Great Potential for Global Civil Society: a First Impressions Look at a UNWCI

We the Peoples of the United Nations is the incipit of the preamble of the United Nations (UN) Charter, however, the People have hardly been the core of the UN’s decision-making. Hopefully, this will change soon. Last year on 14 November 2019, the UN World Citizens’ Initiative (UNWCI) was launched and over 130 national and international civil society groups and networks have endorsed the campaign. Finally, the People would be able to make their voices heard by the governments around the world, which would no longer have excuses to ignore them. The final goal of the campaign is undoubtedly ambitious and the outcome might disappoint more than a few supporters. One could argue about the existence of global goals and common interests. Others will outline that the practical issues of organizing and mobilizing citizens from different countries and continents would be too many. In addition, the skeptics would debate over the meaningful impact of the initiative and the political response that it would trigger. However, we cannot ignore the outstanding results that such an initiative would have in transnational governance.

One of the most remarkable benefits would be the possibility for civil society groups all around the world to cooperate and share know-how about raising awareness and mobilizing citizens around an issue. In this regard, the previous experience of organisations in the similar, already established tool, such as the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI), would provide useful information for others in terms of best practice and knowledge. It is important to mention also the benefits of a potential UNWCI for those citizens that live and are active in countries where civic and human rights are not respected. One of the purposes of the UNWCI should be to provide a safe and accessible platform in which citizens from different democratic and undemocratic countries could register, collect support and submit initiatives equally, regardless of where they are from. Citizens must feel free to launch and participate in the UNWCI without fearing for consequences due to their signature and civic engagement. If this would happen, the UNWCI would become a powerful platform and tool for citizens to find global allies in their battles and win over those issues that affect all people of the world.

Nevertheless, the first challenge and most important thing is to spread and increase awareness on the UNWCI, not only among civil society organisations and networks but also among the People. The campaign must be worldwide broadcasted in order to make citizens aware of the power they have and force governments as well to endorse the UNWCI and not fear the voice of the People, but rather support the voice of the People. In order to be effective, the support for the UNWCI should be as broad as possible in terms of governments and country of origin. We must avoid the unbalanced representation and bias of participation in the initiatives that emerge in the ECI’s experience, where western and developed countries are the most active.

By Sara Orcalli