Former UN Deputy/Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Director at the UN peacekeeping operation for the Former Yugoslavia, Director of the Africa I Division of the Department of Political Affairs, and head of the speech-writing service of the UN Secretary-General; Member, Global Vision Institute (GVI) Board of Advisors

(Interview originally conducted in February 2019)

Dr. Ramcharan,

Sincere thanks for sharing your thoughts with GVI. Let me begin by asking you the following:

1) You’ve had a rich and diverse career as a legal practitioner, scholar, university professor, NGO activist, and top international civil servant working for the United Nations in the area of human rights.          

Over such a long and distinguished career, what were some of your most challenging and rewarding experiences?


The most challenging was helping Theo van Boven to establish the UN human rights fact-finding system: the special procedures. This was historic. The most rewarding was our efforts to establish the UN Working Group on Indigenous Populations. It provided indigenous peoples with their first forum at the United Nations. This was heart-warming. Alongside Dr. Van Boven, I was very much involved in the establishment of this forum.

2) As you know, GVI is committed to the promulgation of values awareness as a key motivating and energizing tool for those involved and committed to building a values-driven international system.

What are some of the core, underlying personal values that informed and sustained your efforts over such a distinguished career advocating for human rights? 


The most important was striving to live an honourable life. Honour was my lode-star. The values of the Universal Declaration were always inspirational. The dignity, decency, charm and faith of Lily Ramcharan were also of great help.

3) Following the news reports and the various sources of information you have access to, what changes have you witnessed regarding the type and intensity of conflicts occurring today and resulting violations of human rights, far too often targeting the civilian population?

In other words, what keeps you up at night worrying about the continued proliferation of human rights violations in the world today?


What worries me the most is the assault on the human rights system of the United Nations from various quarters. It is of the utmost importance that we uphold the universality of human rights. The UN Secretary-General has a historic role to play, together with the High Commissioner for Human Rights. If we lose the universality of UN human rights norms we will have lost our essence as a global community.

4) Based on your observations above, is the UN human rights apparatus ‘fit for purpose’ to confront current and emerging challenges?


It is very much fit for purpose. That is the story I tell in “The Advent of Universal Protection of Human Rights”. Unfortunately, one can see many efforts to water down the system. I have offered views on the Modernization of the UN Human Rights System in a book with this title that is just being published.

5) How do you view the continued codification of human rights norms and standards in the form of declarations, conventions, treaties, comments, etc?

Is this a wholly positive development or do you have any apprehensions that the human rights apparatus is becoming too specialized/compartmentalized, with special interest groups showing disproportionate focus on their respective area(s) only (women, children, indigenous, minority rights, right to life, etc)?


Human Rights standard-setting has always been responsive to perceived problems and violations of human rights. I relate this story in a chapter I wrote on the normative process for the Oxford Handbook on Human Rights. What I am most concerned about, as I said above, are efforts to water down the standards and the UN implementation machinery. The legal standard used to be that Governments must comply in letter and in spirit with their normative obligations. Nowadays, uniform standards of implementation are under assault as from various quarters, including the argument that the content of governmental obligation is to be judged in the light of its social or ideological system. International law is here under severe challenge.

6) You have written or edited numerous books and articles on international law, human rights, and the United Nations. Your latest book: “The Advent of Universal Protection of Human Rights: Theo van Boven and the Transformation of the UN Role” has been described as “a priceless study of leadership and strategy.”

What inspired and motivated you to write the latest book?


I consider the human rights leadership of Theo van Boven to have been the most decisive of any UN leader to date when it comes to the protection of human rights. As his Special Assistant, I worked closely with him. I felt that the leadership he provided and the creativity he marshaled had to be recorded for history and for the future quest for the international protection of human rights.

7) Can you share a story or insight gained from your time working with Professor van Boven that highlights the vision, moral fortitude, and ethics he espoused?


He was always of the view that one had to deal not only with the symptoms of gross violations of human rights but with their root causes. Human rights work can be put into two categories: seed-planting work or fire-brigade work. Both are needed. But in the long-term seed-planting is what will assure long-term protection within countries: strengthening national protection systems.

8) What do you hope the reader will take away after reading your book, especially your plead in the conclusion on the need for a “new burst of creativity in the development of UN protection of human rights…” and a “period of innovation for human rights protection”? What steps are required to bring this about?


I think that the most important thing to be done is for the United Nations to systematically work with Governments on the enhancement of their national protection systems. The UN should publish periodically a World Report on National Protection Systems. This should be a positive, cooperative report. Its rationale would be to focus on the centrality of national protection systems.

9) What final thoughts or observations do you want to leave us with or want us to take away from this discussion?


I am particularly concerned about efforts to water down the standards and the UN implementation machinery. Powerful forces are leading this assault. The UN Secretary-General must provide leadership in this struggle. The UN High Commissioner for human rights has to follow three lode-stars: intellectual and normative leadership; trouble-shooting; and diplomacy. The High-Commissioner’s task is becoming more and more delicate. The Secretary-General must be the ultimate bulwark.



About the interviewee

Dr. Ramcharan’s accolades include a career of over 30 years in the UN, including as former UN Deputy/Acting High Commissioner for Human Rights, Director at the UN peacekeeping operation for the Former Yugoslavia, Director of the Africa I Division of the Department of Political Affairs, and head of the speech-writing service of the UN Secretary-General. His contributions to academia have covered as Chancellor of the University of Guyana, as Adjunct Professor at Columbia University and at the Geneva Graduate Institute of International Studies (HEI), as Senior Fellow at the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies and visiting professor of international law in Lund University, Sweden. Dr. Ramcharan was President of the NGO UPR-Info from 2011 to 2015, and served on the Board of Geneva for Human Rights. He holds a doctorate from the London School of Economics.

Among his many publications are:

The Advent of Universal Protection of Human Rights: Theo van Boven and the Transformation of the UN Role (Springer Biographies), which provides an insider view of the critical contributions of Theo van Boven within the UN human rights apparatus (published December 2018 by Springer Biographies); and

Conflict Prevention in the UN’s Agenda 2030: Development, Peace, Justice and Human Rights, by Bertrand Ramcharanand Robin Ramcharan, which spearheaded discussions of the conflict prevention dimension in the UN’s Agenda 2030 which seeks to advance sustainable development with a view to reinforcing peace and justice on the foundations of respect for universal human rights (published April 2020, Springer Publishers).



GUEST BLOG: Towards a Revised UN Architecture for Peace

A Guest Blog as part of GVI’s 2018 Focus: Innovations in Peace

by Tim Murithi, Head of Programme at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation

From 12 to 13 November 2018, President Emmanuel Macron of France convened the inaugural Paris Peace Forum which coincided with the centenary of the end of the First World War. The global gathering brought together more than 2,500 governments, intergovernmental organisations, think tanks, civil society and academia, to discuss challenges relating to peace, security, environmental protection and development. In a key speech to the Forum, President Macron appealed for a revitalisation of multilateralism, as an antidote to the regressive trend in a number of countries to authoritarianism, chauvinistic ethnic nationalism and xenophobia which harks back to a by-gone era of early twentieth-century facist regimes which fuelled war and untold human suffering.

