Global Policy Forum

UN Reform

UN reform is endlessly discussed, but there is sharp disagreement on what kind of reform is needed and for what purpose. Foundations, think tanks and blue ribbon commissions regularly call for institutional renovation.  Secretary Generals trumpet their reform initiatives.  NGOs make earnest proposals.  And from Washington come somber warnings that the UN must "reform or die."

UN reform is not a politically neutral, technocratic exercise. Bids for power and privilege lurk in every proposal.  Many experts would like to see a stronger and more effective multilateral organization, but the mightiest governments are usually opposed to a robust institution, and they often use their power to block change.

In the UN's earlier years, reform came in waves, with cycles of about a decade. Today, reform activities seem never to stop. The site posts some useful Introductory Material.  It also considers indepth such issues as Security Council Reform, a topic that has been debated at the UN since 1993.  We also look at the reform of other major UN organs, such as the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the General Assembly, both seriously in need of renovation.

Picture Credit: United Nations
Recently, the Human Rights Commission was transformed into the Human Rights Council and a new Peacebuilding Commission was born.  Management Reform constantly revises the organization chart in the name of efficiency.  Among, the latest reform topics is Peacekeeping Reform, a broad area that includes incremental changes and even large leaps such as the proposed creation of a UN Standing Force.

Another popular reform topic today is the improved coordination and "Coherence" of the UN's many agencies, funds, programs, departments, research institute and other bodies.   Though efficiency may result, there is the danger that "one voice" may stifle creativity and enforce conservative policies.

The site looks at the Millennium+5 reforms, proposed by the Secretary General Kofi Annan in March 2005, a process that was weakened by complex negotiations and last-minute demands from Washington.   The site also posts General Analysis of UN reform topics more broadly.

Reform initiatives have also targeted NGOs and their role at the UN, not always positively.  The controversial Cardoso Report promoted roundtables and "hearings," with carefully-selected NGO actors, to replace a more open process.  In contrast to shrinking NGO space, the UN has rapidly expanded its relations with Business, through numerous "partnerships" and a high-profile "compact."

Financing of the UN is central to UN reform.  The UN cannot perform effectively as long as its budget remains tightly constrained.   For all the talk about auditors and oversight bodies, the UN mainly needs cash.  Financial reforms must consider new ways to raise funds, including "alternative financing" such as Global Taxes.

Finally, the site provides links and resources for further research on every aspect of UN reform.

General Analysis on UN Reform

altUN Reform Initiatives

altUN Reform Topics

altNGOs as new actors at the UN

altBusiness as a new actor at the UN

altUN Financial Crisis

altLinks and Resources on UN Reform


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