Georgios Kostakos walks us through the initiatives developed by FOGGS in key areas of global governance and education and shares with us his vision of globalization, citizenship and sustainability.
The Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability (FOGGS), a Brussels based think tank founded in 2013, is raising awareness about global challenges such as climate change, social and health inequal and globalization. The Foundation is thinking “big” and is setting the tone towards a more harmonized and human-centered world balance.
To achieve this, FOGGS has recently launched the UN2100 initiative and a discussion paper entitled “Proposals for a modern, effective, ethical and people-centered United Nations”. Georgios Kostakos, Executive Director at FOGGS, has shared with us some powerful insights in order to understand more about it.
Let’s start with the “Grand Narrative”. What is the central message you are conveying to people and institutions and how do you engage with your stakeholders?
The Grand Narrative that FOGGS is promoting is a story that unites rather than divides humanity, a story of a fair and inclusive globalization that works for all, not just the few as is the case today, and a story that teaches respect for the planet, our common home. It is a counter-balance to the neoliberal paradigm of endlessly squeezing profit out of people and nature, and to the emerging populist paradigm of isolation and intolerance. It is a story of a better world that we should be able to imagine and work together to bring about.
We promote the Grand Narrative to various audiences or stakeholder groups through targeted projects in our three “think-acts”, namely Global Governance, Global Sustainability and Global Citizenship (see below).
The UN2100 initiatives has the ambitious objective to innovate the global governance system. How do you believe the UN should be modernized and what would be the benefits for our societies?
We believe that it is high time to revisit the conceptual and moral foundations of the post-World War II multilateral system and ensure its capacity to address the global governance and sustainability challenges of the 21st century. The United Nations’ 75th anniversary in 2020 is an opportunity to do exactly that and has to mark a clear new course based on the shared values and interests of humanity.
Through the UN2100 initiative FOGGS builds on the expertise of its Advisory Board members, Executive Board, Secretariat staff and associated institutions and experts with the overall goal to contribute to a much-needed rethinking of the global governance system, with a view to increasing the latter’s legitimacy and its capacity to meet the challenges facing humanity and our planetary home in the coming quarter century.
The proposals put forward in our Discussion Paper are not exactly those expected from a standard paper on UN reform. We chose to leave intractable problems like UN Security Council reform aside and focus on rethinking UN mandates and structures on the basis of a comprehensive human narrative and some core functions regarding which the UN has real value to add.
Concrete proposals put forward include:
- establishment of an Earth Watch Centre, which will keep track in real time of the state of key indicators of human (including social and economic) and planetary well-being;
- A quarterly State of the Planet Report summarising the key parameters followed by the Earth Watch Centre that would be conveyed by the UN Secretary-General to the main intergovernmental bodies for action as necessary;
- A global narrative of hope, based on honest analysis of the current situation, drawing on holistic and sustainable economic philosophies distinct from the present dominant politico-economic model, and suggesting a realistic way forward that integrates the core messages of the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and connects them with the fight against the major global challenges of today;
- designation of a global holiday celebrated by the people all around the world;
- Elaboration of a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities, as complementary to the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The above, and other proposals included in the Discussion Paper would start creating a more coherent and human-centred approach to globalization, would bring humanity together and would focus on addressing challenges shared by all communities around the world.
A lot has been said about globalization and we are aware of the positive effectives it has had on technology, employment, education, investment and trade. However, all this comes at a price. So how can we offset the negative side of this and what practices can we implement to achieve a balance?
The price we are paying because of the kind of globalization that we are now having is becoming increasingly unbearable. The whole edifice will eventually collapse, through another financial crisis and/or another war and/or mass unrest by dissatisfied citizens, who are increasingly turning towards extreme ideologies.
We need to move in the direction of a new globalization paradigm, as indicated earlier, when we talked about the Grand Narrative. Some key elements of that are included in “The FOGGS Hexalogue”, namely:
- Harmony within humanity and with planet Earth – Our overarching point
2. States and nations, and international organisations – At the service of people, not the other way round
3. Human diversity and tolerance, mobility and restraint – Respecting each other’s rights and accepting our responsibilities
4. The economy at the service of humanity – Not the other way round
5. For science and technology the sky is the limit – But don’t lose the link to society
6. Need for active global citizenship – Our call to action
See the complete Hexalogue here.
Your vision of disruption of the status quo of the globalized world by bringing people together from different cultures and backgrounds is fascinating. Give us some concrete examples of change and radical thinking you have seen in your daily work.
Under the current circumstances, it is radical thinking to consider ethics as a paramount value, instead of pursuing profit and/or political power at all cost. Nonetheless, we find people all over the world who maintain their faith to humanity and keep talking about human rights and responsibilities (see the story of our Advisory Board member Sudha Reddy) and promote the concept of humanitarian journalism with real, people-focused news (see the story of our Advisory Board member Cilene Victor). We are also “crazy” enough to encourage individuals to take a pledge to reduce their own greenhouse gas emissions by half in ten years – see the Citizen’s Climate Pledge. This is only a small sample of what we are implementing or planning in terms of disruptive acts!
Another powerful concept in our view is your idea about global citizens. In this sense, what is the link between citizenship, governance and sustainability? Also, on a more practical level, how do you think we can overcome preconceptions and cultural barriers so we can create truly global citizens?
The economy, politics, good and bad, all eventually boil down to choices that individuals make in their / our daily life. If the individual consumer is aware of the disastrous effects of climate change they will avoid buying products with a very high carbon footprint and will save on energy. If citizens love peace and fellow humans they will resist the encouragement to hatred and intolerance that populist leaders spread and will not give them their vote. Otherwise, if they act opposite to the above, they will exacerbate an already bad situation both in the natural and the political world.
FOGGS from its start has identified global citizen education as a key area of activity, fully in line with the Foundation’s humanist goals. The Global Land Paths (GLAP) series of summer workshops, carried out in cooperation with The Land Beyond, was the first attempt to take this agenda forward.
With the launch of the Grand Narrative we now have a powerful story that transcends divisions and taps on the very essence of humanity. We want to spread it through all forms of education to help create the broader, all-inclusive sense of community that will allow for a peaceful and fair globalisation that works for all.
We are in touch with universities and other educational establishments interested in promoting this big-picture approach that combines a core narrative as normative framework and systems thinking – focusing on interconnections and the multidimensional nature of global challenges – as the method of analysis. See more on this here.