At the heart of the debates at the Forum were questions relating to how to transform the United Nations (UN) system in a manner that will make it more democratic and inclusive in its decision-making. This can be achieved through a long-overdue conference to review the Charter of the United Nations. There were no sacred cows in the discussions, and they also touched upon the opportunities for remaking world institutions through the creation of a new system that will include the aspirations of all global citizens as equal actors on the world stage

The global liberal order and the UN

The international liberal order is currently in free-fall and its unravelling has begun. Citizens of other parts of the world, predominantly in western Europe, who benefitted from this global liberal order will be entering a prolonged phase of self-introspection and confusion. To be clear, the principles upon which the international liberal order were founded were noble, the promotion of human freedom, democratic governance and the rule of law.

The UN system which was created to sustain peace and security and improve the well-being of humanity, has become dysfunctional to the point that maintaining it in its present form is a clear and present danger to the future of human survival. This is evident its failure to prevent extremely violent conflicts from spilling over in the Middle East, Africa, and South East Asia, notably in Syria, Yemen, Burma, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. Today, the world is faced with the largest refugee flow since the Second World War, estimated at an amount of 68 million people, which raises the question as to what exactly the UN’s purpose is, if not to prevent the psychologically stressful displacement of people from their homes and livelihoods. Interviews conducted with people in war-affected parts of Africa have protested that the extensive and protracted UN peacekeeping operations are not achieving the basic objective of creating the foundations for peace in the eastern DRC, Central African Republic (CAR) and Darfur, for example. To make matters worse some UN peacekeepers have been exposed as being involved in gender-based violence, which stigmatizes the organisation in the eyes of the victims and survivors that it is supposed to assist. If there is any need for a clear metaphor that the UN has seriously lost its moral compass, it is its failure to directly address such issues.

Logically, it does not make sense for a combined total of more than five billion people not to have a “permanent” representation on the UN Security Council, particularly when more than 80% of the Council’s work relates to crisis situations in Africa, the Middle East and South East Asia. This is clearly a case of an international system of governance that has no legitimacy from a global south perspective. This argument can be made more forcefully by India, which has over a billion people, and Brazil, which is also one of the most populated countries in the world.

Building a coalition

The question for the more than five billion people who are excluded from the decision-making processes that count within the UN system, is whether they should in fact continue to support such an illegitimate system of global governance. The challenge is therefore how to build a coalition of the marginalised and dispossessed, in order to  actively lead the campaign to transform the ageing and anachronistic UN system, particularly the Security Council, and replace it with new institutions that seek to deepen global democracy, based on a renewal of principles of human freedom, solidarity, justice and reconciliation, which we can draw historical struggles from around the world.

Concretely, it is time for a two-thirds majority of the countries within the UN General Assembly to build a coalition of the willing and to trigger Article 109, calling for a review of the UN Charter. Article 109 of the UN Charter cannot be vetoed by the permanent members of the UN Security Council, who are the main beneficiaries of the global status quo and prime instigators of some of the chaos in parts of the world. President Macron’s initiative to revive multilateralism would require him to make a bold commitment to support the will of a two-thirds majority of the members of the General Assembly, rather than play a divisive and nefarious role behind the scenes which has been the common practice of the P5 for the 73-year history of the UN.

The activation of Article 109, is several decades long over-due because the UN Charter calls for the periodic review of its continuing relevance and effectiveness. In fact, the members of the General Assembly are in “legal” breach of the stipulations of the UN Charter, which specifically and explicitly calls for a Charter Review Conference ten years after the establishment of the UN, which was launched in 1945. In 1955, there were efforts to launch a Review Conference of the UN Charter, however, this process became stalled. In 2018, there is a strong case to re-launch the campaign to convene a UN Charter Review Conference by 2020.

Drawing upon the principles of human freedom, solidarity, justice and reconciliation which many people and communities around the world have fought, and continue to fight, for, a new global system can be designed around the creation of a UN Parliamentary Assembly with legislative powers and portfolio committees on peace, security, gender equality, environment, refugees and so on. A UN Parliamentary Assembly could be constituted by three representatives from all, 193 member states of the UN, and could also invite other countries and territories that are not members of the UN to join, irrespective of religious or ideological orientation, would create a global legislative chamber of around 600 people, which is manageable. In addition, the operations of such a new global system would be financed by the taxation of global financial flows, which has already been proposed to address the transnational challenges which are beyond the ability of any single country.


It is absurd that the geo-political evolution of our institutions of global governance has not kept up with the pace of globalization and the demands of the fourth industrial age.

As some countries chose the path of retreating into their cocoon of partisan nationalism, the era of globalisation is here to stay, and the challenge is to create institutions to be able to respond to international issues before they threaten the survival of humanity. The UN has not completed a Charter Review conference in its 73-year existence, which is staggering given the pace at which technology has evolved. It is absurd that the geo-political evolution of our institutions of global governance has not kept up with the pace of globalization and the demands of the fourth industrial age. Consequently, think tanks, civil society and academic actors need to actively identify, lobby and mobilize the support of “champion” member states within the General Assembly, who can build a coalition of countries which will take the leadership in charting a new course for humanity in convening a Review Conference of the UN Charter in 2020, and contribute towards transforming the global system in a way that asserts and affirms human equality.


Professor Tim Murithi is Member of the Advisory Board of Global Vision Institute. He is Head of Programme at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, based in Cape Town, and Extraordinary Professor of African Studies, Centre for African Studies, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. He is the editor of the Routledge Handbook of Africa’s International Relations @tmurithi12


GVI BLOG SERIES: How to co-create a values-driven UN/global system? Blog VII – Make diversity practical

Building Peace: From the Intimate to the Global

A Guest Blog as part of GVI’s 2018 Focus: Innovations in Peace

by Susan Coleman, Creator and Host of “The Peacebuilding Podcast: Bridging the Divide”

I am essentially a peace builder.  I have been in the field of collaboration and conflict resolution for most of my professional career.  I set up the United Nations first program on intercultural negotiation and mediation, rolled that out around the world, and have worked with individuals, groups and whole systems all over the world including countries at war, and organizations and families that might well as be.

I also grew up in a traditional and very patriarchal home where I was — with nobodies’ evil intentions, just a lot of social conditioning — stripped of my power pretty much at birth because I was female.  I was taught that men owned my body and sexuality more than I did, that it was not sexy to earn money – that I needed to let men do that, that my role was to serve and build men up so they could take care of me. Basically, I was schooled in codependency.

I started a podcast a few years back called The Peacebuilding Podcast: Bridging the Divide. Its niche is to focus on the best processes and practices to build common ground in complex systems.  I interview Nobel laureates, social entrepreneurs, international mediators, facilitators, UN diplomats, family therapists, musicians, and others.  It’s been great.  In the process, what I have come to believe is that the single, most important thing that needs to happen on this planet to build peace is to empower women and girls.

