Commons Action for the United Nations

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= "Our Mission: By the year 2030 to help to build a commons-based global community and to bring about a shift to commons-based local to global economies centred on the well-being of all people and nature".


"Our objectives were

  1. To make the concept of the global commons and its components known among delegates and civil society organizations.
  2. To get them mentioned in the (Co-) Chair’s Summaries. There were 2 for CSD 18 and one for Prepcom 1—in all 169 pages.
  3. To form synergistic relationships with 1000 people by May 31, 2010.
  4. For our team to grow into a commons in embryo to steward the global commons.
  5. To build commons awareness with other civil society organizations (with the longer term goal of enabling humanity to steward diverse aspects of the global commons by allowing people to see themselves as sovereign over their common resources).
  6. To promote the concept of a rights and values based global economy."

Our initiatives include:

  • Consolidating relationships among our participants:

1.Regular strategy meetings via telephone conference between participants worldwide;

2. Regular mailing on activities that are being planned with invitations to join.

3. Reports on activities.

Bottom up:

1.Alerting people in ten language areas to what the commons are and how a commons-approach can help to deal with environmental, economic and social challenges at local to global levels;

2. Providing access to writings and courses on the commons;

3. Encouraging participants to gather information on diverse commons and their best practices worldwide;

4. Developing an IT structure which we are calling the Commons Abundance Network that would help commons to empower one another and create closer working relationships;

5. Using our Instant Response Network to inform Governments and the UN Secretariat of best practices and the preferences of the commons movement.

Top down:

Providing governments and the UN Secretariat with

1. information on the advantages of using a commons approach to creating sustainable local to global economies;

2. listings of measures they can take to

  a. produce a shift to commons-based local to global economies centred on the   well-being of all people and nature;
  b. finance such a shift;
  c. eradicate poverty and improve the resilience of nature;
  d. empower both the public and private sectors.

3. Working with other Civil Socieity Organizations at the UN to lobby Governments and the UN Secretariat to create a Panel of Experts within the UN to develop a step by step plan to implement a commons-based global economy based on the well-being of all people and nature and to do this with the input of all stakeholders worlewide.

4. Finding ways in which we can provide maximum support for this development from all groups in our 10 language areas."

Team Members: Lisinka Ulatowska, Richard Jordan, Jay Bender, Rob Wheeler, Kathleen Quain, Mary Beth Steisslinger, Quisia Gonzalez, Anthony Robinson, Alex Dale, Amy Scarbrough, Maritza Mosquera (Deep Listening Workshop)


"Lisinka Ulatowska" <[email protected]>,

"Julie Lira" <[email protected]>,

"“Mary Beth Steisslinger”" <[email protected]>,

"Anthony Robinson" <[email protected]>,

"“Kathleen Quain”" <[email protected]>,

"Rob Wheeler" <[email protected]>,

"Richard Jordan" <[email protected]>,

"Andre Presse" <[email protected]>,

"Sanaz Mostaghim" <[email protected]>,

"LJ jang929" <[email protected]>,

"Quisia Gonzalez" <[email protected]>,

"Teckla Negga Melchior" <[email protected]>,

"George Collins" <[email protected]>,

"Alanna Hartzok" <[email protected]>,

"Carol Wilcox, preferred" <[email protected]>,

"Meena Bilgi" <[email protected]>,

Proposed Strategy



On Dec. 14th, 2009, Lisinka Ulatowska and James Quilligan suggested to some 25 commons activitists and UN NGO representatives in New York City that together they create an initiative at the UN to introduce a commons-based approach to sustainable development. This initiative would focus on Member States, Major Groups and the UN Secretariat. This initiative was later called Commons Action for the United Nations and has been represented at the UN by the Institute for Planetary Synthesis and the Association for World Citizens. It has expanded as people and organizations have agreed to participate and asked to be placed on the mailing list.

Toward the end of 2011, the organizing partners of the NGO Major Group suggested that NGOs form Clusters to promote civil society advocacy at the U N. It was suggested by a number of NGO colleagues that Commons Action for the United Nations take on that role since it would involve little else than expanding the mailing list and the meetings to include a larger number of groups and organizations. In this way Commons Action for the United Nations became known at the UN as the Commons CLuster. It has expanded to include members of other Major Groups including Women, Youth and Children and Indigenous Peoples.


