Glossary of terms to understand the Summit of the Future

February 1, 2024

Javier Surasky
Director of Research
j.surasky@cepei.org

The 2030 Agenda faces a decisive moment in which moving from agreements to transformative global action is necessary. This glossary of terms prepared by Cepei will help you understand what the Summit of the Future will be like.

In September 2024, representatives of UN Member States will meet in a unique space to debate and seek solutions to the critical challenges facing the construction of a new multilateralism that is more effective, stronger, and with the United Nations at its center.

In 2023, Cepei and other civil society organizations led the regional consultation process in Latin America and the Caribbean and shared the recommendations at the Global Futures Forum. This year, it will actively participate in the final phase of the organization and in the discussions that will take place during the Summit of the Future, bringing a vision from the Latin American and Caribbean region to a fundamental global debate and supporting government and non-governmental actors efforts to build an ambitious Summit, with concrete and actionable results based on evidence.

AREAS OF ACTION: Non-binding commitments made by the United Nations Member States at the Declaration commemorating the 75th anniversary of the United Nations to achieve an updated and stronger multilateralism. Those promises are: 1. Leave no one behind; 2. Protect our planet; 3. Promote peace and prevent conflicts; 4. Abide international law and ensure justice; 5. Place women and girls at the center; 6. Build trust; 7. Improve digital cooperation; 8. Upgrade the United Nations; 9. Ensure sustainable financing; 10. Boost partnerships; 11. Listen to and work with youth; 12. Be prepared to face future global crises.

BEYOND GDP: A term referring to a series of initiatives to create a sustainable development metric considering multiple factors besides GDP. This approach seeks that decisions on international cooperation and concessional funding are based on a comprehensive understanding of countries’ and communities’ potential vulnerabilities.

BUREAU [UN]: Group of high-level officials responsible for organizing and managing a conference. This group comprises representatives from member states and is tasked with setting the agenda, presiding over meetings, and ensuring that the conference runs smoothly. The Bureau is often led by a chairperson, who oversees and represents the group’s work in discussions with other stakeholders.

C4UN (COALITION FOR THE UN WE NEED): Previously known as the UN2020 campaign, launched in 2017, the Coalition for the UN We Need is a global Civil Society campaign to renew multilateralism. It has been deeply engaged in the Summit of the Future preparatory process since its early stage, providing a platform to enable greater civil society impacts on the work for a strengthened United Nations system. C4UN is leading the drafting of the People’s Pact for the Future.

CAUCUS [ALSO CAUCUS GROUP]: A group of like-minded countries or organizations that come together to advocate for a specific issue or cause. These groups are often formed around shared interests or identities, such as geography, religion, or political ideology. Caucus groups can influence the outcomes of UN negotiations and discussions, providing a platform for countries to coordinate their positions and amplify their voices.

CODE OF CONDUCT FOR INFORMATION INTEGRITY ON DIGITAL PLATFORMS: Proposed by the Secretary-General and developed in its Policy Brief on Information Integrity and Digital Platforms. The Code of Conduct will guide Member States, the digital platforms, and other stakeholders in building a more inclusive and safer digital space while defending the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, and access to information. According to the Secretary-General, this Code would be based on the following principles: Commitment to information integrity, respect for human rights, support for independent media, increased transparency, user empowerment, strengthened research and data access, scaled-up responses, stronger disincentives to misinformation spreading and, enhanced trust and safety.

More info:  https://www.un.org/sites/un2.un.org/files/our-common-agenda-policy-brief-information-integrity-en.pdf

CONSENSUS [UN]: A decision-making method extensively used by the United Nations in which all members agree on a particular course of action without raising objections to a proposed decision, reflecting a mutually acceptable outcome. When it is impossible to reach a consensus, the UN usually moves to a majority vote to adopt or reject a proposed text. That is why consensus differs from unanimity, which is an explicit agreement resulting from every part voting in favor of a proposal, in contrast to consensus, which is obtained without a vote when no one opposes it.

DECLARATION FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS: The United Nations Declaration for Future Generations, proposed by the Secretary-General, is now an under-negotiation text (an “Elements paper for the declaration for future generations” was circulated among Member States) that formally recognizes the rights of future generations to a healthy and sustainable environment, access to natural resources, and well-being. It establishes the responsibility of current generations to protect and preserve future generations’ rights and ensure they have the resources and tools they need to thrive in the future. The Declaration for Future Generations encompasses the creation of an intergovernmental forum to advance its implementation. The Declaration for Future Generations would be annexed to the Pact for the Future (see) if intergovernmentally agreed.

EMERGENCY PLATFORM: A Secretary-General’s proposal to create a platform that utilizes the UN’s capabilities and convening power to bring together actors at the appropriate level to respond to global emergencies. It is not a new entity but a set of protocols that can be activated if a global shock occurs. According to the Secretary-General, the platform would rely on high-level political leadership, international equity and solidarity, coherent multilateral response, inclusive and networked multilateralism, advocacy, and strategic communications, and securing shock response commitments while holding actors accountable.

FACILITATOR / CO-FACILITATORS [UN]: A high-ranked diplomat helps create consensus or agreement on a particular issue. Facilitators are responsible for ensuring that all parties have an opportunity to express their viewpoints and concerns and for guiding the building of a mutually acceptable outcome, helping to overcome obstacles arising in the negotiation process. In case of a deadlock, the facilitator can offer a compromise proposal. Each process often has two designated facilitators from different UN country groups to show a balance between negotiating positions, usually one from a Western country and another from the G77, and they are called co-facilitators.

GLOBAL DIGITAL COMPACT: An initiative first proposed by the UN Secretary-General in 2018 to promote the responsible use of digital technologies and ensure that they are used for the benefit of all people, particularly those most vulnerable. The initiative seeks to develop a set of shared principles and best practices for using digital technologies, including ensuring that digital technologies respect human rights, promote social inclusion and diversity, and protect the environment. The initiative also aims to promote digital cooperation and ensure that the benefits of digital technologies are shared equitably across countries and societies. The Global Digital Compact would be annexed to the Pact for the Future (see) if intergovernmentally agreed.

HLAB (HIGH-LEVEL ADVISORY BOARD ON EFFECTIVE MULTILATERALISM): A group of 12 eminent persons working in their personal capacity, established by the Secretary-General in March 2022. The HLAB was mandated to deliver an independent report with specific suggestions on making multilateralism more effective as a contribution to the Summit of the Future (see) preparatory process. The Board includes former national high-level servants, civil society, the private sector, academia, and other stakeholder leaders. In 2023, the HLAB published its final report, “A Breakthrough for People and Planet: Effective and Inclusive Global Governance for Today and the Future,” which includes six transformational shifts: 1. Rebuilding trust in multilateralism; 2. Regain balance with nature and provide clean energy for all; 3. Ensuring sustainable finance that delivers for all; 4. Supporting a just digital transition; 5. Empowering effective, equitable collective security arrangements; and 6. Managing transnational risks.

INFORMAL CONSULTATIONS [UN]: A non-formal exchange of views between delegations outside the conference rules. These discussions are usually used to move forward with stuck negotiations on issues where finding common positions became hard. The meetings held for this purpose do not follow the rules of procedure of the conference, and there is typically no record or interpretation of what is discussed.

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LEGAL PACT FOR THE FUTURE: A call to unite people, NGOs, businesses, and governments to enforce human and environmental rights through the judicial system as a foundation of a renewed world social contract. The Pact aims to ensure that proposals from the People’s Pact for the Future and the Summit of the Future are based on the rule of law, which depends on nationally and internationally enforceable rights and robust judicial decisions.

MAJOR GROUPS [UN]: A term referring to the nine non-governmental stakeholder groups recognized by the UN system as playing a crucial role in multilateral negotiations: they should be consulted during the policymaking process to ensure that their perspectives and expertise are part of UN outcomes. First established as part of the Rio 1992 Conference on Environment and Development preparatory process, the major groups were Business and Industry, Children and Youth, Farmers, Indigenous Peoples, Local Authorities, Non-Governmental Organizations, Scientific and Technological Community, Women, and Workers and Trade Unions. Today, a Civil Society self-organized Major Group and other Stakeholders Mechanism gathers 21 constituencies, including regional groups.

MODALITIES RESOLUTION FOR THE SUMMIT OF THE FUTURE: Resolution adopted by the General Assembly (A/RES/76/307) in September 2022, establishing the Summit goals, dates, levels of participation, and ways of work. According to this resolution, the Summit will consist of an opening segment, plenary meetings, interactive dialogues, and a closing session. In addition, Member States have decided that a preparatory ministerial meeting would precede the Summit of the Future. Due to changes in its gathering date (A/77/L.63), the ministerial meeting met in September 2023, in parallel with the Second SDGs Summit.

NEW AGENDA FOR PEACE: A Secretary-General proposal to build resilient and peaceful societies based on international law and framed around trust, solidarity, and universality. It outlines recommendations that recognize the interlinked nature of the world’s challenges. Following a comprehensive approach to preventing and resolving conflicts, the New Agenda focuses on sustaining peace by addressing the root causes of conflicts, promoting inclusive dialogue and governance, and investing in sustainable development. The agenda also emphasizes the importance of partnerships within the UN system and with regional organizations, civil society, the private sector, and other stakeholders.

OUR COMMON AGENDA: Secretary General report published in 2021, responding to the request made by Member States at the Declaration on commemorating the 75th anniversary of the United Nations (see “UN 75 Declaration”). The report presents the Secretary-General’s vision of effective multilateralism and suggestions to update or reinvigorate key multilateral global governance areas (see “Our Common Agenda broad areas”).

