable of action, especially in emergency conditions.

Simultaneous to enlargement, and vital to its success, must be efforts to strengthen elected members' capacity in the Council. For example, more Secretariat resources should support the Council, taking some of the administrative pressure off the missions of small states, particularly those in the Council presidency. Regional groupings should also act to support the elected members from their region - by providing them with a secretariat and with more consistent political support. At the same time, elected members must become more regionally accountable and representative, thus increasing their own power and legitimacy in Council debates. Better consideration of candidates' contribution to the organization should also be given by the General Assembly during the election processes, on the basis of Article 23.

At some point, the Council reform process could lead towards more regionally-based representation, a process that is already under discussion in Europe. A related possibility would be to apply to three of the new elected seats on the Council a special rotation of major regional states, in Africa, Asia and Latin America - a change that would require no Charter amendment. Succession to a second two-year term (or even a change to four or six-year elected terms) for some seats might also be a positive step.


D. Accountability to International Law

The Council at present is a purely political body. Its decisions make law but they are not reviewable for consistency with existing law. The credibility and legitimacy of Council decisions can benefit from a process of review by the International Court of Justice. The Security Council or the General Assembly could help initiative a new approach by seeking the Court's advice on such matters, or the ICJ could itself begin to accept test cases.


E. Evenhandedness and Law-like Approach

Parallel to a process of judicial review, the Council should develop its practice so as to be more evenhanded and law-like in its approach to international crises. This could begin with the development of guidelines or criteria for action on sanctions, peacekeeping or other crisis responses. Criteria do not eliminate the need for political judgement, since no two cases are identical, but they can help to move the Council away from obvious bias and increase the legitimacy of the Council's action.


F. More Transparency and Broader Processes of Consultation

During the past decade, the Council held almost all its meetings behind closed doors, and its actions were very untransparent. But in recent months, the Council has moved more vigorously towards openness -opening some of its briefing meetings to non-member states, holding more general debates in which all interested members can participate, holding considerably more meetings that are open to the public and with non-state actors (including NGOs), and organizing ambassadorial missions to crisis areas. The Council should continue to move in this direction. Meetings covered by television, like many national parliaments, would be a natural step in the future. The Council must also move to make its sanctions committees more transparent. It should make more regular use of Arria Formula briefings and employ other means to hear the views of NGOs and other valuable sources of information and policy ideas.


G. Preventive Action for Peace

The Council must develop more effective means of preventing the outbreak of war and other threats to the peace, relying on a redefined concept of security, including a reliance on woman as peace-builders. This will require a far more institutionalized and analytical approach to the causes of war and how to prevent conflict. Among other things, the Council must take more action to prevent conflict over raw materials and other basic resources. A greatly-expanded Secretariat office on prevention is required, as is a fund that can quickly be deployed to mitigate conflict-producing social and economic crises. The Council must do all possible to settle disputes peacefully and without measures that can harm people in crisis areas.


H. Stronger Peacekeeping Based on Better Planning and Force Availability

When crises reach a certain point, the Council must be able to act swiftly and to put in place a serious international force, for peacekeeping or even under certain conditions for peace enforcement. For this purpose, the UN must move towards the development of a standing international police and military force and a much larger force capability based on high-readiness standby national contingents. There must also be more standby resources and personnel for other peace building measures. These steps will require a far stronger Peacekeeping Department with a much bigger planning capacity and military training, mobile headquarters units and other infrastructure.


I. Targeted Sanctions and Other Non-Military Policy Enforcement Tools

The UN must develop more policy instruments for promoting peace, including targeted sanctions. Though general trade sanctions are widely criticized as unjust and "blunt" instruments, well-enforced targeted sanctions offer effective means to attain policy goals and to cut off resources from those who fail to conform to the Council's resolutions. Among the targeted sanctions arsenal would be financial sanctions and arms embargoes, both currently under study.


J. Steps towards Arms Control and Disarmament

The Council has never acted on its Charter responsibilities to formulate plans "for the establishment of a system for the regulation of armaments," as provided for in Article 26. It should begin to address this urgent matter and it should treat the responsibilities entrusted to it by the various multilateral arms control treaties as a core of its peace and security function, requiring continuing oversight and action.


6.5 Strengthening the International Judicial System, including accountability for Universal Crimes

The international judicial system is under-utilized by states and international organizations.  Resolving conflict through the application of the rule of law can build precedents for the settlement of disputes and the prevention of violence and the threat of violence.  Access and participation in international legal institutions should be expanded to include regional organizations and civil society as well as international organizations. United Nations Member States should undertake to:  

A.  Make the International Court of Justice the Locus of a More Effective, Integrated System of International Justice

  1. Accept the compulsory jurisdiction of the World Court. 
  2. Modify the Chamber Procedure of the ICJ to enhance its appeal to states and to avoid damage to the Court's integrity.
  3. Strengthen interrelationships between national, regional and international legal institutions, with the aim of fostering a more comprehensive global system of justice .
  4. Give the UN Secretary-General the right to refer legal aspects of international issues to the World Court for advice, particularly in the early stages of emerging disputes. 
  5. Make greater use of the ICJ as a source of advisory opinions  to avoid having the UNSC as the judge of international law in particular cases.
  6. In the absence of voluntary compliance, pursue Security Council enforcement of ICJ decisions and other international legal obligations under Article 94 of the Charter.
  7. Provide access and standing for international organizations, regional organizations and civil society to the advisory opinion and conflict resolution functions of the court so that the ICJ can enter into dispute settlement when requested by parties.