Globalization as we know it is inordinately biased toward privatization and individualism, and toward the conversion of nature to man-made capital. A more balanced approach requires that substantial elements of a localized commons-based economy be incorporated into globalization, in a way that takes us to be integral parts of nature rather than dominating it. We believe that a healthy world is one in which the commons are fully respected, and seen for the role they play in human well-being and survival.

The Commons Abundance Network (CAN) is a cooperative system that will enable commons groups and webs to learn from one another, network, plan and act as a unit; to become a recognized Commons Sector next to the Public and Private Sectors; to form together a significant voice at the UN; and a means for us to become the commons-based global community and economy at all levels we are advocating at the UN.

CAN is developing many tools and resources, and participating in a number of processes, to enable all participants to take more effective action together, such as the development of a Peoples Sustainability Treaty; participation in The Widening Circles initiative; and an Instant Response Network which enables people and organizations to: • follow UN conferences from afar; • give instant input into the discussions via emails to world leaders, and UN Ambassadors while the conference is going on. The Instant Response Network is a tool that enables an ongoing consultation process to take place between the UN, Governments and the world's peoples. It is a tool to promote unity in diversity and to enable humanity to become more integrated.

Draft Vision

We have created and live in a world that works for all people and nature, consisting of an all-win commons-based community at all levels:

Ø where all people are so aware of the bounty and awesome complexity of the Universe and the subtle way in which all is attuned to all else that they know that we have no alternative but to live in harmony with this precious whole, living consciously as an integral part of and cooperatively in tune with nature;

Ø where all people are so aware of how deeply interconnected we all are and of each person’s unique contribution to the whole, that when a conflict arises, it is accepted that it should be resolved in a spirit of “we are all one and what happens to you, happens to me” (The UBUNTU approach); and

Ø where it is therefore only natural that any sustainable global economy has to be based on the bounty of what nature and our fellow beings (both humans and other species) provide; and that all must benefit from this bounty.

We have developed a Commons and Rights Based Approach at all levels so that we are able together to protect and restore the natural environment; strengthen our social resource base; ensure that all people share and enjoy the basic human rights and principles contained in such documents as the Universal Declaration, the Rio Declaration and other international laws and agreements; and live in a fully sustainable manner.

Our world is well grounded in a balanced state that synthesizes across globalism and localism, privatization and the commons, individualism and the collective; and humans are seen as a part of nature, rather than apart from it. The commons is respected and revered, as it has been to a varying extent throughout history.

Draft Mission

The mission of the Commons Cluster and Commons Action for the United Nations is to create a commons-based global community and economy at all levels by the year 2030 based upon the recognition of our inextricable interdependence and shared existence with nature. And to ensure that commons resources are managed in an inclusive participatory manner so that they are equitably shared and provide for the sustainable well-being of all people and nature.

We seek to create the change we want to bring into the world by becoming an integral part of and developing a Commons Abundance Network (CAN) and helping it to expand so that it demonstrates, establishes and becomes this new way of living.

Through our work at the United Nations we will bring a concern for and discourse on the commons into all levels of government from the local to the global; encourage the adoption of a commons-based approach to protecting and managing our collective inheritance; and incorporate the commons and commons-based thinking into all levels of governmental decision-making.

Draft Goals, Strategies, Objectives and Action Steps

Goal 1

We advocate at the UN and develop recommendations for implementing a commons-based economy at all levels centred on the well-being of all people and nature including as a means for overcoming poverty and creating a fair and sustainable economy


The following strategies are already being implemented

• Educate the UN, Governments, fellow CSOs at the UN and ourselves on the best practices using a commons approach to deal with sustainability issues. • Participate in decision making processes at the UN and attempt to get it to adopt a commons based approach to development • Develop recommendations for restructuring our economic system • Develop a strong support network to advocate for commons based reforms; including by building alliances with friendly governments with a commons-friendly approach.(Ecuador, Bolivia, Ethiopia, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Seychelles, etc.); as well as with sympathetic experts within the UN Secretariat. • Communicate with fellow NGOs within and between Major Groups as a means of introducing commoning and creating various commons in the process. • Implement and expand the Instant Response Network to allow people worldwide to interact knowledgeably with the UN and delegates during UN (strategy/decision making) conferences.