The majority of countries on earth are still patriarchal, but in the countries where there is much more gender equality, there is way less support for militarism. And, in family systems, where there is equality between genders, there is way less violence.  The world is currently spending about 1.7 trillion annually on arms. That, of course, doesn’t include all of the other associated costs of militarism and its impact. If we included that, the number would be even more staggering.  My country, the United States is, by a long shot, the largest contributor to military spending on the planet, with China being a far-distant second. And, by the way, as pointed out by Dr. Scilla Elworthy on my podcast, the five permanent members of the UN Security council are also the biggest arms sellers in the world. A case of the fox guarding the henhouse.

Many people far smarter than I believe that war is outdated, an anachronism, and that we have the capacity to move beyond it in our lifetimes. (See Dr. Elworthy above, and Bill Ury video here.)  In my most recent interview on the podcast, Building Peace: From the Intimate to the Global, internationally recognized family therapist Terry Real says “we will move beyond patriarchy or we will die. It’s really that simple.”  And a world beyond patriarchy and the militarism that goes with it, means a world where we stop giving so much of our precious attention to it, and turn to creatively meeting human needs and reversing climate change. (See Drawdown)

The tag line for my business as a consultant to organizations is Collaborative Intelligence.  I provide Collaborative Negotiation Skills, Negotiation Skills for Women, I specialize in process interventions to build common ground, I host The Peacebuilding Podcast: Bridging the Divide, do public speaking and more.  One of my current offerings that I’m excited about are Gender Dialogues. As the #Metoo movement has swept the planet it has left organizations scrambling to respond, and many men afraid to open their mouths.

As a mediator, having worked a lot of different kinds of conflicts, I believe both or all sides need to take 100 percent responsibility for a conflict, and so too with this gender “conflict” we are having.  That may be hard to do, seem unfair, but I think it’s the only way out of any difficult situation because fundamentally, we can’t do anything about others’ behaviors, but we can do a lot about our own. This is not to suggest that women are not oppressed globally. We are second -class citizens around the world.But as Eleanor Roosevelt said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” And women are up to their eyeballs in codependency, as we enable dysfunctional men like Brett Kavanaugh or tearfully and pridefully send our sons off to war.

What’s typical about people in conflict is that they usually have way more in common than they are different.  So too men and women. We start out in the womb virtually identical and then our adversarial world unnecessarily accentuates our polarization. What’s cool about the gender dialogues is I create a super safe container for men, women and gender non-conforming folks to have a deep, intimate conversation about how gender impacts us personally, how it impacts us at work and what we and our places of work can do to move to a post-patriarchal culture of organizational excellence.

If any of these ideas have resonated with you, please get in touch at susan@susancoleman.global, and see more at http://www.susancoleman.global.


Susan Coleman

Susan Coleman has over 30 years of experience working from war zones to board rooms with people from all continents. She is the Creator and Host of “The Peacebuilding Podcast: Bridging the Divide” in which she interviews some of the most creative and innovative global practitioners about the best process interventions to build common ground in complex systems.  Susan established the United Nations’ first programs on negotiation, mediation and conflict resolution and rolled these out worldwide. She also was central to creating a similar program at Columbia University in New York City.  As a global change consultant, she has close to three decades of experience building collaboration in organizations and systems by combining workshops and seminars with large or small multi-stakeholder interventions to promote collaboration, support greater impact and resolve conflict.


GVI BLOG SERIES: How to co-create a values-driven UN/global system? BLOG VI – Participation in the SDGs

International public participatory processes as seen through the MDG versus the SDG processes:  Lessons learned and applied
or missed opportunity?


By Otto Spijkers, September 2018, member of the Global Vision Institute Board of Directors

The following is the second blog on values and participation as part of GVI’s 10 Solutions on “How to co-create a values driven UN/global system?”.  It examines the experiences of the preparatory processes for the Sustainable Development Goals compared to that of the Milliennium Development Goals, and lessons that can be drawn from that comparison. GVI poses questions to gain insights from Otto’s perspective as an expert on “The United Nations, the Evolution of Global Values and International Law” 

What are some alternative models or elements thereof to bring about more inclusive international participation, deliberation, decision-making and action at the global level via the UN and similar bodies?

Let’s focus on the drafting process of the Sustainable Development Goals. It is worth focussing on, because this process can basically be seen – and studied – as a giant laboratory of global public participation. Almost every participatory model you can imagine was used.

This is a major difference compared with the drafting process of the Millennium Development Goals, in which only very few people had any meaningful participation. I can therefore be brief about the MDG drafting process. In the early 1990s, an impressive number of world conferences on various global challenges took place, all within the UN framework. They resulted in aspirational declarations, a consensus on what was most important and what needed to be done to face the challenge. The most influential is probably the Declaration on Environment and Development, adopted at the end of the World Conference in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. And everybody also knows the Vienna Declaration of the World Conference on Human Rights, that took place one year later. Less known is the World Summit for Social Development, which took place in Copenhagen in 1995. Of all the world conferences, the latter probably had the most direct influence on the MDGs.

The Development Assistance Committee (DAC) of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) was the first to suggest making a “summary” of all these declarations of the 1990s.  The DAC consists of a handful of rich States, known for being relatively generous when it comes to providing official development aid. They came up with a list of commitments, and if one compares this DAC-list with the MDGs, the resemblance is remarkable. The UN did not think it was a good idea to adopt a list of goals prepared by this exclusive group of countries. And thus, it organized a summit, the Millennium Summit, where the UN’s Millennium Declaration was made. This Declaration did not contain a list of goals, and thus they needed to be extracted therefrom. The extraction of the goals from the declaration was very much based, once again, on the work of the DAC. In fact, if you compare the list of DAC-goals and the MDGs, it is clear that the latter are more derived from the work of DAC than from the UN’s Millennium Declaration.

When drafting the Sustainable Development Goals, the UN wanted to do better, in terms of global public participation. Briefly summarised, the opportunities for global public participation fall into three categories:

  • The UN Secretary-General led initiatives, including the High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda (HLP), the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), and the UN Global Compact (UNGC).
  • The intergovernmental Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (OWG), which ultimately drafted the SDGs.
  • The United Nations Development Group (UNDG) led the so-called “Global Conversation” which provided input into above-mentioned processes.

I will focus on the third category. One consultation which was part of the “Global Conversation” was the MyWorld survey; an online survey through which all the world’s citizens were invited to rank certain global issues on what they believed was most urgent (http://www.myworld2015.org/). Interestingly, combating climate change ended up at the very bottom of the list. I guess it is not always a good idea to listen to the world’s citizens!

But this was not the only effort to seek the peoples’ opinion. The consultations invited participants through television, radio, newspapers, online advertisements, webcasts, blogs, press releases, YouTube, email, face-to-face surveying and the use of local networks and moderators. This variety in outreach was continued into methods of opinion collection, with dedicated websites, social media outlets, individual interviews, group workshops, paper MyWorld ballots, mobile phone surveys, photography competitions, roundtables and other surveys, from open questions to multi-choice selections.

