Inclusion and more public participation will help formulate better govt policies: UN chief

Protesters take to the streets in Santiago, Chile, in this October 2019 file picture. — Courtesy photo
Protesters take to the streets in Santiago, Chile, in this October 2019 file picture. — Courtesy photo

NEW YORK — Not only coronavirus, but climate protests, struggles for more inclusive politics, human rights, and waning public trust, have put a magnifying glass to the social and economic injustices plaguing societies, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Friday.

Speaking at the end of the annual high-level week, the secretary-general warned that such crises are an “enormous governance challenge” for all nations, and overcoming them requires approaches driven by unity, solidarity, and compassion.

“For that, we need governance models and structures that work for the common good, with an intergenerational perspective. We need to prioritize the rebuilding of trust between people, institutions, and leaders,” he highlighted.

The UN chief called for leadership that is gender equal, noting recent studies that show women leaders have responded faster to COVID-19, adopted well-informed positions, led with empathy, and built inclusive coalitions that delivered better results.

“The key to reinvigorated and reimagined governance lies with truly meaningful participation of people and civil society in the decisions that affect their lives”, he added.

The high-level event, held on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly’s high-level annual debate, deliberated on the importance of participation as a human right and a vital tool for multilateralism, as well as how to address major global challenges, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the climate crisis and development.

In his remarks, delivered via a video link, the secretary-general highlighted the importance of participation in public affairs as a fundamental human right and an underutilized tool for better policymaking.

Meaningful participation of all segments of society in decision-making can address daunting challenges and it is a key element of the inclusive multilateralism needed for 21st-century global governance, said Guterres.

However, participation is being denied and civic space is being crushed in many places around the world, he warned.

“A global pushback on human rights has placed participation in its crosshairs,” said Guterres, adding that repressive laws are impeding the work of journalists and human rights defenders — especially women — and governments, are employing broad definitions of terrorism and abusing new technologies to curtail freedoms of civil society groups.

Guterres called on everyone to “take a hard look” on how such alarming trends be reversed, and participation and inclusion — online and offline — become reality.

He also reminded that the decisions today have implications in the future, and therefore, urged ways to allow future generations to be represented in decision making, at both the national and international levels.

“Let us nurture and draw on the knowledge, creativity, and diversity of our communities,” added the secretary-general, stressing: “Participation is critical if we are to strengthen societies and meet the urgency of our times.” — UN news