B. Create Better Mechanisms for Creating, Amending and Enforcing Treaties

  1. While protecting the integrity of the assembly of states parties of treaties, treaty mechanisms that allow the updating and improvement of treaties consistent with the overall mandates of the conventions should be accepted.
  2. Create or strengthen mechanisms or institutions to improve national codification and enforcement of treaties to ensure compliance.


C. Establish a Fair and Effective International Criminal Court(ICC)

  1. Continue support for the Preparatory Commission on the ICC, so that it may meet its obligations under the Final Act of the Rome Diplomatic Conference and safeguard the integrity of the Rome Statute through the process of the Court's creation.
  2. Sign and ratify, and encourage other States, to sign and ratify the Rome Statute as early as possible.
  3. Enact strong domestic implementing legislation as early as possible, providing for universal jurisdiction over the crimes within the Rome Statute and crimes under customary international law and work with other States to help them develop similar legislation.
  4. Ensure that a gender perspective is integrated at all remaining stages of the process to establish the ICC and at all stages of the proceedings of the functioning Court and that the particular needs of children, the elderly, and persons with disabilities are considered at all remaining stages of the process to establish the ICC and at all stages of the proceedings of the functioning Court.


D. Support the Ad Hoc Tribunals for genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity until an ICC is operational and has jurisdiction.

  1. Support the indictment and arrest of alleged war criminals who remain at large, for trial either in national courts or international tribunals. .
  2. Establish an international criminal tribunal to investigate and prosecute genocide and crimes against humanity in Cambodia and in East Timor.


E.  Implement International Law Through National Law

  1. Implement universal jurisdiction in national law for crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide.
  2. Strengthen protection for whistle blowers, individuals who expose international law violations.
  3. Request State parliamentary bodies to adopt a national law prohibiting their government from going to war, similar to Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.


6.6 Development of UN / Civil Society Partnership

A.  Extend Consultative Rights of Access and Participation

  1. The reform and democratization of the United Nations, including democratic strengthening of the General Assembly, should include extending consultative rights to civil society representatives, non-governmental organizations and parliamentarians at all levels of the UN.  Governments should complete the process of extending NGOs rights of access and participation to the General Assembly and its Main Committees and subsidiary bodies (based in principle on the arrangements agreed to in Resolution 1996/31).
  2. Establish a Voluntary Fund to facilitate participation by NGOs from developing countries so as to enable a more balanced NGO participation.

B.  Create a Forum of Civil Society

A consultative Forum of Civil Society should be convened in the period leading up to the annual session of the General Assembly, with an expanded category of accredited organizations.


C.  Create a Council of Petitions

A new 'Right of Petition' should be made available to international civil society to bring to the attention of the UN those situations in which the security of people could be endangered; a Council of Petitions should be formed to receive petitions and make recommendations on them.


6.7 Citizenship and Governance: From Local to Global Democracy

The participation of citizens in governance has increased through the growth of free elections, democratic practices and the spread of open societies.  A counter trend is the decline in political participation where citizens perceive that their participation makes little difference in the decisions of democratic government.  Civil society organizations are concerned about the erosion of effective governance in regard to critical problems at local, national and global levels.  A number of civil society organizations have called for the creation or restructuring or democratization of international organizations. 

  1. Basic Principles of Citizenship and Democratic Governance at All Levels

We support the creation of democratic global institutions that represent the people individually and collectively at the global level.


B. Global People's Assemblies

All parties are encouraged to support the establishment of a representative global people's assembly to further promote dialogue, cooperation, and partnership between and among governments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and the people of the world. Further, we call on the Member States and governments at all levels to support the establishment of independently organized local and regional people's assemblies and to assist with the holding of elections and/or representative selection processes. Such people's assemblies will be based upon the principles and the developing charter of both a global people's assembly and the United Nations and will represent to the fullest extent possible the voice of the people in global decision-making.

Such assemblies will draw attention to the linkages between local and global issues; provide the means for local communities and the citizenry to participate in global decision-making processes; and provide increasing support for the work of the United Nations. A strong relationship should be established between the Global Civil Society Forum and local, regional, and global people's assemblies. The organizational and developmental processes should be well integrated.

We the people participating in the Millennium Forum at UN Headquarters in New York resolve to create a global civil society forum as a permanent forum to deal with UN institutions, the UN reform process, member states and other institutions.

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