by Jacob Nordangård, PhD
Civic participation is seen as an important component in fulfilling the UN agenda. Citizens must be made more involved. It all sounds wonderful. But when looking closer, it seems to be mostly about legitimising UNs own agenda and fostering more obedient citizens. The UN only listens to the citizens and groups that say what they want to hear. Criticism and opinions that do not support the UN climate action, migration policy, or health mandates are generally disregarded, dismissed, ridiculed, and thrown in the bin.
The eighth commitment involves the appointment of a High-Level Advisory Board on Effective Multilaterism , chaired by former heads of state and government, and is focused on improved governance of “our global commons”. It also includes the re-establishment of the Secretary-General’s Scientific Council and the UN taking part in more listening, participation, and consultation (including digitally) from the public. Secretary-General António Guterres calls for a “Quintet of Change” for an upgraded UN 2.0: Innovation, Data, Strategic foresight, Results orientation, and Behavioural science.
According to Guterres, the United Nations needs to be adapted for the digital era. The High-Level Advisory Board – which I described in the introductory post Multilateralism with teeth – will develop proposals for the following:
Improving the governance of global public goods and other areas
Anticipate how sustainable development and climate measures will be handled after 2030
Peace and security, for the new peace agenda
Digital technology, for the Global Digital Compact
Outer space, seek consensus on the sustainable and peaceful use of outer space, move towards a global regime to coordinate space traffic and agree on principles for the future governance of outer space
Global major risks and agreement on a Global Emergency Platform
Subsequent generations, for possible agreement on a declaration of future generations.
The United Nations intends to upgrade the global governance of the world. This includes “listening” to the citizens.
To make the United Nations more effective, we will develop new capabilities that promote agility, integration and cohesion across the system. This will be part of a wider transformation towards a United Nations “2.0”, a new version that is able to offer relevant and system-wide solutions to the challenges of the twenty-first century.
The basis for everything is data. According to the Secretary-General’s data strategy, UN Secretary-General’s Data Strategy 2020-22, this should permeate everything and lead us through the Great Transformation. This data strategy means the upgrading and digitisation of the United Nations. It outlines how to use all the data that is collected (Big Data, sensors/IoT, sound, image, text, etc.). The global sustainable development goals (SDGs) of Agenda 2030 are to be reached with the help of digital technology. This includes areas such as climate change, gender equality, human rights, peace and security, governance as well as future ethics, data protection, and privacy.
Making better use of data – with approaches grounded in UN values and human rights – is integral to our future and service. Recognizing that we have not fully unlocked our data and analytics potential, this Strategy will guide us through a long-term transformation: So that everyone, everywhere nurtures data as a strategic asset for insight, impact and integrity – to better deliver on our mandates for people & planet.
Data should not only be collected – it should be combined, analysed and evaluated with scoreboards within each sub-area. This is the digital crystal ball that will be used to monitor and predict world developments in order to take appropriate action.
…we will master analytics capabilities that help us better understand “what happened”, “why it happened”, “what may happen next” and “how to respond” with insight, impact and integrity.
This data collection has already begun and the goal is to have it fully operable by the year 2025. COVID-19 provided an opportunity to test existing and developing technologies and gives an indication of how the collected data is intended to be used. Among other things, the number of infected, vaccinated, and the social consequences of the pandemic were analysed here. This is now to be applied to pretty much everything.
Partnerships with data specialists and various stakeholders are also proposed. This includes, among other things, “data philanthropy programs” where data must be shared between public, private, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The UN assures us that this must be done with respect for both human rights and privacy, but the arrangement raises questions about how reliable such assurances really are.
The strategy has been developed by the UN organisation together with consultative assistance from partners such as the World Economic Forum, the European Commission, the World Bank, Accenture, BCG, Deloitte, Ernst & Young, Harvard Business Review, McKinsey, and Mastercard. Special support has also been sourced from the governments of Great Britain, Canada and Rwanda, the consulting firm Gartner and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, while “generous support” has been received from the UN Reform Unit at the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Through behavioural analysis, the UN can gain knowledge about how citizens think and respond to the implementation of their programs and at the same time manage unwanted responses. Behavioural changes are key, according to the UN’s Behavioral Science Report. Strategies of this kind have already been used by the WHO in the context of COVID-19.
WHO’s Western Pacific Office is focusing on capacity building for the creation of social listening systems (i.e. the monitoring of publicly available social media channels). Behavioural and perception data are used to inform communication strategies and support decision-making of the COVID-19 response. Behavioural design is also being integrated in the design of COVID-19 campaigns.
Another initiative is Climate Neutral Now, which aims to enable individuals, organisations and civil society to calculate their climate footprint and encourages them to reduce their non-compensated emissions using certified carbon credits.
This constitutes a soft exercise of power where citizens are given “choices” but where they are encouraged to choose the goals that the UN has already established as worthy of pursuit.
For the data strategy to be effective, citizens’ data needs to be made available. To achieve this, an enhanced dialogue is required. Citizens must be more involved in the process while their actions and opinions can be analysed at the same time. In this way, their relationship to climate change, COVID-19, gender equality and hate crimes can also be made visible and, if necessary, corrected. In this way, any security risks are also minimised.
This is what is meant by putting citizens at the center and that no one should be left behind. It is total digital surveillance that applies to obtain protection and security with a “scorecard” for each individual.
Greater civic participation from citizens is seen by the UN as a guarantor of creating a better common future. The partner World Economic Forum is also involved in this. As described in the WEF report Engaging Citizens for Inclusive Futures Rebuilding Social Cohesion and Trust through Citizen Dialogues:
Collective intelligence and deliberative processes that enhance civic participation have the ability to transform how we approach our common future, leading to better decisions and outcomes for all..
However, upon closer examination, the civic participation is all about supporting the UN and Agenda 2030 rather than raising any direct criticism. A citizen dialogue, about what decisions needed to be made so that future generations would be proud of us, and which was held by the organizations Civis, Confkids, Isha Foundation, Missions Publiques, United World Colleges (UWC), and the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) in December 2020 gave a clear message:
The message to global leaders is this: human beings the world over share the same vision for the future, one that is more equal, just and that puts people and the planet first.
The question is, is there anyone who does not believe that we want a just world where we take care of both people and the planet? But do we really have a common vision for how it should be done? There is no real space for critical voices. The course has already been set and any views on climate and health that do not align with this are frowned upon. Instead, this citizen participation project seems to only be used to legitimise and drive the global transformation they intend to implement. For example, the report specifically highlights that several participants in the citizen dialogue expressed concern about misinformation around COVID-19 being spread in the news and in social media.
According to the report, this shows the need for truthful communication from governments and authorities, but it is also emphasised that the citizens themselves are responsible for the misinformation they share. This is where the “need” for UN truth verification comes in (see my previous post Ministry of Truth).
It is the votes of the “obedient” citizens that count, while those who disagree are largely lumped together as conspiracy theorists, science deniers or malicious internet trolls spreading misinformation. By using on a number of pre-determined questions to a select group of citizens regarding the creation of a just world, a biased selection of their views is made. This applies, among other things, to the view on the distribution of vaccines:
One first step identified to ensure equality post-COVID-19 is a vaccine distribution strategy that is fair and needs-based. A cohesive and well-reasoned global plan should be created to realise this.
It is also about the “climate crisis” being handled through “radical changes” to energy sources and that citizens “give their support” to the need for “a more inclusive and progressive education” where young people must “challenge the opinions of their parents/guardians” (just like under the Cultural Revolution in China).
The latter is described as a way to create an environment without discrimination and with respect for others, but it has greater implications. Among other things, this includes the current social trend of allowing children and youth to make life-changing decisions about gender corrections at a sensitive age. In addition, it opens the door for manipulation of a group that lacks life experience and can thus be more easily influenced and controlled. Young people are also generally more radical and open to system changes. This is a proven strategy in totalitarian systems and was tested on a large scale in Nazi Germany. I will return to this in the post on Commitment 11: Listen to and work with youth.
Not surprisingly, Jacinda Ardern’s (a WEF Young Global Leader) New Zealand is highlighted in the report as a leading country in terms of popular support:
New Zealand has been praised for the way it has managed the pandemic and was recently ranked as the country with the best COVID-19 response, in part due to its focus on social cohesion in its response.
Conference on the Future of Europe
The report also mentions that the EU intends to strengthen citizen influence. The EU acts in many ways as a testing ground for the UN agenda. On this basis, an online Conference on the Future of Europe was held between April 2021 and May 2022 to give people from all over Europe the opportunity to share ideas on how to shape “our” common future.
At the center of citizen influence were 800 randomly selected citizens who were already part of the European Citizens’ Panels four sub-panels (Economy, Democracy, Climate/Environment/Health and Migration) while 5 million people had visited a Multilingual Digital Platform to make contributions to the panel’s work. This resulted in 43,734 entries.
The participants had to express themselves in nine predetermined areas as well as the category “other questions”. These areas were:
Climate change and the environment
A stronger economy, social justice and jobs
EU in the world
Values and rights, rule of law, security
Education, Culture, Youth and Sports
The various topics were presented by external experts who also participated as resources during the conferences. This procedure, of course, helped steer the panel in the direction desired by the Commission.
According to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the collective reply from the citizens’ dialogue was unequivocal:
You have told us that you want to build a better future by living up to the most enduring promises of the past. Promises of peace and prosperity, fairness and progress; of a Europe that is social and sustainable, that is caring and daring.
The person who asks the questions and compiles the results has, of course, an interpretative priority. In this case, it is presented as if the citizens have largely given their consent to the EU Commission’s priorities (which fully coincide with Agenda 2030). This applies in particular to the health agenda and the climate, where participants reportedly often expressed “their concern about climate change and its consequences, and call on governments and the EU to take immediate action and introduce a stronger European environmental policy to combat climate change.” Coincidentally, the contributors also “emphasised” the need for continued digitisation to deal with the climate as well as other future challenges. This also concerns the issue of Digital Identity, which is increasingly becoming a cornerstone of the new system. It also ties in with the EU’s continued federalisation and exercise of power.
The idea of federalisation is prominent. Contributions range from calls to take steps towards a federal union in specific areas to establishing a European Constitution. On the other hand, some participants are sceptical or call rather for decentralisation, with greater powers for Member States
Apparently, skepticism towards federalisation were also expressed. If one digs deeper into the report’s elaboration, concerns are also expressed about digital surveillance as well as the treatment of unvaccinated people.
Another group of contributions underlines the need to lift COVID-19 measures once the effects of the pandemic allow, in order to ensure a return to normality and restore citizens’ freedoms. In this regard, there is also a call to prevent discrimination against citizens who have chosen not to be vaccinated or undergo regular tests to gain access to basic facilities.
However, this did not make any major impression with the Commission and was not mentioned in the summary. Instead, it is determined how free speech should be guaranteed by fighting hate speech, disinformation, conspiracy theories, and fake news. This was something that the Commission worked on intensively during the pandemic in order to deal with opposition to mass vaccination programs, mandatory mask wearing, and lockdowns. As part of work to “address the negative effects of conspiracy theories”, the European Commission and UNESCO published educational infographics “to help citizens identify – and counter – conspiracy theories”.
UNESCO, in cooperation with the EU Commission and World Jewish Congress, initiated the project “Think Before Sharing” in order to stem the spread of conspiracy theories.
The same, of course, applies to all criticism levelled of the climate agenda. The view reflects that expressed by the World Economic Forum in its “Strategic Intelligence”.
Misinformation campaigns have too often led people to ignore science-based recommendations meant to limit the spread of the pandemic, to fail to appreciate or understand guidance from experts on the crucial importance of vaccines, or to accept climate change denial.
Serious criticism is deceptively mixed with the vast amount of real misinformation and unsubstantiated speculative theories that have spread online in recent years.
von der Leyen’s closing speech after the conference gave a clear indication of which points of view the Commission chooses to listen to, including giving the EU greater powers regarding health policy with binding regulations and decisions.
You have told us where you want this Europe to go. And it is now up to us to take the most direct way there, either by using the full limits of what we can do within the Treaties, or by changing the Treaties if need be.
In June 2022, von der Leyen proposed how participatory democracy should become part of the EU’s future decision-making. Among other things, there is the Have your Say Platform, which will form the basis of a new ecosystem for democratic engagement. Here you can submit your views on new and existing laws. To do this, however, you need to register an account with personal data to the platform. This takes place through verification methods such as mobile numbers, e-identification or social media accounts such as Facebook, Google and Twitter. This also means that the opinions can theoretically be stored and linked to the person who submitted the opinions. Data that can then be used for your personal scoring board (social credits). But of course the EU would never do such a mapping?
The question is how much of an impact the public involvement has? Despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of submitted views opposed an extension of the EU’s digital Covid Certificate until 30 June 2023, the Council gave the go-ahead to extend the regulation on 28 June 2022  Already in the 2000s, the European Commission ran a public online forum where anyone could become a member (under any name) and express their opinions. Unfortunately, the citizens did not express the “right” opinions (about e.g. the climate threat or the many intrusive EU directives) and was therefore shut down around 2010.
It is this type of democratic commitment that Antonio Guterres now wants to implement for the UN as well. With listening that appears more like eavesdropping and where the purpose is to record and if necessary correct. Everyone must join our common future…
Next time I will look at how the UN should be financed and expand its cooperation with the G20 – Ensure Sustainable Financing.
 United Nations (2020), Data Strategy of the Secretary-General for Action by Everyone, Everywhere with Insight, Impact and Integrity, www.un.org/en/content/datastrategy/images/pdf/UN_SG_Data-Strategy.pdf
 World Economic Forum (2021), Engaging Citizens for Inclusive Futures Rebuilding Social Cohesion and Trust through Citizen Dialogues, Insight Report March 2021, www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_Citizen_Perspectives_on_a_Just_Great_Reset_2021.pdf
 SVT Nyheter (2021), Riksdagsstöd för att sänka åldern för ändring av juridiskt kön, www.svt.se/nyheter/inrikes/partierna-reagerar-pa-lagforslaget
 Kantar Public (2022), Multilingual Digital Platform of the Conference on the Future of Europe, Report February 2022
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 European Commission, Reporting disinformation and misinformation on platforms, ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/coronavirus-response/fighting-disinformation_en#reporting-disinformation-and-misinformation-to-platforms
 World Economic Forum (2022), Science: Engaging the Public with Science, intelligence.weforum.org/topics/a1G0X000006DO7RUAW/key-issues/a1G680000004Cw5EAE
 European Commission (2022), Conference on the Future of Europe, ec.europa.eu/info/sites/default/files/communication_1.pdf
 EU Login, Privacy Statement, https://ecas.ec.europa.eu/cas/privacyStatementPopup.html
 Europeiska kommissionen (2022), Förordningen om EU:s digitala covidintyg – förlängd giltighet, ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/13375-Forordningen-om-EUs-digitala-covidintyg-forlangd-giltighet/feedback_sv?p_id=27926341; Europeiska unionens råd (2022), Covid-19: rådet förlänger förordningen om EU:s digitala covidintyg, www.consilium.europa.eu/sv/press/press-releases/2022/06/28/covid-19-council-extends-the-regulation-establishing-the-eu-digital-covid-certificate/