The organizer of the process – the UN – was clearly very enthusiastic and ambitious, but the response of the world’s citizens was much less enthusiastic and ambitious. In its reports, the UN maintains its enthusiasm, and does not openly address the problem of a lack of interest in participating. That is unfortunate, I think. I still believe that the SDGs process represents the true birth of global public participation in global decision-making. The lack of interest might be because this is “new”; we have never done this before. And thus, some people might be a bit hesitant and sceptical. Let’s hope we do better next time.

A more radical solution is to stop asking people to bring their opinion and ideas to the UN. Instead, the UN can go to the people and take their opinion and ideas from them. This can be done even without their awareness. For example, UN Global Pulse is currently experimenting with ‘mining’ publicly available data, such as Twitter ‘tweets’, to identify priorities and interests of the people. If this method is developed further – and I am sure it will be – it might raise privacy concerns. And it focuses on the ideas of people active on social media, which is not (yet?) the entire world population.

What are your views on the inclusiveness of the debates on the global value of ‘social progress and development’ when viewed in light of recent challenges, and the SDG’s commitment to ‘leave no one behind?

The United Nations Charter gives the UN a general mandate to realize the value of social progress and development. No general definition or description of the value of social progress and development was ever adopted by the deliberative organ of the United Nations, the General Assembly. So, we must deduce a general definition from the many many resolutions on development adopted by the Assembly since 1945 – more than on any other topic of international concern.

The Assembly’s meetings have been as inclusive as is realistically possible, with most States represented there. Of course, participation has always been restricted to States. The fact that all States had a role in the discussions from the beginning – at least since the decolonization in the 1960s and 1970s – had as consequence that the fundamental aspects of the existing economic order have been criticized in the Assembly since the beginning. This inclusiveness also had an impact on the allocation of responsibilities.

So how has the United Nations, and especially the General Assembly, interpreted and implemented its task to promote “higher standards of living, full employment, […] conditions of economic and social progress and development, solutions of international economic, social, health, and related problems and international cultural and educational cooperation” (quote from the UN Charter)? And how about inclusiveness, leaving no-one behind? That was your question, I believe.

Well… The many declarations adopted by the General Assembly on social progress and development contain various strategies and action plans which respond to various threats to the achievement of the value of social progress and development. They all stress the primary responsibility of States for their own development, and then urge States to assist each other. The plans did not aim to put in place a global welfare system; instead the aim was to help developing States to obtain their share of the goods themselves.

But what happens if States cannot get their share of the goods themselves, and become increasingly marginalized despite international assistance? What if they cannot even provide the most basic services to their own population? What if they are in immediate need of aid? In that case, the United Nations cannot merely stand aside and watch. Therefore, it has adopted various plans specifically aimed at providing immediate aid for immediate emergencies such as natural disasters.

In short, there is no lack of declarations and resolutions on the value of social progress and development, but the impact of these resolutions on actual State behaviour, and on the flow of ideas within the academic community, differs significantly per resolution. Some of the declarations and action plans have been ignored, but others, such as the Declaration on the Establishment of a New International Economic Order and the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States, did play a major role in the evolution of ideas. These resolutions did not serve as blueprints for global economic policy, but they did greatly influence the (scholarly) debate on global reform.

Two other influential Assembly resolutions on development are – and here we return to where we started this interview – the Millennium Declaration and the SDG Declaration, both of which have been influential in setting and monitoring targets for development. And here too, various commitments relate to inclusiveness, or ‘leave no one behind’, as you put it.



Otto Spijkers is a Lecturer of Public International Law at Utrecht University, Senior Research Associate with the Netherlands Institute for the Law of the Sea, and researcher with the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, and researcher with the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law. He is a member of the Committee on the Role of International Law in Sustainable Natural Resource Management for Development of the International Law Association, and guest lecturer for amnesty International The Hague.

Otto was a visiting lecturer at the University of Malta, the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies of Leiden University, Xiamen University’s China International Water Law Programme (China), the China Institute for Boundary and Ocean Studies of Wuhan University (China), the Law School of the East China University of Political Science and Law (ECUPL) in Shanghai (China), the Università degli Studi di Salerno (Italy), and the Association pour la promotion des droits de l’homme en Afrique centrale (APDHAC) of the Université Catholique d’Afrique Centrale (Yaoundé, Cameroon).  Previously, he was a PhD candidate and lecturer at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies at the University of Leiden. His doctoral dissertation, entitled “The United Nations, the Evolution of Global Values and International Law”,  was published with Intersentia in 2011.

GVI BLOG SERIES: How to co-create a values-driven UN/global system? BLOG V- Build in participation

Do the world’s citizens consider the United Nations “their” organization?

By Otto Spijkers, August 2018, member of the Global Vision Institute Board of Directors

The following is a blog on values and participation as part of GVI’s 10 Solutions on “How to co-create a values driven UN?global system?”.  It responds to key questions from GVI on what the reality is today and how we can move forward, from Otto’s perspective as an expert on “The United Nations, the Evolution of Global Values and International Law”

Do you think the global values, on which the founding of the United Nations in 1945 was based, still enjoy widespread relevance? Are they under threat? I believe that a growing number of individuals and leaders, in the US and various parts of Europe, presently challenge the UN’s global values discourse and the relevance of multilateral institutions such as the UN and/or the EU, especially if this values discourse and those organisations are perceived to threaten their unilateral, nationalistic aspirations. What do you think?

The global values identified by the United Nations in 1945 are peace and security, social progress and development, human dignity and the self-determination of all peoples. I think these values still have widespread relevance. And they are under threat. In fact, they have always been under threat, since the very beginning, in 1945. But they survived all these challenges. I agree with you that today they are once again under threat. For example, various States now question the idea on which the Refugee Convention is based, i.e. that people fleeing persecution in their country have a right to asylum elsewhere in the world. But I am convinced the values and institutions will survive.

Their enduring character is due to the inclusiveness of the processes at the United Nations. This inclusiveness, in terms of the participation of States, was not shared by its predecessor, the League of Nations. For a long time the “global discussion” excluded most of the international community by formally distinguishing between so-called “civilized” and “uncivilized” nations. The League of Nations explicitly excluded from independent membership nations “inhabited by peoples not yet able to stand by themselves under the strenuous conditions of the modern world” (See Article 22 of the Covenant of the League of Nations). The UN welcomes all States. It is true that the UN Charter formally only welcomes the original Members of the United Nations – i.e. those States that participated in the San Francisco Conference of 1945 –  and “other peace loving States” (Article 3 and 4, UN Charter).

But no new Member ever had to pass an exam in “peace lovingness”. As time passed, universality of membership became the ultimate goal, and references to being “peace loving” faded into the background. This universal membership of the United Nations is considered crucial, especially by the peoples who were marginalized in the past. It is the dominance of a certain world view, rather than overwhelming military or economic power, that most concerns the marginalized voices. The dominance of particular ideas is often the result, not of better arguments, but of military power, used to sustain that ideological dominance. So, if the catalogue of values endures, it is due to the UN’s universal membership.


What do you think are the dominant factors that play a role in the current state of affairs?

