UN Summit of the Future: A Structure for Action or a Shopping List?


René Wadlow – TRANSCEND Media Service

UN Summit of the Future logo

22 Jun 2023 – The Summit of the Future, planned for September 2024 at the United Nations in New York, aims to better equip the UN to address vital challenges: armed violence, human rights violations, persistent poverty, massive migration, and the consequences of climate change.  The Summit is planned for the start of the U.N. General Assembly when many leaders of member states are present.

Preparations for the summit are already underway. A “New Agenda for Peace” is to be issued this July 2023 by the Secretary-General António Guterres.   Thus, there is an opportunity for peacebuilders to present ideas and recommendations to individual foreign ministries or to the UN itself through non-governmental organizations in consultative status.

It is certain that many people in many countries feel discouraged with the inability of the United Nations, other intergovernmental organizations such as the organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), or more informal governmental groupings such as the G7 or the G20 to improve the lives of people and to give a sense of direction for common efforts.

Thus, the Summit has a double task.  One is to give a sense of enthusiasm for life, a sense that there is a growing realization of the unity of humanity and that by individual and collective action a better life may be developed.

The second task is to set out those policies on which common action is needed but also where such common action can be mobilized.  Often, in the past, U.N. conferences have created “shopping lists” of desirable goals such as the “Sustainable Development Goals.”  The conferences that drew them up had to have at least one goal for every category of state – the landlocked, the small island state – and for every geographic zone which had organized representation – the African Union, the European Union.  The shopping lists became longer and longer but the common action which followed grew less and less.

Mobilization on a worldwide level is not easy to structure and not easy to maintain.  Mobilization at a national level is not easy to structure even when a national government controls many of the avenues of communication.

However, there is a need to reach as many people as possible with a vision of the common actions needed.  A “shopping list” is not enough.  The preparations for the Summit of the Future will be a crucial time in which we can play our part.


René Wadlow is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment. He is President of the Association of World Citizens, an international peace organization with consultative status with ECOSOC, the United Nations organ facilitating international cooperation and problem-solving in economic and social issues, and editor of Transnational Perspectives.

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 26 Jun 2023.

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