New social challenges are on the rise and several gaps –gender, poverty, access to technology– keep widening. All of it is increasing inequality, a worrisome problem that COVID-19 has exacerbated even more. The pandemic has made it clear that many countries still lag behind in terms of access to healthcare and other basic needs.
Seeking to provide an answer to these open, burning questions, the UN underwent a consultative process with citizens, thought leaders and civil society organisations to collect recommendations on how to best tackle such challenges. The process led up to a paper released earlier this month that encompassed all of these contributions and proposed several lines of action.
Club de Madrid participated in this UN-led process. Former Heads of State and Government drafted a thorough report – ‘Our Common Agenda – UN After 75: Proposals to reinvigorate an inclusive, networked and effective multilateralism’– that put forward several proposals to improve multilateralism, including the need to hold a new World Summit for Social Development in 2025. This key proposal was picked up by the UN’s report.
The last World Summit for Social Development took place in 1995. Many things have changed since –the irruption of social media and new forms of communication, the increasingly important role of women in the work sphere, etc.– which now call for a new summit to discuss these rising new challenges. Core values of human rights and a close eye on the 2030 Agenda should act as a framework of this renovated Social Summit.
The UN report is also vocal on the need for a new social contract, another of the proposals specifically put forward by Club de Madrid and its partners. Such a new social contract should consider every actor of society and have a clear focus on human rights, defending a human-centred approach to the new forms of communication and the advancements of technology, such as artificial intelligence. In this sense, leaving no one behind and keeping the right to privacy in a fully digital society should be at the core of any forthcoming policy.
Young people must be active participants in decision-making processes
The role of youth in democracies is one of the cornerstones of our work. As noted in Club de Madrid’s Annual Policy Dialogue 2021 ‘Rethinking Democracy’, youth constitute the future, and there is no possible future without youth. Yet, there has been a growing disconnect between them and politics over the years, particularly fuelled by their mistrust in institutions and their belief that the establishment lacks accountability. Both the UN report and Club de Madrid’s recommendations express the need to listen to and work alongside young people, making them active participants in decision-making processes through new, more horizontal ways that engage them.
The report also points to a rising concern on security, calling for a renovated agenda on this front – one that widens the classical definition of security, including threats to health or energy. The UN also calls for placing girls and women at the centre of this new agenda, specifically developing strategies that stop gender-based violence.
Society is not a stagnant concept but is constantly evolving. As such, new threats and challenges spring up over time. However, there are also new opportunities to improve the lives of those who are part of it. The time has come to take action and engage all acting members of society in a leading role, and not just as understudies. Developing an international social pillar in the framework of the United Nations and increasing opportunities for citizens to participate -with an emphasis on young people- would be significant steps towards the equitable, secure and resilient multilateral system that Club de Madrid envisions.
More information on Club de Madrid’s proposals for Our Common Agenda and on the World Summit for Social Development