Menko: can the UN launch a sustainable revolution?

Menko: Do you still think that the UN could launch a sustainable revolution, or did you overestimate their actual power at the time?

Severn Cullis-Suzuki: I think the UN is essential. We need a structure, a governance system for the global society, for global governance. But we need to empower it, and we need to strengthen it and we need to believe in it and we need to push it forward, and so yes, I mean there is so many criticisms for the United Nations, for its lack of power, lack of money, lack of enforcement, I mean there is just— you know it’s bureaucracy.

And we should criticize it ‘cause that’s pushing it to be better. But I think we would be a lot worse off without it, and I have some friends who do a lot of work in the UN. I’m always saying so them I’m frustrated with the UN: they host these huge conferences and we spend a lot of money and we burn a lot of fossil fuels, but what is it actually doing? And they point to a long list of international treaties and agreements that are working, that the average person doesn’t know about but that really has impacted security in the world. That are treaties across nations for keeping things peaceful and in a balance; the UN is all we have to do that.

If we didn’t have a body like that, who knows where we would be. I mean it’s starting to turn into an all-out fight, each for their own. I mean we have nations acting in the nation’s interests alone, and we really have to encourage our multilateralism and strengthen it into partnerships. And I think right now the UN is our vehicle for doing that.

Anne: So it’s a start, but it's not enough.

Severn Cullis-Suzuki: It’s not enough and I don’t know what we would have to do to get it to the point where it is enough, but we can’t wait for those leaders to do it. I think now with the rise of communication, and the democratization of information and communication... We have the UN and of course we need to support that kind of high-level governance and alliances. But now we can work with people on a very grassroots level. We can work across nations with people and I think in that way something new will emerge, some new movement will happen, from the ground up as well as from the top down I think, that’s the way that we will have a lot of change.

But we need to foster the two because if we just have a ground-up revolution and we change our society… Well then what? We will need some institutions, we will need some kind of structure, some way of conducting ourselves. And as we’ve seen with the Arab Spring well, yes we have seen revolution, but then what? What is the stable next way of conducting a society? We need to strengthen both.

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