1. A significant number of governments from each Governmental grouping support and request that specific recommendations for restructuring our economic system are included in UN agreements and processes.

2. A number of experts on the commons have been invited to and given presentations on the commons approach to development and creating a sustainable economy.

3. We have held a number of side events and other sessions on the commons at the UN, etc.

4. The Commons Cluster and Commons Action for the United Nations further develops into a significant voice at the United Nations. We have trained and developed a strong team of people for all of the UN meetings we decide to participate in; have developed an action plan for upcoming meetings which includes involving other clusters and Major Groups; have developed a plan for working with friendly governments; gotten a number of UN agencies and governments to co-sponsor our events and activities; and gotten the Commons included in the sustainable development goals, targets and indicators.


• CAN begins formulating actions to carry out at the UN in time for the next meeting in the field of sustainability

• We create an active and reliable team of UN representatives at the UN in NYC and later also in Geneva, Vienna, Nairobi etc.

• Teams are created for each relevant UN conference.

• Our UN representatives undergo a training to increase their understanding of the commons and our goals

• Advocate a commons based approach to resolve sustainability issues at each relevant UN conference using both an in situ UN team and our Instant Response Network

• Write timely letters to Ambassadors, Heads of State and Government and background papers on how a commons approach can help to resolve those sustainability issues under discussion at the time.

• Possibly using these, we create background papers/hand-outs to educate the UN, Governments, fellow CSOs at the UN and ourselves on the best practices using a commons approach to deal with sustainability issues.

• Offer courses on the development of a Commons Based Economy and society.

• Support and advocate for alternative indicators of the economic/social/environmental health of the global economy

• Call for or create a UN or High Level Commission or Panel of Experts in the UN Secretariat to develop the concept for the necessary structures and the steps to implement the commons-based economy and to do so with input from all stakeholders.

• We work together with UN colleagues, UN Secretariat, Governments and CAN participants to develop a Sustainability Goal, Targets and Indicators on the Commons.

• Develop recommendations, policies, and initiatives

• Complete the Peoples Sustainability Treaty on the Commons & develop support through The Widening Circles initiative and the Commons Abundance Network

• Promote the Commons through producing and distributing a TV program on the Commons going out to a global audience of hundreds of millions of viewers, development of a UNEP Perspectives on the Commons, etc.; and other media tools.

• Call on the UN to hold Have a UN Summit dedicated to a commons-based approach to Sustainability. (What do you mean by "have"? I would suggest saying either "organize" or "call on the UN to organize and hold".)

Goal 2

Develop, together with other commons communities and networks, a Commons Abundance Network (CAN) to learn from one another, network, plan and act in unison and become the commons based economy we are advocating.


• We expand our reach by creating Language Coordination Centers and translating our basic materials into the respective languages. • We reach out to like-minded individuals, global commoners, commons-oriented organizations, Indigenous Peoples and Cooperatives, etc. and invite them to join us in creating a Commons Abundance Network (CAN) as a starting point for establishing and becoming a global community and economy at all levels based on the well-being of all people and nature. • From the outset we develop in consultations with Indigenous Peoples as a means of learning from their wisdom and experience how to live in intuitive contact with nature, the art of commoning, and working with enclosure, as well as to become a tool capable of dealing with the issues they are being confronted with such as poverty and political and economic marginalization. • After designing a rudimentary structure, and through developing an understanding of how CAN will become a global economy, we allow CAN to develop through different phases as commons join and new modalities appear necessary while initiating the steps that seem to be required at each phase in the process. • Seed commons-based solutions (peer-to-peer, trusts, direct investment, currency in flow, water and land stewardship, restoration etc) to demonstrate new ways of living and meeting our needs.


1. Create Coordination Centers and reach out to and include individuals and organizations from the six UN language regions of the world, along with at least 5 - 10 more, within 3 years.

