UN/Globenet: The Next United Nations

The United Nations is in a situation today similar to that of the League during its long slide from the Great Depression into World War II. The Great Recession precipitated by the financial crisis of 2008 has lingered and there is a growing distemper of extremist beliefs, racist intolerance and power politics. As in the 1930s, imperial national elites engrossed in their narrow interests are ignoring vivid warning signs, including brutal conflicts, skyrocketing military expenditures and over 60 million displaced people fleeing war or unbearable economic and environmental hardship. With weapons of mass destruction distributed around the world and the possibility that some could fall into the hands of terrorists, the danger is not just that governments on edge could make mistakes.

A.     Making the Transition

Making the transition described below will not be easy. The world is at a critical historical juncture when the Information and Communications Revolutions of the last three decades have begun to dismantle the negative legacies of the Industrial Era manifest in an enormous concentration of wealth in elite groups, including some heavily invested in the criminal underground economy. They will surely resist change, and in view of the two world wars they precipitated in the 20th Century it would be foolhardy to discount another descent into global conflict. Faced with that prospect, it is more than ever urgent to make the effort at change. I think the plan below is workable and we must try at least to get it discussed widely. Please circulate and let me know if you want to be involved in trying to carry this proposal forward.

B.      Understanding the UN’s Structural Dysfunction

The first international organizations were established in the 19th Century to promote use of the telegraph and provide maritime weather forecasts. The simple agendas of the International Telegraph Union (1865) and the International Meteorological Organization (1873) were set by meetings of member States and implemented by small bureaucracies. Except for scale, that organizational model passed without change to the League of Nations in 1919 and then to the United Nations in 1945. The model was an ill fit for the UN’s far more complex concerns and no matter how it was configured over the decades a deeply interrelated agenda always ended up in mutually exclusive silos, preventing effectiveness, eroding credibility and promoting waste, fraud and inertia. The proposal below indicates a structural remedy made possible by the Information and Communications Revolutions: the UN System can transition from a rigid hierarchical organization into a network (UN/Globenet). The sections below focus on what the resulting organization will look like and how it will function.

C.      Networking the Institutions

While retaining most of its internal thematic differentiation the UN System would meld areas of functional overlap, eliminate redundancies and flatten into an interactive network. With a common web interface for all external networks it would collaborate with governments to develop a model web page for use by all sub-national entities down to the community level. The resulting web of smoothly interfacing networks with administrative nodes at the national and regional levels would enable consultation and coordinated action on any matter at some or all levels. The use of big data and the emerging framework for geospatially organized information would support that capacity.

D.     Regulating the network

The regulatory framework of UN/Globenet would be distilled from the UN System’s existing rules and regulations. Whenever an intergovernmental or executive body initiated action the relevant regulatory information and analytical guidance would be presented on-line, in effect, combining the preambular text of resolutions and a repertoire of practice.

E.      Decision-making

Intergovernmental decision-making would continue as at present but would be much better supported by experts drawn from an agreed global roster. Any part of UN/Globenet with a substantive interest would be able to participate in drafting a report, eliminating the silo effect. The Secretariat, under instructions not to gloss over disagreements among Member States (as it does now), would seek instead to clarify them with a view to reconciliation. Published on the Web, reports would be updated regularly. Action-oriented consultations of intergovernmental bodies would follow a well-defined and transparent path progressing from the expert level to sub-regional, regional and global interfaces. At the expert level substantive issues would be clarified; at subsequent levels political and socio-economic interests would be taken into account. With all precedents and nuances noted separately on-line, draft decisions could be phrased in clear action-oriented language and shared with dedicated networks of practitioners for feedback before finalization.

F.      Control Mechanisms

UN/Globenet would be controlled by a set of value-based cardinal rules and oversight mechanisms.

  1. The cardinal values governing personnel, policies and action would be honesty, transparency, equality of all individuals, sovereign equality of States, non-discrimination, social inclusion, compassion for life, and respect for Nature.
  2. The Office of Internal Oversight Services would continue as an independent entity supported by an automatic electronic registry of all official actions (text, cued recording of voice/video).
  3. A dedicated reporting system would produce periodic analytics of defined action areas for examination by administrators.
  4. Whistleblowers would be strongly protected.
  5. An independent news service run by professional journalists and sustained by the global sale of its output would cover all aspects of UN/Globenet.
  6. Systematic violations of cardinal rules by an external network would trigger a graduated scale of punitive responses leading up to excommunication from UN/GLOBENET and, where appropriate, collective enforcement action.

G.     Appointment of key individuals

Appointment of Executive heads of UN/GLOBENET entities would follow advertisement of vacant posts on a page visible to all networks and winnowing of candidates by relevant supervisory bodies at national and regional levels.

H.     Functions, Responsibilities, Mandates

UN/GLOBENET would assume all UN System Charter functions and responsibilities. Substantive mandates would also remain intact but with a new directive to engage and work with all relevant external networks. Also:

  1. The General Assembly would receive real time reports from the Security Council, ECOSOC, Specialized Agencies, funds and programs, and all normative, thematic, operational and regional subsidiary bodies. Weekly and monthly digests would highlight action required. Well-defined external constituencies would provide feedback on proposed Assembly decisions and have a key role in implementation.
  2.  The Security Council with a regionally balanced permanent membership would have general and complete disarmament as its highest priority. To that end, it would network with national intelligence and police forces to create an early warning and response system able to prevent conflict, reduce tensions, and build collective confidence.
  3. ECOSOC would engage with external networks through the Specialized Agencies and its own subsidiary bodies. An IMF/WTO Situation Room would use Big Data to monitor world trade and payments. An ECOSOC Situation Room would report to the General Assembly on: (1) Implementation of Agenda 2030; (2) Environmental issues; and (3) The world socio-economic situation.

I.        Financing

A decentralized crowd funding system supervised by UN/Globenet but under the control of individual member States would finance all network expenses (national, regional, central), implementation of Agenda 2030 and all operational activities for development.

J.        Functioning of the System

When UN/GLOBENET networks are fully extended and integrated into a mature geospatial information framework the system will function as a planetary brain, registering local developments and able to integrate widely sourced data and generate prompt strategic responses. Most network interactions would happen at sub-regional and regional levels; only inter-regional and global issues would rise to the attention of the central node; at every point decision-making would devolve to legitimately representative authorities. In effect, UN/GLOBENET would provide democratic, fully funded, non-bureaucratic governance capable of meeting all security, economic, social and environmental challenges.


North Korea is not on the list but it claims to have nuclear weapons