Welcome the Global Resilience Council: A ‘Security Council’ for non-military threats
March 1, 2022
As the world was getting more and more deeply immersed into the COVID-19 pandemic in the early months of 2020, voices started to rise in support of a UN Security Council intervention to address this grave threat to humanity. Well, these voices might as well have been the proverbial ‘voice of one calling in the desert’. The Council remained silent, not only on this but even on other matters closer to its core mandate for preserving international peace and security.
Actually, as soon as the pandemic took hold, the Council and the UN as a whole went into self-preservation mode. The main preoccupation was to make sure that secretariat staff and country delegates did not get the virus, rather than re-focusing on how to continue to provide their services to humanity under COVID. No business continuity plan was in sight. Imagine if this had been an actual attack on the UN itself? At the service of the world 24/7, you said? There have to be many asterisks and footnotes added, if one is to stick at all to that motto for the UN…
This was part of the motivation that got us at FOGGS to start looking for alternatives. First of all, as ‘old UN hands’ many of us, and as proponents of an ethical, human-centered and effective global governance overall, we were ashamed by this ‘disappearance’ of the UN when it was most needed. The absence of any central UN role, even a convening if not an operational one, left a vacuum that pure nationalism and ‘each country for themselves’ approach rushed to fill, with tensions rising about the control of scarce Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) that later turned to ‘vaccine nationalism’. The WHO was trying to do its part and was appealing to the world for unity, but it took months for the UN Secretary-General to convene even a meeting of the heads of UN agencies, let alone world leaders, as we and others had been strongly advising.
Leaving our UN frustrations aside, we have to admit that it was not – and it is not – easy to tackle a complex emergency like a pandemic. It is not just the medical scare one has to deal with, there are broader repercussions on the economy and society, plus links to the environment. Pretty much like the climate crisis, which is by no means just an environmental one. Pretty much like the inequality crisis, which is by no means just a monetary / financial one. We may be talking increasingly about sustainable development and greening everything but we have not made any deep changes in our approach to life and well-being. We prefer to negotiate to the bitter end how to give up as little as possible of our bad habits, while denying others the right to develop the same way as we in the North and the West did over decades and centuries.
All this to say that there are very serious challenges to humanity that are very complex, multi-dimensional and interconnected in nature that are not being treated substantively and effectively, in a comprehensive way. Even when the UN Security Council started to meet again, remotely or in a hybrid fashion, it did not take up the pandemic in its entirety. And well it did (not), because a pandemic is not a classical security issue. Nor does a pandemic need to be ‘securitized’, beyond its potential repercussions on regional and global peace and security and its impacts on the work of UN peacekeepers and associated personnel on the ground, in the regions they have responsibility for.
This led us to propose the establishment of another ‘Security Council’ that would tackle non-military ‘human security’ threats. Eventually we called it ‘Global Resilience Council’ (GRC) because it had become obvious during the pandemic and with the ongoing climate and other systemic crises that resilience is a bare minimum for human survival that needs to be guaranteed globally, a prerequisite for subsequently talking about sustainability and well-being.
How do we envisage this new Council? Certainly, it would not have some of the clear drawbacks of the existing Security Council, certainly no veto power for any of its members. Its membership should be more representative than the current Security Council, without being unwieldy. It could include the main federal states that are the major powers of today’s world, and the most populous, plus representatives from areas of deep regional integration like the EU and AU, plus representatives elected by other regional and functional member state groupings, for example the countries of South and Central America, the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), etc. The voting rules can be negotiated to death, so to speak, among countries in the preparatory phase of the establishment of such a Council and should provide for increased majorities for important decisions like the imposition of sanctions (see below).
In terms of substantive mandate, the GRC could have assigned to it a set of functions that would correspond to some of those assigned to the Security Council under Chapters VI and VII of the UN Charter. They would include the determination of the existence of a serious threat to global ‘human security’ and the taking of initially non-compulsory measures, like deploying fact-finding missions, making mitigation suggestions, issuing voluntary guidelines. In the event of non-compliance of state and/or non-state actors at the root of the problem with the suggested guidance the Global Resilience Council could decide to impose sanctions on entities and/or individuals that could include financial penalties, severance of trade links, or other restrictions. Such decisions would be binding on all state and non-state actors and compliance would be monitored globally.
An important innovative element of a GRC would be the close engagement with constituencies of non-state actors that would serve as advisors during the Council consultation phase and as implementors during the implementation phase. Such constituencies could include scientists, parliamentarians at all levels, local authorities, business associations, worker unions, think tanks, civil society / activist organizations, youth groups, women groups, indigenous people´s groups, religious groups.
Finally, the establishment of a GRC would not require a UN Charter amendment, as it could be established as a joint subsidiary body of several UN system intergovernmental bodies, such as the UN General Assembly and the governing bodies of agencies like the WHO, UNFCCC, FAO, UNESCO, UNIDO, and the International Financial Institutions (IFIs). The GRC could be supported by an Intergovernmental Leadership Council bringing together the intergovernmental heads of UN system, regional and other major organizations, that would parallel the Chief Executives Board for Coordination, which currently brings together the UN system executive heads.
To succeed such a proposal needs major mobilization and support. FOGGS is doing its part with the kind assistance of the Global Challenges Foundation.
*Harris Gleckman is a member of the Executive Board of the Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability (FOGGS), and Georgios Kostakos is the Executive Director of FOGGS; both are former UN staff members. For more information on the Global Resilience Council please visit the dedicated web page.