2. Develop the CAN structure in a rudimentary form—structure, governance, day to day operation-- so that it can grow naturally


• With the initial core group and Franco Iacomello we design the IT structures and develop these and the membership step by step. • Start the IT structure immediately, beginning with the home page designed by Wolfgang Hoeschele and the fields discussed for the registration form so far to do initial outreach. • We do outreach to Indigenous Peoples to ask them to help the process forward by giving input and encouraging other Indigenous Peoples to join • We translate basic materials into the 6 UN languages and others as they become relevant; • We do outreach to our own contacts and also with the help of the IPS we do outreach to the countries where they have contacts. With their help create a link with language speakers in their areas; and thensee whether there are people who would act as language center coordinators and create these language centers. • Develop a Peoples Sustainability Treaty on the Commons and participate in the Widening Circles process as a means by which to engage and involve additional people and organizations and to promote and advance CAN's activities and work. • Utilize all channels available to us via the UN as well as the social media, teleconferencing, webinars, conferences and local gatherings to further create and expand into a commons based global community • Develop CAN into an advocacy tool and also into a system that can provide authorative (authoritative?) information and best practices where interlinkages constantly strengthen one another so that CAN begins to form an integrated global community in its own right • Can further develops the Instant Response Network at the UN as a part of CAN. We invite CAN participants and Major Group members and all other commons we get in touch with to participate in and use the Instant Response Network. Also invite UN colleagues including Major Groups to participate. • Develop a structure in which the components of CAN work well together: o Constantly find new ways in which participating commons can benefit from collaboration. o Create an international coordination council that meets regularly with the whole membership to find ways of improving collaboration and mutual empowerment among CAN members; as well as greater effectiveness as a movement and voice at the UN. The Council should include all Language Center Coordinators and UN representatives. o Develop a collective pattern of meditation for unity. o Find ways of financing CAN activities including through barter and alternative currencies. o Develop a description of and plan for how we can actually become a global commons based community and economy and what this would look like.

Goal 3

Educate people as widely as possible about the advantages of applying a commons approach to challenges encountered in today's world, including through outreach to and linking with increasing numbers of Indigenous Peoples, other Major Groups, and Like Minded Organizations and Networks


• Make the vast array of materials, courses and other tools already made available by leaders in the Commons Movement available as widely as possible. • Publicize these as widely as possible and encourage people to enroll in the courses. • Develop and pass out hand-outs at the UN on how the commons can help to find basic solutions to challenges our world must meet. • CAN is designed both as a way for commons to educate one another and as an advocacy tool for commons. • The Instant Response Network relates commons solutions directly to statements made by Nation's delegates and to topics being discussed at UN conferences. • We educate ourselves and by creating and joining commons and encourage the formation of additional commons in all spheres of human activity, building on the vast storehouse of knowledge available to us from indigenous peoples worldwide.


We need those that are providing these opportunities and resources to help us determine what our further actions and objectives should be. For example this could include something like: the Number of people (including in Governments and at the UN) that have taken our courses or training programmes, become trainers, etc. Number of organizations we have educated or brought on board CAUN and CAN. Recognition and support from UN agencies for our policies and the commons approach.


• During our educational outreach via talks, lectures, webinars, etc. connect and animate groups and individuals to help to grow a commons movement with the support of CAN. • Place educational materials on our web sites; • Encourage all to attend commons courses that are available; create their own commons, including Transition Towns and Ecovillages and to learn from other commons by relating to them via CAN. • Share examples of commons such as the collective efforts in Madya Pradesh, India, to harvest water which has led to the re-emergence of plant species not seen for three decades, a significant increase in well water, and the cultivation of high-value crops; sovereign wealth funds such as the Alaska Permanent Fund that distributes direct citizen dividends from royalties and fees paid for use of natural resources; and the more than 7000 Transition Towns with a strong ecological focus. • Discuss and publicize educational materials, tools and courses via the social media, including to help people to develop Charters and Trusts to help reclaim and restore the Inheritance of humanity as commons. • Make a flyer listing of these and pass them out widely. • Develop a training for UN representatives • Ensure that all work we do at the UN has a significant educational component that is directed at our Major Group colleagues, Governments and the UN Secretariat • Use the Peoples Sustainability Treaty as a means by which to educate people about the Commons and The Widening Circles process and to reach out to and promote our educational activities with more and more people. • Use these processes as a means to use and implement what has been learned through the various courses in different regions around the world. • Collaborate with the Panel of Experts and/or the High Level Panel on the Commons that we hope to create to provide information and education about key commons issues, policy recommendations, legislation, etc. including through the means of social, progressive, UN- oriented and mainstream media, etc.