OUR COMMON AGENDA BROAD AREAS: Four main clusters grouping a set of recommendations made by the Secretary-General in the Our Common Agenda report. These clusters are: 1. Renewing solidarity between peoples and future generations; 2. Building a new social contract anchored in human rights; 3. Improving management of critical global commons; 4. Reaching a new global deal to deliver global public goods equitably and sustainably for all.

OUR COMMON AGENDA POLICY BRIEFS: Member States have invited the Secretary-General to issue Policy Briefs as inputs to the Summit of the Future  negotiation process. Each policy brief provides concrete information on proposals in Our Common Agenda report and analyzes their impact on the Sustainable Development Goals, considering gender equality as a cross-cutting issue. The Secretary-General published 11 policy briefs along 2023 on “Future Generations,” “Emergency Platform,” “Youth Engagement,” “Beyond Gross Domestic Product,” “Global Digital Compact,” “Information Integrity,” “International Financial Architecture,” “Outer Space,” “A New Agenda for Peace,” “Transforming Education” and “United Nations 2.0 “, plus a summary of all their critical points.

PACT FOR THE FUTURE: An action-oriented text to be adopted by the Member State in the Summit of the Future as its outcome document. The General Assembly resolution “Scope of the Summit of the Future,”  adopted on September 1, 2023, established that the Pact for the Future would comprise a chapeau and five chapters on 1. Sustainable development and financing for development; 2. International peace and security; 3. Science, technology and innovation, and digital cooperation; 4. Youth and future generations; and 5. Transforming global governance. The President of the General Assembly has appointed Ambassadors of Namibia and Germany to the United Nations to co-facilitate the Pact of the Future drafting process.

PEOPLE’S PACT FOR THE FUTURE: A Global Civil Society document including its main proposals to ensure an effective multilateralism to be submitted to the Member States as a contribution to the Summit of the Future. Led by C4UN (see), the process of building this document advanced through regional and global consultations and civil society meetings named “Global Futures Forums.” An “Interim People’s Pact for the Future” as an initial publication.

PRELIMINARY NEGOTIATIONS [UN]: Negotiations occur before the formal discussions, helping prepare the ground for them. Preliminary negotiations go beyond modalities and can even address substantive issues, but they are not aimed at reaching final agreements on the issues under negotiation.

QUINTET OF CHANGE:  An alias referring to the five pillars supporting the Secretary-General’s proposal for a “UN 2.0”: Strengthening the UN behavioral science capabilities to foster knowledge within the organization, increasing the impact of its strategies, and better tailoring its initiatives. 2. Fostering modern data production, management, and use to gain insights and make evidence-based decisions. 3. Encouraging digital expertise, shifting to digitally enabled solutions to help close the digital divide and address risks of new-technologies-related harm. 4. Bolster UN’s strategic foresight capabilities to improve its ability to navigate change and make better future-oriented decisions. 5. Fostering innovation to design, test, and scale up ideas. 

SCOPE OF THE SUMMIT OF THE FUTURE RESOLUTION: A decision adopted by the General Assembly (A/77/568) in which it decided that the Summit of the Future (see) would adopt a concise, action-oriented outcome document entitled “A Pact for the Future,” request the President of the General Assembly to appoint co-facilitators and that the preparatory process of the Summit shall avoid overlaps and duplications with existing intergovernmental processes, among other operative decisions.

SOFT:  Summit of the Future acronym.

SUMMIT: The conference is held at the heads of state or government levels.

SUMMIT OF THE FUTURE: The Summit will be a high-level event, gathering Heads of State and Governments of the United Nations Member States to take action to reinforce multilateralism, strengthen the United Nations’ capacity to deliver, and face new global challenges. It will meet in New York on September 22-23, 2024.

SUMMIT OF THE FUTURE CO-FACILITATORS: Following the Member States decision in the Modalities Resolution for the Summit of the Future, the President of the General Assembly appointed Permanent Representatives of Germany and Namibia co-facilitators of the Summit of the Future. Their primary responsibilities, to be conducted in consultation with the Member States and stakeholders, include drafting the Pact for the Future, selecting the topics, and organizing the Summit interactive dialogues.

UN 2.0 (UNITED NATIONS 2.0): An expression coined by the Secretary-General to describe his vision for a modern, efficient, and effective United Nations equipped with updated skills and ready to respond to the 21st century world challenges. This vision aims to make the UN more agile, responsive, and better equipped to deliver.

UN 75 DECLARATION (DECLARATION ON THE COMMEMORATION OF THE 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE UNITED NATIONS): Resolution adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (A/RES/75/1) on September 21, 2020, at a high-level meeting of the General Assembly to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nation Charter adoption. In this document, Member States identified 12 action areas requiring a reinvigorated multilateralism and requested the Secretary-General to submit recommendations “to advance our common agenda and to respond to current and future challenges.”

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