One dominant factor is the increasing demand of people to get involved in decision-making affecting their lives. I am referring to decision-making at any level, including the global level. The UN should respond better to such demands. The world’s population should feel that it is involved in the work of the United Nations in some way, irrespective of the official procedures and institutional rules. In the words of the second United Nations Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjöld from Sweden: “Everything will be all right […] when people, just people, stop thinking of the United Nations as a weird Picasso abstraction and see it as a drawing they made themselves.” The UN’s aim should be to ensure that the people of the world can participate in the UN’s work, without formally granting them any decision-making powers.

It reminds me of a remark made by the US delegate at the UN Conference on International Organization of 1945 in San Francisco, when the public participation in that conference was discussed. The suggestion, made by the US delegate at the time, was to give the impression that the people of the world could come to the conference yet not invite them – a difficult thing to do. The UN still has some work to do. From a recent poll done by the Global Challenges Foundation (https://api.globalchallenges.org/static/files/ComRes2018.pdf), it becomes clear that the world’s citizens are very critical of the United Nations.  The poll – an online survey filled in by more than 10,000 people from 10 different countries in April 2018 – shows that a large majority believes the UN needs to be reformed. Most people (69%) go even further and suggest that a new supranational organisation needs to be created. People are not impressed by the way the UN responds to some of the major global challenges, such as climate change, political violence, and weapons of mass destruction.


How do you gauge the level of threat to the UN, in the light of anti-globalization/immigration sentiments and growing nationalism in the US and various parts of Europe? Think of ‘America First’, ‘Italy First’, ‘Brexit’, Poland/Hungary First, etc.

One challenge is that of populism. Populism can be neutrally defined, as “political activities or ideas that claim to promote the interests and opinions of ordinary people” (Collins Dictionary), or as “activities that are intended to get the support of ordinary people by giving them what they want” (Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary), or as “a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups” (Oxford Dictionary). What these definitions have in common, is that they see the “elites” as the bad guys. Populism can also be defined negatively, as “a political approach that seeks to disrupt the existing social order by solidifying and mobilizing the animosity of the “commoner” or “the people” against “privileged elites” and the “establishment” (Wikipedia). Populism is often associated with – or even equated with – a tendency of people to identify with their own particular nation, and place it against the rest of the world.

In the past, lots of people considered themselves World Federalists; now, very few people do. So is this a trend the UN should be concerned with? I believe so. The United Nations always wanted to inspire, not just State representatives, but inspire all individuals in the world. This was the ambition from the very beginning. For example, during the San Francisco Conference, Gildersleeve of the US delegation suggested that the preamble of the United Nations Charter “should be hung up in every peasant’s cottage throughout the world,” as a source of inspiration. I wonder how many peasant’s cottages nowadays have a poster of the UN’s Preamble on their walls?!?



What can be done to reinforce the universal values?

Outreach is key. The United Nations has already realized the importance of the wide dissemination of its work. It has made its documents available online free of charge, and it has developed various ways – mainly online – to present the key documents in the field of peace and security, development, and human rights, in an accessible way. Increasingly, the Organization makes use of the internet to link scholarship to the work of the United Nations. The Audio-visual Library of International Law is an example of this (See http://www.un.org/law/avl/.) The global discussions of the UN General Assembly are public and are observed and scrutinized by non-governmental organizations, academics, bloggers, global pollsters, and so on.

At the same time, in a 2004 report, we read that “governments do not always welcome sharing what has traditionally been their preserve. Many increasingly challenge the numbers and motives of civil society organizations in the United Nations — questioning their representivity, legitimacy, integrity or accountability. Developing country Governments sometimes regard civil society organizations as pushing a “Northern agenda” through the back door. At the same time, many in civil society are becoming frustrated; they can speak in the United Nations but feel they are not heard and that their participation has little impact on outcomes” (We the peoples: civil society, the United Nations and global governance, Report of the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations–Civil Society Relations, UNDoc. A/58/817, distributed 11 June 2004). The same report suggested that global civil society was here to stay. Instead of regretting or even denying this reality, the Member States ought to look for ways to benefit from the new situation. These are the questions raised in the report: “The question is not how would the United Nations like to change? But, given how the world has changed, how must the United Nations evolve its civil society relations to become fully effective and remain fully relevant?” We are still looking for the answer to these questions.



Otto Spijkers is a Lecturer of Public International Law at Utrecht University, Senior Research Associate with the Netherlands Institute for the Law of the Sea, and researcher with the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law, and researcher with the Utrecht Centre for Water, Oceans and Sustainability Law. He is a member of the Committee on the Role of International Law in Sustainable Natural Resource Management for Development of the International Law Association, and guest lecturer for amnesty International The Hague.

Otto was a visiting lecturer at the University of Malta, the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies of Leiden University, Xiamen University’s China International Water Law Programme (China), the China Institute for Boundary and Ocean Studies of Wuhan University (China), the Law School of the East China University of Political Science and Law (ECUPL) in Shanghai (China), the Università degli Studi di Salerno (Italy), and the Association pour la promotion des droits de l’homme en Afrique centrale (APDHAC) of the Université Catholique d’Afrique Centrale (Yaoundé, Cameroon).  Previously, he was a PhD candidate and lecturer at the Grotius Centre for International Legal Studies at the University of Leiden. His doctoral dissertation, entitled “The United Nations, the Evolution of Global Values and International Law”,  was published with Intersentia in 2011.

Shaping an international peacebuilding architecture that achieves local peace

A Guest Blog as part of GVI’s 2018 Focus: Innovations in Peace

By Mariama Conteh, Senior Advisor on Peacebuilding/Head of Conducive Space for Peace (CSP), Oxfam IBIS and Alex Shoebridge, Peacebuilding Advisor, Oxfam IBIS, Copenhagen, Denmark

However we choose to look at it, the dual resolutions[1] passed by the UN Security Council and General Assembly on sustaining peace and peacebuilding represent a fundamental shift in the way peacebuilding is being understood by Member States, and therefore, internationally. So what if, as the international community, we are really serious about turning these beautiful words and concepts into something practical? Something that will actually make a difference in the lives of people affected by violent conflict?

We have an idea. It’s exciting. It’s bold. Some might call it too ambitious. But we are part of this international system and we believe it is possible with your help. Therefore, we are inviting you to join us on this journey. We have a fairly good sense of our destination, but you can help us locate it and shape it some more. We are confident we can get there, but only if you collaborate with us to pave the path.

Who are we?

We are a collaborative partnership implementing the Conducive Space for Peace (CSP) initiative**. CSP aims to contribute to finding ways to identify challenges and solutions to achieving sustainable peace that can be found within the systems of the international institutions providing peacebuilding support.

We are all familiar with any number of systemic drivers that account for the current challenges experienced with, and resulting from, the international peacebuilding architecture. They have been identified in existing research and policy documents, but are largely considered irreversible or addressed through piecemeal measures that ultimately prove futile. Increased attention to everyday practices, policies and conditions within the systems of international engagement in conflict-affected countries exists and policy reform agendas have been launched. These have mainly focused on high-level policy dialogue and less on how to create concrete changes in the institutional conditions and practices supporting work on the ground.

CSP will facilitate further reflection on how to address structural, relational, social and political obstacles to such change, including the power inequality dimension between international support and local ownership.