Goal 4

We create Commons Trusts and work to ensure that commons based public finance policies are adopted at all levels of government and all around the world, particularly through our work at the United Nations and through UN associated processes.


• While Goal 1 and 2 are aimed at creating a commons based community and economy at all levels, Goal 4 will provide the financial wherewithal from local to global levels to reclaim, restore and expand these commons and implement our first two goals. • Promote community led efforts to reclaim the commons, using the socially generated land value (land rent; and permit fees levied at source for the use of non-depletable natural and possibly also social commons resources). Surface land sites and other commons resources are commons of enormous value that are now largely privatized and used as a basis for speculation, profiteering, land grabbing and mortgage loans. • Describe how the use of indicators, relevant to the well-being of all people and nature, as well as commons-based tax structures can be used to bring about this shift and how this will affect mining and waste management and provide funds for the restoration of the commons, poverty alleviation and possibly a basic income for all people; • Inform the UN and Member Nations of the advantages of using these financing mechanisms.


1. Simultaneous to building and empowering the commons network we will compile and educate about best practices and models for the commoning process, Commons Trusts and commons based public finance policy. (This objective should indicate how many Trusts we want to create and finance policies implemented; what types, where, and by whom; etc.)


• Advocate best practices at the UN with our colleagues and put those who are participating or interested in the Commons Abundance Network in touch with experts in the relevant fields • Adopt and use ethics, responsible practices, and policies to reclaim and sustain Land and Natural Resource Commons and assure that they are both fairly shared and responsibly cared for in perpetuity. • We ask people to remember that we have the power to protect our commons for sustenance, ongoing health and for future generations. We profile the need for deeper levels of engagement in governance and new measures for decision-making that are rooted in commons principles. • Advocate strongly at the UN for the restoration of our common Inheritance by recognizing and proclaiming this part of the global commons. • Taxes should be shifted away from labour and productive capital and on to the capture of resource rent to raise public revenues. For extractive resources, timber, and water resources, a cap and share approach can be used. For surface land, commons zoning laws can detail land use plans. • Shifting the property tax off homes and other buildings and onto the land value of sites will capture the commons of surface land rent. Studies so far in Australia, US, and UK are indicating that surface land rent alone is equal to at least one third of GDP. The land rent commons is socially generated. It is the surplus value accruing to surface land. • The use of depletable natural resources must be capped and this cap must be strictly adhered to. What remains after the cap has been enforced can be made available for use by the highest bidder for use-permits issued at source. The monies raised can go to restoring the commons, reimbursing the communities that are most affected and a contribution made to a global fund administered by the UN and used for the restoration of global c ommons (air, water and land quality and bio-diversity) and to provide a basic income for all people. • This will allow those who purchase the non-depletable resources to both contribute significantly to this fund and also to pass the costs of the permit to those who buy the products made from the resources purchased. In this way, all who use the available (non-capped) resources share in the cost and contributte to the health of the global commons and all global commoners(all people). • Propose ethics, practices, and policies to assure that such commons domains as follow are both fairly shared and responsibly cared for in perpetuity:

   1)       Surface Land Site Value
   2)       Lands Used for Timber, Grazing, Oil and Mineral Extraction 
   3)       Air and Water
   4)       The Deep Seas  
   5)       Electromagnetic Spectrum, Satellite Orbital Zones, and Outer Space
   6)       DNA, the Deep Commons of Inner Space, and Intellectual Property Rights

• Share the understanding that when surface land is treated as a market commodity for speculation and profiteering, land prices increase, and faster than wages and the return to productive capital. Most of us have to assume ever increasing debt in mortgage payments in order to gain access to the surface land commons for housing, business locations, sustainable small farm agriculture and other “real economy” activities. We will call for and support policies to change this. • Similarly, land ownership has become highly concentrated worldwide as a result of enclosure, colonization, and rent-seeking behaviour. This has lead to an extreme concentration of wealth and private financial sector control of the global economy to the detriment of ordinary people, the productive economy, and the environment.

   We support policies and legislation under which it is recognized that "Rent”-  the
   unearned income accruing to surface land and other natural commons – is socially 
   created and therefore should be “captured” or “returned” to society as a whole in order to 
   finance common basic needs for education, sanitation, public transportation and other 
   social goods.

