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Government-opposition agreement. What to expect from the UN?

The signing of the agreement in Mexico. Photo: TW @m_ebrard

On November 26, the Venezuelan government and opposition resumed the dialogue process in Mexico City, with the facilitation of Norway, concluding the reunion with the signing of the “Second Partial Agreement for the Protection of the Venezuelan People.” According to the text of the agreement, the recovery of some resources from the Venezuelan State that are blocked as a result of the sanctions is expected, which would be used to meet social needs in health, food, public services, among other matters.

The second partial agreement establishes “a single trust fund” that will be designed “in line with UN rules and procedures”, whose objective is to “support the implementation of social protection measures (…) within a programmatic framework (…) in line with the frameworks, plans and programs of the UN in Venezuela”. According to the government spokesman, Jorge Rodríguez, more than three billion dollars will be rescued in this way.

Likewise, this agreement provides for the creation of a “National Social Assistance Table” (MNAS), which will serve as an “auxiliary technical body for the dialogue and negotiation table, working on the realization of actions and programs of social attention.” As of the date of this article, information on the terms of reference of the MNAS has not been made public.

One of the critical issues of this social agreement is the role that the United Nations will play. The agreement does not define the terms or scope of the organization’s work, even though the parties have verbally assigned it an administration role. Since the UN carries out programs and policies in the national territory, it is expected to assume a key performance in the execution of the actions and programs that the MNAS will define. Even so, considerations of this nature reflect a biased and weak vision of what the United Nations must do in the country.

It is important to contextualize what this political agreement means to calibrate the demands and expectations at the level they should be. This is the first agreement between political forces, resulting from a negotiation supported by the international community, which publicly recognizes the UN as a relevant actor in the country’s social agenda. This means that the United Nations is called upon to play a high-level role in the eyes of global scrutiny. The value of this recognition transfers to the United Nations a greater responsibility in demanding appropriate actions and results while opening up an unprecedented opportunity to lead a comprehensive and coherent effort that allows for the unification of the UN response to the Venezuelan crisis composed by the humanitarian, human rights, and political spheres; that is, beyond a cooperation framework such as the one signed in September 2022, questioned by CSOs for various deficiencies and omissions.

Among other advantages, the fact that the United Nations manages funds and carries out activities on the social agenda gives it more elements to demand before the parties, and fundamentally before the government, that the Venezuelan crisis is humanitarian, not social, for which it requires to make the tragedy visible to its full extent and re-estimate the scope of the response based on current needs. Likewise, having the UN as an actor in the social agenda leads it, even with the restrictions of approach, resources and others, to be in a position to push for attention with a human rights approach, prioritizing the most vulnerable populations without utilitarian or political calculations. But one of the most awaited contributions of the UN is that it must facilitate the inclusion of civil society in the social agenda, and more broadly, in the negotiating table with the political forces to go, once and for all, for the root of this complex humanitarian emergency: the absence of democratic institutions and guarantees that impedes the transition towards stable, legitimate and effective governance.

The UN cannot see its participation in the social agenda into a point of arrival, but rather a starting point, with a view to objectives that go beyond mere assistance. In addition to the social improvements that we hope this will bring out, -and that must be evaluated by their results-, this engagement of the organization must be strategic and measured according to the due diligence that it exercises in relation to three key points: i) to promote a plural, independent participation and of civil society in the negotiations; iii) to encourage and supervise the enforcement of concrete roadmaps for the full effectiveness of all the rights of the Venezuelan population, including the one that enables the generation of the necessary conditions and guarantees for the holding of free elections in 2024 and; iii) to point out the failures and call for corrections from all parties where necessary. The UN must put into practice its lessons from the past and ensure that in the future its presence and actions do not validate any result in Venezuela, but rather those that offer structural solutions to the crisis.

In the next presentation, considerations of the role of civil society within this new conjuncture will be delved into, stressing some conditions and principles regarding its due performance.