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Young World Federalists at the 2024 UN Civil Society Conference in Nairobi


The Young World Federalists had an opportunity to participate in the United Nations Civil Society Conference, hosted by the UN Offices Nairobi (UNON) from May 9th to 10th, alongside other federalist organisations such as Citizens for Global Solutions and the World Federalist Movement. The conference was an ideal platform for YWF to put forward proposals in line with YWF values such as #MakeEarthDemocratic, #AbolishWar, #ProtectHumanity, #SaveEath and #GoBeyond.


Young World Federalists aspire to create a democratic world federation in pursuit of the common good of all humanity. The democratic world federation will provide a hierarchy in international relations that will ensure international law is legally binding on nation-states while giving national and regional governments autonomy. The World Federation must be constituted with the consent of all peoples through a world constitution whose foundation is respect for fundamental human rights and the recognition that a world government is vital to tackle transnational issues such as climate change.


Whereas the delegates attending the UN Civil Society Conference were less ambitious in establishing a world government, there was broad acceptance among the assembly that it is critical to reform the world governance architecture to make it more responsive to contemporary global issues such as Artificial Intelligence and Climate Change, as well as traditional challenges such as nuclear proliferation and poverty. The Conference sought a gradualist approach, characterised by proposals for reforms in the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Security Council and the addition of supplementary offices in the office of the Secretary-General. Following a resolution of the General Assembly looking for an advisory opinion from the ICJ on the legally binding nature of environmental obligations by member states, the delegates sought to embed environmental law under the jurisdiction of the ICJ. Delegates called for the Secretary-General to establish an emergency platform, declare climate change a global emergency and institutionalise the office of the High Commissioner on Future Generations. They also called for securitisation of climate issues in the operations of the Security Council.


Young World Federalists are keen to establish a world order that abhors violent inter- and intra-state conflict and institutionalises a legally binding judicial, mediatory, arbitration and enforcement international regime. We envision a World Federation with a standing force to enforce a world court's judicial pronouncements and provide immediate humanitarian assistance.


Against a backdrop of an ongoing war in the Gaza Strip, where thousands of Palestinian civilians have been massacred by Israeli Defence Forces (IDF), several delegates called out the United Nations for failing to do enough to prevent the loss of innocent lives. The crises in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and other violence hotspots also compounded the belief the United Nations as currently constituted is inadequate to establish global peace and stability. Even while recognising the futility of trying to overhaul the veto system in the Security Council, or decentralising power from the Security Council to the General Assembly, while working within the UN framework, the delegates were enthusiastic about creating change through grassroots advocacy to create a UN Parliamentary Assembly, to oust the General Assembly/Security Council or to supplement it. Young World Federalists support this global push by civil society organisations to democratise global governance.


Young World Federalists look towards a future when all people enjoy basic human rights, including universal access to clean water & sanitation, quality food, healthcare, education and housing; freedom from exploitative economic practices, neocolonialism and all forms of discrimination and marginalisation from global governance processes; and, a common human identity as they deal with common issues.


In a workshop titled ‘Earth Trusteeship’, delegates recalled that earth trusteeship is one of the principles of international law since 1987, where it is commonly referred to as intergenerational equity. They recommended the appointment of a UN Envoy for Future Generations. They called for the United Nations to recognise humanity as part of the community of life rather than the dominant species on earth. Amb. Amina Mohamed, a former Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kenya, stated the need to elevate our care of the earth to the legal dimension, to recognise the earth as a silent stakeholder, to safeguard the welfare of future generations and to develop an ethical and normative framework of intergenerational dialogue (inclusion of youth and children) and gender equality (safeguarding women’s rights, eliminating FGM and child marriages). She reminded the workshop participants that since 1945 women have comprised only 13 per cent of leadership positions in multilateral bodies, calling for equal opportunities for all girls and equipping the multilateral system to support states in decision-making, including assistance in data collection.


Young World Federalists are agitating the creation of global norms and legally binding laws and regulations that lead the world towards a green and just transition, by prosecuting crimes against the environment and incentivising a green, sustainable economy.


In a session titled ‘Updating our International Governance Architecture and Showcasing Implementation Pathways Toward a Just Transition’ moderated by Maja Groff, Convenor of the Climate Governance Commission, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, Co-Chair of the Climate Governance Commission and former president of the United Nations General Assembly, noted that despite the world meeting at 28 COPs, emissions continue to grow. She pointed out that climate change is not a problem but a symptom of a more profound ecological crisis, recommending that the green transition has to encompass cultural and social transformation, derisking the transition needs to be private sector-led and must include the taxing of the extraction of oil and gas and energy efficiency policies and practices. She also put forward that good governance is key and that new international frameworks that include the G-77 (partnerships across Europe and Africa) are highly needed.


During a workshop held on May 10 2024, delegates discussed a proposal to establish an International Environment Court. The workshop participants shared mixed views on the effectiveness and feasibility of such an international organisation. Participants appreciated the rationale behind creating such an institution: the world needs an accountability system to prosecute violations of environmental law obligations, informed by an ICJ advisory ruling on the state’s climate obligations. They proposed establishing the court through a UNGA resolution sponsored by member states. Most participants could not support the proposal, given the dismal track record of similar issue-based courts such as ICC, the political and chronic challenges of such an undertaking, and the prudence of trying out seemingly straightforward alternatives first.