• We will support efforts to shift taxes off of labor and the private production of goods and services and onto the ownership and use of land and natural resources, as called for in the founding documents of the UNHabitat agency. • As many commons resources have become privatized, they have often been degraded. Timber lands are too often monocultures; grazing lands are over-grazed; oil and minerals mining most often does not internalize the full environmental and social costs of resource extraction, etc.We will call and work to ensure that contracts and conditions for use of land for timber, grazing, oil and mineral extraction are negotiated, written, and legally agreed upon via a process of open, transparent, and sufficient input by citizens in the locality or regions impacted by these activities. • We will insist that such processes adhere to such guidelines as have been developed by Alanna Hartzok (IULVT and Earth Rights Institute) and distributed by Commons Action for the United Nations and CAN, etc. (They are archived at: within the Solutions sections under the part entitled Claiming and Sustaining the Land and Natural Resource Commons starting at Line 500.)This should be worked out here in the text. • We will call for and work to establish a Global Resource Agency or Global Commons Trust to collect user fees for transnational commons. This would include parking charges for satellites placed in geostationary orbits, royalties on minerals mined or fish caught in international waters, and the use of the atmosphere, outer space and the electromagnetic spectrum. • We will also support the development and use of such global revenue sources as taxes or fees based on the polluter-pay principle, such as international flights or aviation fuel, international shipping, or dumping at sea; a tax on currency exchanges which would discourage currency speculation; and a tax on or elimination of international arms trading. • We will call for the Universal Adoption, Application and Enforcement of all UN conventions, international treaties, UN Outcome Documents, and related laws but particularly those dealing with Sustainable Development and Financing for Development, the Multi-Lateral Environmental Agreements, and the Rio Principles, etc.

Goal 5

Establish a legal foundation for owning and managing commons resources, beginning with those Laws and Treaties relating to Indigenous peoples, UN agreements, an Ecocide Convention, etc.; and also through the development of Charters that will legalize the ownership and use of specific commons.


• Work closely with Indigenous Peoples via CAN, the UN Indigenous Peoples Major Group, and other contacts to develop a legal basis for the commons-based political, social and economic structures, including for the management of the environment based on their existing Treaties and experience worldwide and to prevent enclosure of the commons

• Work with Polly Higgins on an Ecocide Convention

• Work with other specialists including the Seattle Group of lawyers.(ask James)

• Advocate that Ecocide be proclaimed the 5th Crime Against Peace

• Support the development of Commons Trust Agreements and Treaties such as have been put forward by Joan Russow.

• Support the call for a Charter of Universal Responsibilities, as a third pillar accompanying the UN Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to provide a means to encourage all elements of society to operate in a more responsible manner and to be held accountable for their actions and behavior.

Actions and Objectives

 The Actions and Objectives will be developed in cooperation with specialists in this area of activities.

 A Convention on Ecocide is adopted.

 A Charter of Universal Responsibilities is promoted and supported through the Peoples Sustainability Treaty on the Charter and The Widening Circles process.

 The Charter of Universal Responsibilities is formally adopted by the United Nations.

Goal 6

Achieve United Nations recognition of commons approaches as viable [necessary] solutions to aid in the deep restructuring of the global rules and institutions that are responsible for achieving sustainable development and human security, along with the development of effective well-financed institutions to bring this about. (encourage them to participate in building governance structures based on a commons approach.)

(This goal needs to be developed with other experts and groups as we go along. We need to include Strategies and Action Steps that show how the UN can and is focusing on the need for restructuring our global rules and institutions.)

Goals 7

Use the subtle relationships among people and with nature to bring about a global shift in consciousness from win/lose to an all-win approach to relationships. This approach can involve applying scientific and spiritual understandings of the uses of the Zero Point/Quantum/Morphic Fields and of meditation.


• Realize that whatever is created exists first in the subtle realm and that this level of existence can be influenced using a variety of methods.

• Use these methods as a way of adding strength to all else we are doing.


• Hold daily meetings in the UN’s meditation room during UN conferences • Encourage participants to use this dimension.

More Information

  • Contact via Dr. Lisinka Ulatowska, UN Rep. Association of World Citizens; Institute for Planetary Synthesis

  • Documents:
  1. Letter to the General Secretary of the U.N.: Towards a Rights and Values Based Global Economy