Dear Secretary-General Guterres,
As a group of civil society leaders representing over 180 non-governmental organizations, including ACTED, we congratulate you on your new role as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Years of close collaboration during your tenure as High Commissioner for Refugees have led us to deeply appreciate your unique diplomatic and leadership skills as well as your commitment to our shared values.
We welcome and appreciate your strong statement to the UN Security Council on 10 January 2017, in particular the clarity with which you view the challenges facing the UN in preventing war and sustaining peace. The role of the United Nations is as critical as it was in 1945 and at a time of widespread and systemic threats to fundamental human rights and dignity this demands, as you have articulated, “corresponding changes to our culture, strategy, structures and operations”.
We strongly believe in your ability to enhance and sustain the trust of the public and Member State faith in and commitment to the ideals and mission of the United Nations. Within the priorities you outline, we see the particular importance of the following:
- Re-establish the UN’s role as an impartial peace broker: The UN’s eminent role in negotiating peace must be restored. This demands reforms that reinvigorate the UN’s purpose, reputation and capacities including the critical role of trust among Member States.
- Restore respect for the norms that safeguard humanity: Respect for norms is critical if human life is to be preserved, sustainable development goals achieved, and negotiated political settlements sustained. Effective international cooperation and adherence to international law are paramount to ensuring the protection of civilians in armed conflict, freedom from fear and deprivation, and gender equality.
- Enhance the UN’s effectiveness and reputation: The UN must demonstrate that it is fit for purpose as a 21st century multi-lateral institution operating at the highest standards of conduct and accountability at all levels. Reform efforts must include increased financial transparency and gender parity. In addition, a key part of this reform should focus on how UN partners and engages with NGOs and civil society.
You stated that 2017 is to be the year for peace. For this to happen it must be the year of action. 2016 saw the extensive mobilization of commitments by the UN, Member States and other actors in the form of the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the World Humanitarian Summit, and the New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants, as well as a range of initiatives tackling nutrition, health and urban assistance. To fully operationalize these commitments Member States must re-engage in meaningful cooperation and establish a new way of working within the UN system. As you have repeatedly stressed, civil society plays a critical role in these endeavors. InterAction members applaud the priorities and direction you have set out and stand ready to support you in your efforts. In closing, your record of statesmanship leaves us hopeful that your leadership will mark an era of true action. We look forward to working with you in the achievement of the priorities noted above.