The UN Brief covers the United Nations, the Human Rights Council, various bodies, commissions, and agencies in the UN system, the EU, and other multilateral organizations that are convening interested parties and governments to lead regulation and support the rapid technological transformation of the various sectors of the global economy and of our democratic institutions.
Given that emerging technologies pervade all aspects of our daily lives it is no wonder that the work of multilateral organizations is increasingly geared towards debating, building consensus, and ultimately making policy recommendations for, or regulating spheres of knowledge in cyber culture, cybersecurity, peace and security in cyberspace, and on the digitalization of production and manufacturing supply-chains — all areas which are impacting the global economy and democratic political structures around the world.
The UN convening power around these issues is unparalleled, just take a look at the number of private companies signatories of the UN Global Compact, or the number of private sector actors that are members of the International Telecommunications Union and you will understand that country-members, NGOs, academics, and private sector stakeholders alike know that there is more to gain from sitting at the negotiating table than bulldozing your way by force, or by spending millions lobbying local governments to keep your gig workers from becoming employees.
The obsession with Silicon Valley’s favorite word, employed right and left by bros and fratboys, DISRUPTION, is worrisome at the moment. Disruption is sometimes a good thing when overthrowing incumbents that are mostly parasites in a system, or breaking cartels, but not so good when you break sectors as a competitive strategy with complete disregard for the social impact on the livelihood of communities. “Disruption” actually is not so fashionable anymore in high-level Silicon Valley circles, but because SV influences greatly other entrepreneurship hubs around the globe the word and concept is repeated with a characteristic hollow ring to it, as it is often the case with ideas and concepts imported without much thought and scrutiny.
DISRUPTION, more often now is a euphemism for reckless greed, and is increasingly associated with tech companies that do not care for the well-being and safety of citizens, much less for democratic values that espouse the view that government and the private sector are ultimately actors leading inclusive and prosperous societies. Disruption and its multiple meanings and uses are indeed at the heart of these pull-pushes between regulators and innovators.
Maybe we need to redefine innovation and disruption.
Is it really innovative to perpetuate the inequality and biases that exist in our current Western socio-economic structures?
But that is a discussion for another time.
To discuss innovation in the automotive sector and road safety, green cities, funding green mobility, and autonomous vehicles, The UN Brief interviewed Matthew Baldwin, Deputy Director-General of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Transport and Mobility, a position that he was appointed to in 2016. He also participated recently at a UNECE meeting to discuss road safety and the UN Global Goals. Sustainable mobility is at the center of many initiatives currently underway at the EC Transport and Mobility Directorate General.
Mr. Baldwin previously worked in the Cabinets of EU Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy, EU President Jose Manuel Barroso, and Commissioner Jonathan Hill. He was appointed European Coordinator for Road Safety and Sustainable Mobility in October 2018. Watch (20 min.):
Not only does he know the European Commission inside out, he has, at the start of his career, addressed road safety issues in the automotive sector, when, in 1985 he worked with the UK Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety on front-seat-belt legislation.
So, he knows a thing or two about the legislative process and how regulation is necessary in sectors and industries that are always pushing boundaries, most of the time making our work lives more efficient, helping us to be more productive. But sometimes these new technological advances carry risks that can kill, literally.
The UN Resolution on Road Safety that was adopted by the General Assembly last June is a good sign that UN country-members are agreeing, for the time being, on taking action to implement measures to increase road safety in the Global South.
We spoke about the ground ahead in terms of regulation for the automotive sector, autonomous driving vehicles, how sexist bias impacted the design of cars’ airbags, how sustainable goals of cleaner air when rebuilding the economy are top of the mind in the European Green Deal, and how the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has made a priority of delivering economic growth and jobs by building the infrastructure that a green mobility requires.
We discuss that and much more, if autonomous driving vehicles, road safety for cars and pedestrians, green cities and safety for cyclists is your thing you will love to watch or listen to the interview in our SoundCloud channel.
Watch (20 min):
Get smarter about the UN
Understand the terms and the vocabulary of treaties. Are they biding? Every week our stories will link up to some aspect of multilateralism, and how international organizations work.
Resolutions are formal expressions of the opinion or will of UN organs. Decisions are another type of formal action taken by UN bodies. They often concern procedural matters such as elections, appointments, time and place of future sessions. They are sometimes also used to record the adoption of a text representing the consensus of the members of a given organ.
General Assembly resolutions and decisions have the same legal status. General Assembly resolutions reflect the views of the Member States, provide policy recommendations, assign mandates to the UN Secretariat and the subsidiary bodies of the General Assembly and decide on all questions regarding the UN budget.
With the exception of decisions regarding payments to the regular and peacekeeping budgets of the UN, General Assembly resolutions/decisions are not binding for Member States. The implementation of the policy recommendations contained in resolutions/decisions is the responsibility of each Member State. (Source GA Handbook)
"Adoption" is the formal act by which the form and content of a proposed treaty text are established. As a general rule, the adoption of the text of a treaty takes place through the expression of the consent of the states participating in the treaty-making process. Treaties that are negotiated within an international organization will usually be adopted by a resolution of a representative organ of the organization whose membership more or less corresponds to the potential participation in the treaty in question. A treaty can also be adopted by an international conference which has specifically been convened for setting up the treaty, by a vote of two thirds of the states present and voting, unless, by the same majority, they have decided to apply a different rule.
[Art.9, Vienna Convention of the Law of Treaties 1969]
Ratification defines the international act whereby a state indicates its consent to be bound to a treaty if the parties intended to show their consent by such an act. In the case of bilateral treaties, ratification is usually accomplished by exchanging the requisite instruments, while in the case of multilateral treaties the usual procedure is for the depositary to collect the ratifications of all states, keeping all parties informed of the situation. The institution of ratification grants states the necessary time-frame to seek the required approval for the treaty on the domestic level and to enact the necessary legislation to give domestic effect to that treaty.
[Arts.2 (1) (b), 14 (1) and 16, Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969]