In April 2020 the Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability (FOGGS) convened two brainstorming sessions on the UN system’s performance in response to the COVID-19 global emergency. Participants spanned 15 time zones and included former international civil servants, academics and practitioners. The online sessions were held under the Chatham House Rule.

Following the first brainstorming a Discussion Paper entitled “The United Nations and the COVID-19 Global Emergency”  was issued. The paper observes that, although a global challenge, COVID-19 has been mainly tackled at the national and subnational level, with the UN system initially invisible beyond WHO. UN activity significantly increased thereafter but with unclear impact and concerns about the future of the UN itself. The paper proceeds to make suggestions for a larger and more impactful UN role in dealing with the remaining phases of the medical emergency and in shaping the post-COVID-19 world.

The Action Plan entitled “The UN and the World post COVID-19” was produced after the second brainstorming and complements the Discussion Paper. It includes more elaborate proposals organised under four categories: a narrative of hope, resilience and human well-bring; convening the world; supporting countries and vulnerable groups; re-asserting the UN system as a leader in global governance. Among the specific proposals put forward in the context of the UN Secretary-General’s “recover better” vision are a call to hold an emergency on-line summit of world leaders; support for a new approach to running the economy that moves beyond corporate profit maximisation and GDP growth to ensuring human well-being and resilience while respecting planetary boundaries; treating health and a resilient and equitable economic system as global public goods; helping countries prepare recovery plans covering health, the economy and social aspects; exploring ways of securing the financial stability and liquidity of the UN.

The two papers are part of a series of consultations held and papers produced under the UN2100 (UN to 100) Initiative of FOGGS, keeping in mind that in this 75th anniversary year of the UN and 100th year of institutionalised multilateralism the stakes are extremely high regarding the future of the world organisation and international cooperation more broadly.

Georgios Kostakos
Executive Director



Feature Image Photo Credit: UN Photo/Joao Araujo Pinto (cropped from original)