Several participants favoured co-opting existing frameworks such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) to prosecute violations of climate

obligations. Another proposal was to set up ad hoc courts in tandem with current initiatives such as ecocide campaigns, as a transitional mechanism towards an International Environment Court, a la, the Nuremberg tribunals which eventually led to the establishment of the International Criminal Court. 


In the workshop, a camp that decried the power imbalances in most global institutions and the resultant historical injustices pushed for establishing regional environment courts in place of the International Environment Court. Using the case of the International Criminal Court, which major powers such as the US and Russia refused to join, and that is characterised by disproportionate targeting of African countries, creating a label of it being an ‘African court’, they anticipated the inaction/opposition by countries that have been victims of international courts such as ICC. With this in mind, they suggested regional frameworks would make more sense to such countries, which form a significant bloc in the UN membership.


Some people disagreed with the idea of creating an International Environment Court. They argued that we don't have enough time to establish a new institution, given the urgency of addressing climate change. They also doubted the effectiveness of another global court, since we already have laws in place but lack the will to enforce them. Moreover, there is no agreement on what constitutes an environmental crime, as each sovereign nation has its standards and local circumstances differ. It would be difficult to reach a consensus and enforce sanctions for environmental crimes, even if we could agree on what they are. For instance, Brazil may not accept that its beef production is an environmental violation, and it would be a challenge to convince Saudi Arabia to stop the 'environmental crime' of mass oil production. They proposed that national courts ought to be empowered to enforce environmental laws in national and local jurisdictions, with regional environmental courts being established incrementally to support national courts. 


Building on this momentum, several participants cynically drew a parallel with the International Criminal Court, which took a long time to establish, but even once it was in place, crimes against humanity and war crimes still continue unabated, and warmongers thrive in impunity. They pointed out that creating a similar court for the environment would only benefit a tiny elite of international lawyers, and will be paralysed by corruption and delayed justice. At best, the court would only have declaratory power.


On the other hand, those supporting the creation of the International Environment Court said that the court can be created by a coalition of the willing, through a grassroots campaign and a coalition of civil society, and big powers must not necessarily be part of its foundation for it to work. They proposed a pathway of citizen advocacy simultaneously with institution-building, giving the public a role to play in shaping the norm that embeds environmental law within human rights. 


The workshop came to a compromise, agreeing that national courts can be compromised through corruption or lack of institutional capacity to prosecute environmental law. Regional courts, on the other hand, can complement the capacities of national courts but are the creation of states, which can easily withdraw if they consistently issue unfavourable decisions.

Therefore, the ideal situation would be to create an International Environment Court that would set standards and provide capacity building to regional and national courts, aiming to progressively strengthen the enforcement power of the international court.


In a subsequent workshop discussing the future of UNEP, delegates proposed the establishment of a Global Environmental Agency. They hoped the agency would be decentralised in decision-making, and yield more power to historically marginalised constituencies. The majority agreed that a total overhaul of UNEP is a terrible idea: UNEP has done a lot of good in its 50-year existence, hence it is wiser to just improve its current mechanisms. They pointed out that UNEP is a convener of myriad multilateral environmental agreements such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Ramsar Convention. They urged the UNEP governing body to consolidate the fragmented and sectorial efforts of the multilateral environmental agreements, improve the UN Environment Assembly (UNEA) by giving more voice to civil society, and strengthen the UNEP regional offices.


Young World Federalists are hopeful that going forward, global decision-making will be informed by science and research, underpinned by collaboration among nation-states in science, technology and space exploration, and embedded in a framework of free exchange of information everywhere.


In a conversation on ‘Future Generations’, the Welsh Office of the Future Generations provided insights from its ‘The Wales We Want’ public participation exercise in Wales in 2014

that adopted national legislation which included principles of long-termism in government policies by the creation of the office of Future Generations. This Wales protocol for future generations serves as a template for future generation policies across the world.


Conclusion

The Pact of the Future offers an alternative vision, grounded in reality, that will serve as an advocacy tool for the future. The Maastricht principles recognise future generations have rights and highlight the need for legally binding instruments and expansion of regional and national enforcement of the rights of unborn people and nature. A report by the Climate Governance Commission shows that we’ve crossed 6 of 9 planetary limits. The world needs the principle of justice to restore the earth's system to a healthy condition. 


Some of the near-term proposals made during the UN Civil Society Conference include an emergency platform for future climate shocks; a declaration of the earth emergency; conceptual shifts towards global solidarity; and a neutral, humane global trusteeship structure. The earth trusteeship model will move humanity towards a mature, just civilisation. In this model, we should all be trustees and mainstream movements such as Patagonia where corporations also become trustees.


The triple planetary crisis of climate change, environmental degradation and pollution is the context driving our collective actions. As federalists, we should have a focus on future generations. Our mission should advance intergenerational equity, promote the rights of future generations, and stimulate sustainable production while safeguarding the rule of law and human rights.


The Young World Federalists support proposals of the civil society for the establishment of a UN Special Envoy office in charge of Future Generations. We throw our weight behind this proposal conditional on its facilitation of more youth involvement and participation in UN processes, and the adoption of a social approach and community engagement in the creation and running of the office.


Written by Kennedy Karanja, Organising Lead, YWF Kenya


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