UN High-level Week Highlights


Guest blog by Jeffery Huffines, Senior Advisor for the Coalition for the UN We Need 

1)    Civil Society meetings:

The UN High-Level Week was preceded by the SDG Action Weekend, convened by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, with a focus on SDG Mobilization Day on 16 September and SDG Acceleration Day on 17 September. Among the highlights of the SDG Mobilization Day was the unveiling of the Open Letter signed by 53 former Presidents, Heads of Government, and UN leaders calling on current world leaders to build on the outcomes from this year’s SDG Summit and utilize the 2024 UN Summit of the Future to strengthen the United Nations system. The Open Letter was announced during the side event hosted by Coalition for the UN We Need (C4UN), UN Department of Global Communications and partners to discuss 'From the SDG Summit to the Summit of the Future: Building the UN We Need'. Watch the recording that was broadcast on UN WebTV here  (Please begin watching at minute 20:21)


On the 17 & 18 of September, beginning on SDG Acceleration Day, some 400 activists participated in the Global People’s Assembly which was the culmination of 40 national-level assemblies, offering a stage for civil society organizations, activists, marginalized groups, experts, and concerned citizens to join forces and amplify their voices. It was organised by the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), with the support of more than 60 organisations, that culminated in the read out of the 2023 Global People’s Assembly Declaration  and presented at the SDG Summit. The Declaration outlines the key areas of focus, including Climate Emergency, Economic Inequality, Social Injustice, and Political Reform, giving a collective vision to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development.


On the Sidelines of the week-long UN General Assembly meetings, Civil Society organizations were also involved in several events to lobby the UN and Member States to accelerate the faltering progress toward the achievement of the SDGs, as well as ensuring human-rights centered, gender-transformative action against rising inequalities, and on social justice and peace. On 19 September, the Global Governance Forum held an event on UN Charter Reform titled: A Second Charter: Imagining a Renewed United Nations. With only a year to the Summit of the Future, there is concern that governments may not succeed in negotiating a package of measures to strengthen the UN system that are commensurate with the global challenges humanity is facing. This “Chatham House rule” meeting explored the growing interest in using Article 109 of the UN Charter to bring about a formal Charter Review Conference that could lead to more structural institutional reforms.


On 20th September, The Coalition of UN We Need also held strategy discussions with coalition partners to chart a way forward, following the passing of the Political Declaration at the SDG Summit, and the expected appointment (in October) of Co-facilitators for each of the five tracks identified in the agreed-upon Scope of the Summit of the Future, among other processes. These provided an opportunity for Civil Society Organizations to discuss the proposed Nairobi UN-Civil Society Conference in May 2024, the September 2024 SOTF and the 2025 World Social Summit, while building on their experience at the Global Futures Forum in March 2023, which developed the Interim People’s Pact for the Future.

On 21 September the Climate Governance Commission and Stimson Center held a diplomatic and civil society roundtable, featuring H.E Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and Chair of the Elders and lead Chair of Climate Governance Commission, Co-Chair Maria Fernanda Espinosa, President of the 73rd General Assembly, and H.E Danilo Türk, President of Club de Madrid who shared perspectives on the current cross-roads in planetary and climate governance that the international community faces, sharing priority proposals form the Commission’s 2023 UNGA Statement. They called for partnerships that promote feasible, high-impact global governance solutions for urgent and effective climate action

2) Intergovernmental meetings:

From Tuesday September 19 through September 26, government leaders provided remarks at the general debate marking the opening of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly. The UN Secretary-General’s speech at the outset of this year’s general debate was particularly notable for the strong language calling for UN reform.                                                                                          

On September 21, the Ministerial Meeting on the Summit of the Future took place in the UN Trusteeship Council. 118 Member State Representatives (mostly foreign ministers) participated, setting out their priorities for next year’s Summit of the Future. A video recording of the meeting is available here and the record of statements made by Member States is available here (morning session) and here (afternoon session).

Additional intergovernmental meetings include:

-   On September 20 the High-level Dialogue on Financing for Development, the Climate Ambition Summit, and Summit meetings on Tuberculosis and Pandemic Prevention, Preparedness and Response took place.

-      On September 21 a High-level Meeting on Universal Health Coverage.

Information ClearingHouse (ICH) Bulletin summarizes UN SG proposals on International Financial Architecture

The SOTF Information Clearinghouse Bulletin series is an independent initiative to objectively present the headlines, resources, and key elements put forward by the UN Secretary-General, Member States, NGOs, and other stakeholders in the preparatory processes for the 2024 Summit of the Future (SOTF). It is intended to provide an overview of the latest developments related to the SOTF. The latest bulletin on “Reforms to the International Financial Architecture” (please hyperlink the bulletin here) captures the highlights and key action items proposed by the Secretary-General in his policy brief on this topic.

The policy brief states that “The international financial architecture, crafted in 1945 after the Second World War, is undergoing a stress test of historic proportions – and it is failing the test … This failure poses a growing and systemic threat to the multilateral system itself, driving deepening divergence, geoeconomic fragmentation and geopolitical fractures across the world … The present policy brief sets out action-oriented recommendations for reforming the international financial and tax architecture …”

Open Society Barometer: Can Democracy Deliver?

One of the frequently cited information sources at this year’s opening of the UN General Assembly is a comprehensive opinion survey measuring public attitudes across the globe on support for democracy, human rights, and multilateralism. This report was published in September 2023 by Open Society Foundations and is available under a Creative Commons license here.


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