Keynote on the Summit of the Future, held at the National Model United Nations (NMUN) closing segment, UN General Assembly Hall, 28 March 2024

The co-facilitators of the Summit of the Future, Ambassadors Gertze (Namibia) und Leendertse (Germany) delivered a joint speech at the closing session of National  Model United Nations 2024.

The co-facilitators of the Summit of the Future, Ambassadors Gertze (Namibia) und Leendertse (Germany) delivered a joint speech at the closing session of National Model United Nations 2024., © Andrea Renault

28.03.2024 - Speech

The speech was delieverd by the two co-facilitators for the Summit of the Future: Ambassador Neville Gertze, Permanent Representative of Namibia to the UN and Ambassador Antje Leendertse, Permanent Representative of Germany to the UN

Ambassador Neville Gertze, Permanent Representative of Namibia to the UN

Dear Model United Nations 2024 Participants. Given the intense negotiations you have been conducting over the past week, I would rather say: Dear Model Colleagues!

It is a great privilege to address you this morning in the UN General Assembly Hall. And it is an exciting first for us: My distinguished colleague, Ambassador Leendertse, and I have never seen this venerable hall filled with young people from literally around the world.

In fact, to tell you the truth, it is rather rare to see this hall filled to capacity.

There is nothing personal about that. Rather, given the overflowing agenda of the United Nations, it is sometimes simply difficult for delegations to be present in person at all meetings. There is hardly an issue of major and sometimes minor importance that has not been discussed since this hall opened its doors more than seven decades ago.

From year to year, the seating arrangement has changed. Every September, the Secretary-General draws lots to determine which delegation will occupy what is known as the “first seat” in the hall, directly in front of me to the right.

For the current seventy-eighth session of the General Assembly, the honor fell to North Macedonia. Should we have young representatives from North Macedonia in this room: Congratulations!

And just to add a bit of trivia, so far neither Namibia nor Germany have had the good fortune to be selected for the prominent seat number one.

Whatever the seating arrangements next September, one thing is certain: in less than six months, this hall will once again be the center of gravity for the 193 Member States of the United Nations. On September 22 and 23, the UN Summit of the Future will take place here. And we can assume that no member state will miss the opportunity to be present.

The journey

When did the road to the Summit begin?

It was the Secretary-General who set the stage in 2021 by presenting his vision for the future of global cooperation in a report entitled “Our Common Agenda”. In doing so, he responded to a request from the heads of state and government of all UN Member States to develop recommendations that “respond to current and future challenges”. This request was part of the Declaration of Heads of State and Government to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the UN in September 2020. It was Our Common Agenda that established the idea of holding a Summit of the Future.

This brief overview helps us to understand that the Summit of the Future has a historical mooring. Its pedigree goes back to the important milestone of the UN's 75th anniversary, which took place in the midst of the global convulsion caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

And there is more: The Summit of the Future should also serve to spur the inadequate implementation of the 2030 Agenda, whose adoption dates back to 2015.

But let's get back to the present: It is no exaggeration to say that the Summit of the Future will be the most remarkable event for the United Nations this year. And it is safe to say that this high-level meeting will be the one with the most and the longest hours of preparatory consultations and negotiations.

The role of co-facilitators

We should know, as it is our honor to lead these negotiations among all member states. The President of the General Assembly appointed as us “co-facilitators”, representing different world regions and perspectives unto the state of the world and its challenges, and of course different genders.

As a team, we prepare the grounds for meetings in a neutral manner, tabling drafts, listening to the room and exploring landing zones. We do this to fulfill the mandate set out in a resolution of the General Assembly on the modalities of the Summit, which was adopted by consensus.

The modalities call for the negotiation of an outcome document by UN member states through an intergovernmental process. We are working together to achieve a 'UN Pact for the Future' to be adopted by leaders at the September Summit.

We would not be able to succeed in this daunting task without the dedicated teams in our two Missions and the UN Secretariat. Also, it would be impossible without the many colleagues and experts of all Missions who have joined us on this challenging and sometimes laborious journey.

To avoid confusion about the event's status, it's important to note that the Summit of the Future belongs to the UN membership as a whole and will be presided over by the President of the General Assembly. It's not an event summoned by Namibia and Germany or the Secretary-General.

The objective of the SOTF

Why is the United Nations investing so much into this? Why do the United Nations need a Summit of the Future?

One essential reason is the youth: Your future on this planet will last longer than ours. It is a future already today marked by fundamental transitions and shocks.

As fragmentations increase, tensions grow, conflicts escalate, and environmental degradation accelerates, we cannot afford to continue with 'business as usual.' Failing to act now will result in dumping our waste and failures at the feet of future generations.

As a global community, we need to come together with strength and determination to find solutions for the various political, economic, and social crises we face. However, we must also keep in mind the bigger picture: Do our international institutions, multilateral tools, and collective mindset align with the overall challenge?

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres recently highlighted the objective of the Summit. All of us, we risk finding ourselves in chaotic struggles over the crumbs of a shrinking pie. What we need instead is “a more comprehensive and effective global order”. An order that allows to bake a bigger pie for all and to have inclusive rules to share the pie equitably.

Ambassador Antjhe Leendertse, Permanent Representative of Germany to the UN

Insights into the practical work

How do we organize our work in this “Summit kitchen” which has the Pact as main dish on its menu?