Through CSP we are trying to “walk the talk”

Through CSP we are trying to ‘walk the talk’. We know that there will be unforeseen setbacks, as well as windows of opportunity that we aren’t currently aware of. For that reason, the initiative isn’t structured around pre-identified outcomes, but rather six ‘pathways’. In 2018 and 2019 we will mainly focus on 3 pathways; 1, 5 and 6. Specific CSP activities will contribute to these pathways, and together, they will contribute to an institutional framework that is better fit for support to sustaining peace and preventing violent conflict. The six pathways for change are:

  1. Identifying challenges and testing innovative solutions;
  2. Generating and leveraging evidence to inform decision-making;
  3. Leveraging existing alliances, resources and networks for change;
  4. Mobilizing voices for change from within the system;
  5. Fostering multi-level dialogue for institutional change at global and national levels;
  6. Consolidating internal learning and developing the CSP initiative and structure.

This initiative relies on ‘change agents’ within the international system supporting peacebuilding. We already have exciting entry points in part of this system, including at global level and country level. But we are keen to broaden and deepen this network, so that it can drive the initiative forward across the different pathways identified in a way that responds to needs, ideas, and insights from those ‘in the system’ itself so we can explore problems and solutions together.

If you’re interested to learn more, we’d be interested in sharing and beginning a conversation around how yourself and others can be engaged as we move forward. We appreciate the scale of the challenge at hand, but are deeply aware that transformative changes are required instead of continued superficial adjustments.


[1]S/RES/228 ;A/RES/70/262

**The CSP initiative is being developed and implemented under the supervision of three partners. Oxfam IBIS, Humanity United and Reos Partners. Oxfam IBIS is hosting the initiative and as an international NGO with a presence in 90 countries through Oxfam International and with a strong influencing track-record and strategy, Oxfam IBIS is well placed to engage the international system of peacebuilding support. Oxfam IBIS has decades of experience in working in mutually equal and inclusive partnerships to bring about systemic change by linking local, national, regional and global levels through programming and political influencing. In addition to funding, Humanity United contributes with expertise on peacebuilding and innovative approaches to systemic change. In addition to facilitating the Accelerator processes, Reos Partners contributes with expertise in convening multi-stakeholder dialogue and innovative ways of creating practical paths for change in the face of systemic challenges.


About the authors:

Mariama Conteh | Senior Advisor on Peacebuilding/Head of Conducive Space for Peace (CSP); Oxfam IBIS | Copenhagen, Denmark | E-mail: mc@oxfamibis.dk

Alex Shoebridge | Peacebuilding Advisor; Oxfam IBIS | Copenhagen, Denmark |E-mail:ash@oxfamibis.dk| Mob: +45 91526562  | skype: a.shoebridge

GVI BLOG SERIES: How to co-create a values-driven UN/global system? BLOG IV – Make Leadership Accessible

Radical Transformational Leadership: Strategic Action for Change Agents

By Monica Sharma

The following is an excerpt from the above book offered by the author as a blog for Global Vision Institute. It is taken from the chapter The Radical Systems and Cultural Transformer: Everyone’s Contribution.

In today’s globalized world, people who care and have the courage to engage in tackling the major problems we face, such as climate change or dire poverty in a world of abundance, look for solutions that are equitable, enduring, and at scale.

The conscious full-spectrum response, when applied, contributes to generating a paradigm shift – a shift in which humanity and our planet thrive based on the universal values of dignity, fairness, compassion… everyonecan choose to generate results and bring about the necessary transformation at scale through their capabilities and actions. It is no longer about how big or small anyone’s idea or initiative is; or whether we work outside or nurture a family at home; or whether or not we have the financial resources to design and implement a project. It is about one’s commitment, not just as intention, but commitment-in-action; and a yearning to presence and nurture a thriving humanity and planet! …

BEING a Radical Transformer

Radical transformers manifest the triple helix of our innate intertwined attributes – universal heart of compassion, equity impulse, discerning eye seeing patterns – in order to BE the contemporary pioneer, unifying architect, and mindful pro-activist simultaneously. They act at scale.

When we touch the deeper side of ourselves, something opens up to the universe and we give unstintingly, accessing our compassion and our humanity. We hold self-awareness, our inner power, our courage and compassion, our spirituality as an essential foundation for a thriving humanity.  We give of ourselves because we care and because we realize we are interconnected, part of a larger interdependent whole.  Caring and willingness to give are essential, but they are not sufficient for shifting cultural norms and systems that lead to inequity and rectify the injustices of the world – we need to act.

Radical transformers care deeply andsource universal values for action at scale in order to generate a paradigm shift. They address the three key issues underpinning many of the crises in the world today – inequity, exclusion based on our social and other identities, and the current economic and financial systems…  . Scale requires us to design programs to transform these three underpinning factors with new policies, norms, systems, and structures and with policy-makers, businesses and communities.

A Radical Transformer Disrupts Social Norms That Maintain Inequity, Exploitation, and Exclusion

… Like any other ism, the way to interrupt casteism is by authentically embracing everyone irrespective of their caste, sourcing our oneness and embodying universal values for action. …

A Radical Transformer Faces Resistance

Our transformative personal practices and who we are BEING anchor societal and planetary transformation. And when we are committed to transforming inequitable, exploitative, and exclusionary systems and cultural norms that maintain the status quo, we should expect pushback. A few people with vested interests will resist change. Although most people want change, they are often very uncomfortable because they are not sure what will emerge and find it difficult to engage in the adventure of uncertainty. Uncertainty conjures up fears in our minds; we feel “out of control” because many of us have an assumption that we can control what happens to us and our children; in reality, we cannot control life’s events.

Stakeholders and participants in learning-in-action programs consistently come up with an observation: people in their organizations or their partners do not understand nor appreciate the breakthroughs they generate.  There are at least two aspects to this seeming indifference. First, our own vision limits what we can see.  When human beings do not engage in their own unfolding based on their inner capacities and the universal values they stand for, they do not distinguish business as usual from transformative action – they do not have the lens to see, perceive, and appreciate the inclusiveness and depth of what is happening.

Second, in our competitive world, we should not expect people to clap when we are successful.  Joyfully celebrating another’s success requires a healthy sense of self, profound humility, and selfless generosity. We are the ones who gain most by our contribution, because we give the fullest expression to our whole selves and experience the joy of BEING in action with results.

As long as we make incremental changes on the margin without rocking the boats heavy with vested interests and give as charity only (instead of giving as mutual empowerment), we are unlikely to face resistance. But the moment we stand in universal values such as dignity, compassion, and equity, and work with the inner capacities with everyone to create new patterns and new rules of the game, some people are threatened.

Those who are threatened realize that when people engage from this powerful inner space of universal values, people will not allow themselves to be manipulated. Leaders in business, politics, media, academia, government and nongovernmental organizations know that the missing piece is the opportunity to source our inner capacities for strategic action and results.  However, they generally do not invest in creating this opportunity, carrying on business as usual but expecting different results. People in leadership positions are often afraid they will lose control – this is also the case in families.

