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“Modalities” … and how political process shapes outcomes

The polarized nature of intergovernmental relations at the United Nations has been on display the past month, as governments debate the “modalities” for the 75th anniversary commemoration of the organization in 2020. “Modalities” refers to the specific elements and commitments of various parts of the UN system to a particular process. In this case, while the final version of the resolution is not yet determined, it is expected that a leaders summit will take place September 21, 2020 under the theme, “The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming Our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism,” with an accompanying political declaration.

There are some, including a growing network of civil society organizations around the world, who see the upcoming anniversary as a chance to take stock, and seek ways to strengthen the organization. Others (China, Russia, some members of the Non-Aligned Movement) are more inclined to a stand-still outcome – one that “re-affirms” the purposes and principles of the Charter but does little to address the declining support for multilateralism.

The resolution under debate will be completed by the end of May. Still up for debate is the role of civil society in the process. Over 155 civil society organizations endorsed a global sign-on letter to the co-facilitators (Singapore and Iceland) coordinating development of the text of the resolution. Check out the UN2020 website at the end of the month to see the final version of the resolution’s text.

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