We know the saying 'too many cooks spoil the broth,' or in our case, the pie. However, we want to make sure that our pie is nourishing for each member state. That's why we welcome all cooks to share their recipes and preferred ingredients.

Obviously, we need to structure the delicate process along a manageable number of priorities. This will prevent us from getting stuck in a shapeless and bland 'dough.' To this end, the UN membership agreed on five thematic chapters for the Pact:

1. Sustainable Development and Financing for Development

2. Peace and Security

3. Science, Technology, Innovation and Digital Cooperation

4. Youth and Future Generations

5. Transformation of Global Governance.

In this framework, we closely co-ordinate our work with two interlinked processes:

(1) The first is the Global Digital Compact, which is co-facilitated by Sweden and Zambia. It focuses on digital access, equality, and global internet governance, including the regulation of artificial intelligence.

(2) The second process is the Declaration of Future Generations, which is co-facilitated by our colleagues from Jamaica and the Netherlands. The goal with this workstream is to make sure that the decisions we make at the UN are more future-proof and sustainable.

We started negotiating the Pact back in January, using a zero draft that summarized points of convergence from previous consultations. To give you some context, we received feedback from 83 states and state groups, which amounted to approximately 660 pages. We also obtained almost 400 substantive submissions from civil society

That is good news! It indicates that the Summit has the power to mobilize governments and civil society to engage seriously and substantially with the future of multilateralism.

The zero draft condensed the comprehensive input into 20 pages. During the first reading in January, member states provided feedback and submitted proposals for changes. The extensive proposals resulted in a compilation of 242 pages.

Is this bad news? Let’s say: it is a reality. There is no short-cut to inclusivity and transparency. Hence, we are currently navigating the UN members meticulously through the 242 pages in the Pact’s second reading. It is vital that all delegations understand the various priorities and viewpoints of the partners.

We're working hard to identify positions that all member states can agree on, with the goal of making the final Pact concise and action-oriented.

Potential deliverables

What deliverables can you expect from the Summit? This is by far the most difficult question to answer at this stage of the ongoing process and we are not the best persons to reply, as we are bound by neutrality.

But let us look at some examples for deliverables we proposed in the zero draft:

· The Summit should take up the political SDG Declaration from last year’s SDG Summit and should reflect the global workstreams on climate protection. It could welcome the new SDG stimulus proposed by the Secretary-General. The Pact might also endorse the idea of a biannual Summit that brings together leading UN bodies, the G20 and International Financial Institutions.

· It could reflect the scope of the Secretary-General’s New Agenda for Peace and strengthen UN prevention and meditation tools such as the Peacebuilding Commission, shore up disarmament activities and focus on new technologies in this field.

· It should lay out building blocks for an improved architecture of the multilateral system, with major attention given to the quest for a security council reform and the reform of the international financial architecture.

· And there could be commitments for more meaningful youth engagement.

· Poverty reduction, human rights and gender issues will be cross-cutting concerns integrated throughout the chapters.

· In the final stage, a political introduction to the Pact, known as “Chapeau”, will be formulated to consolidate the essentials of our joint vision for multilateralism and provide brief summaries of the five chapters.

Civil Society involvement

As mentioned before, the General Assembly decided that the Pact for the Future will result from intergovernmental negotiations. This limits the space for direct involvement of non-state players into the negotiations.

However, as co-facilitators, we greatly appreciate that a large number and variety of persons and groups on all continents, who are acting outside of government structures, recognize the Summit of the Future as an opportunity. Like many delegations, we are grateful for the passion and expertise that civil society brings to our work, especially many youth organizations. We value constructive criticism from outside the intergovernmental forum as an opportunity to improve inside.

We benefit from the structured consultation process with stakeholders and civil society designed to ensure input and feedback. We regularly hold briefings about procedural milestones and engage in interactive discussions.

The sixty-ninth UN Civil Society Conference is coming up in May, and it will be held in Nairobi, Kenya. Around 2,500 participants are expected to attend the conference, where they will work on meaningful civil society reflections for the Summit and the implementation of the Pact.

Once the conference is over, plans are that civil society representatives will present the outcomes to Member States for their consideration.

Looking ahead

To reinvigorate the multilateral system with the UN at its core, the world requires stronger cooperation guided by trust, equity, solidarity, and universality. However, it is important to clarify what this means in practice for the Pact

Once the Day of the Summit arrives, we will know exactly where each government stands, both within this room and in terms of commitments for a stronger and safer world.

From our conversations, we take that UN members understand the importance of multilateralism at this critical juncture. We believe that the Summit of the Future will be a significant milestone in transforming global governance for the better.

Amidst the dark clouds of division, discontent, and despair, we look forward to welcoming world leaders to subscribe to a robust pact as a future blueprint for our continuous struggle to secure collaboration in a multipolar world

Although the summit's title embodies the idea of the future, this future will not be ultimately secured at one specific day or with one summit deliverable. We must always keep moving forward and never rest to open a better future for all.

Looking into the future means facing our expectations, our hopes and our fears. Our goal is that that the Summit of the Future helps to make “the future” not appear as a fearful threat, but a source of hopeful promise for as many people as possible.

Thank you.

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