We expect resistance – resistance is an indicator that we are pushing the envelope and rattling the status quo. New ideas and approaches take time to seed – but that is no reason for anyone to give up. And it is vital to establish strategies to openly support principled risk-takers… .

A Radical Transformer Transcends Burnout

Burnout  is the frustration of having to face resistance. When we commit and act to generate equitable and sustainable results and face constant pushback and resistance, it may be hard to keep going.

Active burnout  shows up as frustration and anger. Passive burnout shows up as withdrawal  and resignation.  How can we prevent burnout?  When we constantly source our stand and inner capacities for action, we are able to transcend our reactivity and frustration. We relate to resistance not as something wrong or bad but as an inevitable part of change. Generating and sustaining community engagement in the face of resistance is vital. We work with partners in a way that they are able to initiate and sustain action, transcend positional differences, and recommit to their stand and inner capacity as the source of strategic action. BEING courageous in spite of fears and knowing that we are bigger than any fear keeps us engaged.

…We spent time “rebooting” ourselves. Change agents inevitably face set-backs in their work on social justice and human rights. In order to go beyond their frustration, it is essential to reconnect to our larger purpose and notice changes that we have made even when it seems hopeless and we think we failed! We reconnected with what we stood for – the universal valuesthat guided our actions.


Monica Sharma, trained as a physician and epidemiologist, worked for the United Nations for more than 20 years.  Currently, she engages worldwide as an international expert and practitioner on leadership development for sustainable and equitable change. She works with the United Nations, universities, for example the University of Virginia and Johns Hopkins, management institutions, governments, businesses, media, and civil society organizations. She is the Tata Chair Professor at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai. She has published and presented over 250 articles in journals and international forums.

Monica Sharma created and uses a unique response model based on extensive application – a conscious full-spectrum model – which is for simultaneously solving problems, shifting systems, and creating new patterns sourced from inner capacity and transformational leadership. This model has generated sustainable results worldwide. www.radicallytransform.org


GVI BLOG SERIES: How to co-create a values-driven UN/global system? BLOG III – Hire for Integrity

Kitty ArambuloFor the Solution “Hire For Integrity”, Kitty Arambulo, of the GVI Board of Directors, shares her ideas on a framework and practical steps to promote integrity in the global system.


Inspiring and ensuring integrity in the workplace

These days, integrity (defined as the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles) appears to be an increasingly rare commodity, as our understanding of morality is challenged and boundaries of acceptability are stretched by a myriad of current events, ranging from disturbing revelations in the #metoo discussions, to the rise of extreme movements seeking to undermine the world’s stability and expressions of blatant untruth, discrimination and bigotry from powerful political figures and regimes.

Instant and constant media coverage, as well as ubiquitous access to world news has exposed us all to an incessant barrage of what is wrong with the world, leaving us to struggle with how to untangle truths from lies. This phenomenon is having a variety of effects. On the one hand, the never-ending exposure to bad news could be rendering us inured to violence, duplicity, hate and all other kinds of evil. On the other hand, it could engender in us a growing sense that integrity is still a very important quality to uphold and develop. Evidence of the latter is the outrage from many quarters in response to the many disturbing events and heinous acts of these times.

Integrity, personal and professional, has always been regarded as a fundamental good in one’s character: it is the building block that will allow each individual to make a difference and the cornerstone for a better world.

Indeed, the universal values and principles, including those that underpin UN and other global organizations, such as justice, equality, inclusion and peace, would only seem attainable if everyone comported themselves with a certain degree of integrity; at a personal level, in their behavior and relationships, and in a broader context in their general environment and specific work places. As Mahatma Gandhi said: you can be the change you wish to see in the world.

Focusing on the work place, the face of an organization or company is mostly a reflection of the people who work there, and in particular its leadership. Even with a framework of rules and regulations in place to ensure proper conduct, there is no guarantee that an organization would function according to these rules, if they are not actually adhered to by the people. The example given by directors and managers in their actions is mirrored by those on the work floor: if fundamental human values, such as respect for the other, inclusion, equality and justice, are upheld and respected by the top, many – if not most – employees would be inspired to follow suit. However, if an organization’s leadership does not appear to live by such values, it would give license to similar undesirable behavior by the staff.

According to some surveys, people cannot be trained for integrity. It can be argued that some people have more inclination towards honest behavior than others, and that it is their natural tendency to do good rather than bad. However, there are ways in which everyone can be encouraged to be, and stay, on their best behavior, and therefore be “trained” for integrity.

People generally do the right thing for a number of reasons. One reason is they do the right thing because they feel from within that it is the right thing to do, i.e. the intrinsic rationale. In this case, people act on the basis of an inner motivation or conviction. Another reason is that they do the right thing because it is in their interest to do so or there is some gain or benefit to had from such an action, i.e. the pragmatic approach. Here, people act because there is an external motivation or reason.

Although the first case of someone acting based on their own conviction of good is the ideal scenario, the second case of someone acting due to an external motivation is more often the case than not, and therefore not altogether to be rejected. And as with any habit, repeatedly doing the right thing due to an external motivation often eventually leads to doing the right thing ipso facto. One example is speeding: if there is strict monitoring of speeding and penalties are consistently imposed, people will initially adhere to speed limits in order to avoid the fines. However, over time, people eventually control their driving speed of their own accord.

Similarly, organizations can make use of both approaches to ensure good behavior among staff. Employees can be encouraged to be the best that they can be, if organizations take the following steps:

  • Ensuring a robust code of conduct that inspires people to do the right thing, and that sufficiently deters them from lapsing into doing the wrong thing.
  • Ensuring that the organization’s leadership abide by this code of conduct, and “walk the talk”.
  • Ensuring that there is a comprehensive integrity/ethics framework in place to effectively identify, address and remedy any wrongdoings.
  • Rewarding individuals showing outstanding integrity, for example in their performance appraisals.
  • Supporting networks of persons showing outstanding integrity and encouraging their contributions and participation in organizational decision-making.
  • Providing trainings on integrity and ethical behavior in the work place.

To make sure that organizations attract people with integrity and high moral fiber, organizations can do the following:

  • “Walk the talk” and make the organization a place where persons with integrity would like to work.
  • Explicitly include service to humanity and universal values in job descriptions.
  • Ensure that during interviews, questions (and documentation, if available) are asked about demonstrated good behavior, attitudes and approaches in their previous professional, civic and personal activities.

Promoting integrity in the work place is the gift that keeps on giving: it will bring benefits to the individual, the organization, and hopefully to the world beyond.


Christmas 2017 message from GVI President Mr. Joe Washington

Tis the Season!

(End of the year message and challenges for the year that lies ahead!)

As the line from a famous Christmas carol states: “…Tis the season to be jolly”

Unfortunately, as highlighted in the Global Humanitarian Appeal launched on 1 December 2017 by Mark Lowcock, Under – Secretary – General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, a record $22.5 billion dollars is needed to address the priority needs of 91 million of the most vulnerable individuals in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in 2018. This is in the form of protection, shelter, education, health care, and other basic assistance. The target of 91 million is short of the projected 136 million individuals identified across the world as in need of humanitarian aid and protection due to protracted conflicts, natural disasters, epidemics and displacement .

