Global Norms: Building an Inclusive Multilateralism

From The Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation, Development Dialogue Paper, No. 21, February 2017

by Bruce Jenks

A revitalised multilateral agenda must be built on the back of a strong, inclusive normative framework.

In the history of the United Nations, there have been turning points when the UN has had the vision to see an opportunity emerge and to seize that opportunity, thereby reaffirming its relevance and vitality.

In a rapidly changing world, where the world as we know it is changing before our eyes, the web of values and normative frameworks that lie at the foundation of so many of the processes required for an inclusive globalisation need to be nurtured, perhaps adapted and certainly strengthened. In his oath of office speech, the new UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, noted that “Today´s paradox is that, despite greater connectivity, societies are becoming more fragmented … In the end, it comes down to values. We want the world our children inherit to be defined by the values enshrined in the United Nations Charter: peace, justice, respect, human rights, tolerance and solidarity.”

Repeatedly, in many different fora, the international community has stressed the unique role the UN should play in this sphere; for example, with respect to the future role of the UN development system, there seems to be a very clear consensus that one of the UN’s most vital tasks relates to its normative agenda.

There is nothing new in recognising the importance of the normative agendas pursued by the UN system. What is striking is the importance and profile being given to this function today. Reaffirming and asserting the UN system’s unique role in securing agreement and implementation on normative frameworks represents an enormous opportunity. The obvious question though is why now?

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Bruce Jenks is an Adjunct Professor at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs and lectures at the University of Geneva. Dr. Jenks served the United Nations for almost thirty years, most recently (2000-2010) as Assistant Secretary-General at UNDP.
Dr. Jenks has co-authored the study “UN Development at a Crossroads”. Since 2010, he has consulted with a number of organisations and serves as a Senior Advisor for the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation.