Could Climate Action’s Hopeful Attitude Inspire World Peace?

Former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres has entered the race for the post of UN Secretary General, saying she wants to lead a more hopeful, can-do community of nations.

With Secretary General Ban Ki-moon – the eighth person to lead the United Nations in its seven-decade history – set to leave office in December following two five-year terms, the election campaigns by his potential successors are in full swing.

Figueres, who’s leadership has been credited with playing a pivotal role in forging the historic Paris Agreement on climate change, was the latest candidate to join the fray.

The Cost Rican has recently published a campaign video to set out her vision for the United Nations.

“Paris can be an anomaly, or it can become the new normal for multilateralism in the 21st century. (…) We must rebuild the world’s confidence in the ability of the United Nations and its member states to work together, and solve the most difficult problems of our times,” she says in the video.

A Beacon of Hope

Figueres says global collaboration is “our best chance to improve the lives of people everywhere.”

“We need a United Nations that reclaims its standing as a beacon of hope. A reason for global optimism that calls us toward a really compelling vision of the future,” she said.

In her video, Figueres reminds us that the United Nations was founded 70 years ago amid the turmoil and trauma of World War II.

“Much has been achieved in the intervening years but today – only 16 years into the new millennium – we seem beset on all sides by impossible problems,” she says, before listing terrorism, inequality, environmental degradation, financial crisis, wars and forced migration as key challenges.

Strategy and Attitude

Figueres highlights there is a sense around the world that “problems have become too large for us to solve, and we have become accustomed to not really addressing the fundamental issues.”

“People have lost trust that their lives can get better and that institutions are on their side. This in turn is leading to apathy, depression, despair and in some cases to the development of radical views,” she said.

“This cycle must be stopped before it consumes our collective future,” Figueres warns.

Figueres joined the UN climate secretariat after the “disaster” of the Copenhagen negotiations, she points out, and “left in 2016 on the back of the most ambitious climate agreement in history.

“The Paris agreement was not an accident, it was strategy and it was attitude. It was the combination of six years patient rebuilding of a broken system that had lost all trust and confidence, into one that was capable of commitment and ambition. It was the collective realisation that we would all be losers if we did not find a way to win together,” she said.

Working Together

Figueres says the last years have seen “a discrediting of multilateralism as agreements on many issues have proved elusive. These failures themselves further feed the narrative that our problems have grown beyond our control.”

But it does not have to be this way, she says. “the truth is that the problems of today can only be addressed by working together.”

“Rekindling our confidence and inspiring each and every one of us to live up to our highest purpose. Impossible is not a fact it is an attitude, that is my conviction and my experience,” she says.

“That is also my invitation,” Figueres concludes, “Together we can restore hope.”

The Next Secretary General

The UN Security Council is currently trying to reach consensus on a candidate, who’s name they will then forward to the organisation’s General Assembly for a vote after the summer.

Unlike other years, the assembly is taking a more active role in the selection process this time with the aim to make the process more more transparent and inclusive. Figueres also took part in the first-ever TV debate with the other Secretary General candidates.

Last week, the Security Council published a first shortlist, and Figueres did not make the top-six. But the list is still subject to change. Open Democracy provides some background on the process and politics involved.

Ever the optimist, Figueres tweeted “Good results of first straw poll. The process has started.”

To find out more about Figueres’ campaign, see hashtag #CF4SG and her campaign website.

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