In this era of wealth, prosperity, economic growth and consumerism in increasing parts of the world, why do such burgeoning needs continue to exist?!?

As we approach the New Year, the search for answers to the above question may fruitfully be pondered in conjunction with others, such as:

-Why are so many people feeling disillusioned, disenfranchised and alienated from their governments and various segments of their society?

-Why do we often fear and resent our ‘neighbours’ (whether local, national, or international), particularly those who do not look like us?

-How can we find the courage and space to have so-called ‘challenging conversations’ within families, neighbourhoods, communities, places of worship, and within nations, as well as across neighbourhoods, communities, places of worship, and nations?

-How can we support the UN, its various organs and Member States, diplomats, international civil servants, and others to consistently live up to its lofty but essential principles and values?

All the challenges mentioned above require ‘spaces’ for dialogue and a sustained and collective response. The United Nations serves as a critical venue for discussion, debate and action on a wide range of national, regional and international issues, spanning from development and support for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the rights of indigenous peoples and peoples of African Descent, protection of the environment and combating climate change, promotion of peace and security, advancing democracy, combating racism, confronting nuclear proliferation, and protection of human rights, particularly those of women and children.

Important reforms have been recommended by various high level panels and successive UN Secretary Generals to assist the UN in meeting its goals and addressing shortcomings. For example, during an open debate last September with the Security Council on the reform of UN peacekeeping, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres noted that every day, peacekeepers create the conditions for lasting peace. He went on to add that they also often face unreasonable and dangerous demands, and spoke of the critical changes necessary to “fortify this flagship UN activity.” However, the challenge remains to move the various recommendations arising from these reports into the hearts, minds, and most importantly, actions, of those responsible for their implementation.

There is a famous proverb that sates: “Without vision, the people will perish.”

GVI is among numerous organizations working to support the UN to live up to its goals, aspirations and vision. But this support is given with eyes wide open regarding the tremendous work that lies ahead and the obstacles the organisation must overcome to meet the challenges.

We believe an essential element to confront the various challenges and align with one another is through shared super-ordinate values. Specifically, GVI is committed to co-creating a universal-values-driven international system. These values include peace, diversity, tolerance, justice, accountability, transparency, equality, human dignity, solidarity and environmental sustainability.

Our recently released free manual provides a useful tool for individuals, teams and group self-assessment, and a roadmap to meet the identified goals. Ultimately, it supports our goal in contributing to make the world, via the UN, a better place.

In conclusion and in light of the Christmas holidays season in which we find ourselves, let me share a wonderful line from a holiday movie classic, which goes as follows:

“Christmas is the one night of the year when…for a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be.”

The broader message of always striving to be the best we can be each and everyday is not unique to any religion, or uncommon among those who practice no organized religion. I challenge each one of us to first reconnect with our own core values, and then support one another in our collective drive to co-create a values driven UN/global system.

GVI BLOG SERIES: How to co-create a values-driven UN/global system? BLOG II – Collaboration for post-hurricane recovery

For the Solution “Operationalize collaboration”, Jerri Husch PhD, President of 2Collaborate Consulting, shares tools that allow us to visualize and integrate data across disciplines for collaborative action towards hurricane recovery.

Reflections on Collaboration:Data for Post-hurricane Recovery

The 2017 hurricane season spawned one of the most devastating series of storms to hit the United States and the Caribbean in recent history.  Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria (“HIM”) will not only re-write weather and climate history, but are also fundamentally testing the response capacity of the international community. Although the response was swift in the United States, many countries with deep ties to the Caribbean region are now faced with an enormous task that far outweighs their own capacity to deliver a meaningful recovery. For instance, the long response and rescue time for Hurricane Maria that swept through Puerto Rico on 11 September still finds residents waiting for much needed aid after almost a month.

The disasters evoked by HIM will redefine the existing social order—property and land ownership, infrastructure design, capital investment, access to power and decision-making— across numerous countries and territories.   In short, communities have to start again.

Designing Collaborative Solutions

Political, social and economic decisions are all going to affect the reconstruction of the region and it is essential that appropriate and relevant decisions be made using the most reliable data and culturally accurate information available.  What data will inform the life, community and nation altering decisions that have to be made quickly?   Long held models of emergency response and post-disaster recovery are being challenged and there is already evidence of, 1) shifts of responsibility from national to local-level administrations and citizens, 2) transformation of financing and resource flows, and 3) re-configured patterns of power, authority,  decision making and accountability.

The most immediate outcome of these changes is the need to design culturally appropriate solutions to the complex social—-health, food, transportation, housing— challenges.  Will power lines, for example, be buried or return to being strung between poles?  Will agriculture be based on agro-ecological models or models of industrial agricultural production? Whose land will grow what crops? Who will have the resources needed to build what kinds of structures? These are only a few of the myriad of governance issues that each locale is having to confront and what data will help inform the decisions is a critical component for moving forward.

Innovation and Data for Collaboration

Collaboration between diverse actors will require a multi-dimensional and dynamic understanding of the links and connections involved in response, recovery and reconstruction.   New tools capable of analyzing linkages will allow more realistic insights to emerge.  Tools that can support complex trend analyses, contingency planning and collaborative decision-making need to be applied. By using advances in information and communication technologies (ICT) as well as new visual analytic and digital mapping technologies (DMT), geographic, linguistic, social and temporal data can be aligned to tell an integrated, visually accurate story.  By transforming text and “linear” information into visual and multi-dimensional representations, relationships between ideas, words, activities, organizations, groups and individuals can be understood more quickly. Linking Geographic Information Systems (GIS) information (location) with text, social network maps and dynamic timelines can provide quick insights into the details of any given issue.

The new tools allow data from a variety of perspectives to be aligned so that multiple dimensions can be viewed simultaneously to quickly show patterns and trends between (and within) data sets.

Aligned data

When fully aligned by time and geographic location, in-depth comparisons can add to an understanding of rapidly changing social contexts. By using a dynamic data platform, the information needed to understand the history, stakeholders and activities is readily available. To fully address the future new ways of seeing the current world are essential.


Dynamic mapping platforms will provide the action intelligence needed to plan for the future, design the infrastructure and reconstruct for resilience.


Dynamic Data Platform


Jerri Husch, President and founder of 2Collaborate Consulting, holds a PhD in Sociology and has over 25 years experience in international social development policy, socio-cultural methods and the implementation of evidence based management practice. Dr. Husch has worked in WHO, UNDP, UNICEF and the UN Secretariat facilitating sustainability of cross-sector partnerships and networks, participatory decision making, impact assessments, monitoring/evaluation and risk assessment. She has extensive experience in such technical areas as, climate change adaptation and community resilience, food security, global health policy, gender and livelihoods.


GVI produces publications on substantive issues from a values perspective, and linked to current events on the UN agenda. GVI also solicits and hosts articles by UN system actors, so you can hear your own voice in the conversation.

The Blog

Twitter Feed


Support us in supporting you. GVI is a tax exempt 501(c)3 organization so your contributions are tax deductible. We invite you to make a safe online donation.