Posts Tagged ‘united nations’

Our Common Agenda

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022

Today I have been contributing to a Real-Time Delphi Study of The Millennium Project on foresight elements of the 2021 UN report Our Common Agenda.

The report makes several suggestions related to foresight. Here are my responses:

A Summit on the Future:

Such a Summit on the Future will draw global attention to foresight and futures thinking generally (much like the Rio Earth summit did).

The Summit on the Future needs to involve more than politicians, lobbyists, expert scientists, and celebrity activists. It should also involve a selection of ordinary people reflecting on their own lives and their cultural practices (I mean cultural in the ethnographic sense describing how people make sense of the world and live their lives accordingly). They will represent the billions of ordinary people.

A UN Futures Lab:

Include the theme of culture and how it may evolve in future decades, e.g. in the context of climate change and resulting migration, urbanisation, longer life expectancy, artificial intelligence, globalism, periodically shifting values. At the moment, culture is ignored in foresight and cultural practitioners ignore foresight themselves – as culture is widely assumed to be timeless (wrongly as we see in hindsight).

A Special Envoy for Future Generations:

Research shows that representatives (proxies) of future generations can sharpen decision-makers’ sensitivity to presentism, i.e. making decisions while assuming that the status quo is timeless and all futures will resemble the present. They can also support long-term thinking in decision-making.

See e.g. Kamijo, Y., Komiya, A., Mifune, N., & Saijo, T. (2017). Negotiating with the future: Incorporating imaginary future generations into negotiations. Sustainability Science, 12(3), 409–420. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-016-0419-8

Otten, M. (2018). Strong external representation of future generations: Legitimate and effective (Unpublished Masters Thesis.) Department of Philosophy, University of Leiden. http://hdl.handle.net/1887/65949 .

Other suggestions:

Introduce Futures as a school subject.

Our Common Agenda

Sunday, November 28th, 2021

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has now published a report “Our Common Agenda” which contains his recommendations in the light of the UN Initiative Shaping Our Future Together launched on the occasion of the United Nations’ 75th birthday in 2020.

Under the title “Our Common Agenda” he argued that now is the time …

  1. to re-embrace global solidarity and find new ways to work together for the common good.
  2. to renew the social contract between Governments and their people and within societies, so as to rebuild trust and embrace a comprehensive vision of human rights.
  3. to end the “infodemic” plaguing our world by defending a common, empirically backed consensus around facts, science and knowledge.
  4. to correct a glaring blind spot in how we measure economic prosperity and progress. When profits come at the expense of people and our planet, we are left with an incomplete picture of the true cost of economic growth.
  5. to think for the long term, to deliver more for young people and succeeding generations and to be better prepared for the challenges ahead.
  6. for a stronger, more networked and inclusive multilateral system, anchored within the United Nations

Among others, Guterres recommends to hold a Summit of the Future to forge a new global consensus on what our future should look like, and what we can do today to secure it.

Much of this agenda is closely relate to the aims of our UNESCO Chair on Heritage Futures. But it is striking that the entire report “Our Common Agenda” does not recognise the significance of culture (not to mention cultural heritage) in achieving these aims!

Culture is about how people make sense of the world, how they identify, whom they trust, what they value, which norms they follow. How strange that the UN has not yet discovered its significance!

UN Initiative “We the Peoples”

Wednesday, May 19th, 2021

Cornelius Holtorf took part in the “We the Peoples” digital consultation of the United Nations. 

Building on the UN75 global conversation, the consultation invites stakeholders from different sectors to develop practical recommendations to: accelerate delivery of the commitments made in the UN75 Declaration, together with the Sustainable Development Goals and Paris Climate Agreement; and to respond to new and emerging challenges.

He made two specific contributions:

Addressing Challenge 1: How can decision-making take more account of the future?, he suggested to “Enhance the capacity for futures thinking (futures literacy) among decision-makers.” 

Much decision-making about the present assumes unexamined that conditions will remain the same in the future. But based on all past human experience, this is not going to be the case. We can improve people’s ability to imagine alternative futures and design new strategies to act in the present in order to bring about novel futures.

Addressing Challenge 5: How can we build trust between people and institutions?, he suggested that “We need to learn more about people’s cultural meanings and values as they determine trust in society.”

Trust between people and institutions is an outcome of specific cultural meanings and values. It is easier to trust people and institutions that make sense in what they do and whose values you share.
Strangely, the realm of culture is vastly underappreciated in society, maybe because ethnology and social/cultural anthropology are very small subjects and not many decision-makers have much understanding of how human culture works.