Some 50 civil society organisations from all over the world claimed this week for the creation of an Intergovernmental Commission on International Cooperation on Tax Matters to protect nations from abusive practices, including evasion and the race to the bottom in corporate taxation. The claim is headed by the international networks of development groups Eurodad, CIDSE, ActionAid, Christian Aid and the Tax Justice Network (TJN), and the Danish group Ibis.
The United States (US) invasion of Iraq in March 2003, which launched a unilateral ‘preventive war’, deepened the unresolved crisis regarding the relevance of the United Nations (UN) in the 21st century international arena. The crisis was aggravated seven months later when the UN Security Council approved Resolution 1511 which accepted the occupation and acknowledged the US full powers to rebuild Iraq.
An Ambassador to the UN ended up stating that such declaration had been ‘the suicide of the Security Council’, because by ‘recognizing that the US can invade a country and manage to obtain the support of the international community, it has declared de UN to be irrelevant’. His statement partly agreed with that of Anne-Marie Slaughter, expert on international law at Princeton University: ‘Iraq has been of use to show that the UN has either to change or fall into irrelevance’.
The need to reform the UN had already been raised by the Secretary General himself, Kofi Annan. The ‘Millennium General Assembly’, held in September 2000, approved a ‘Millennium Declaration’ which also included the topic of the ‘United Nations Reform’.
The following requirements are put forward, among others, throughout the eleven sections of article VIII of such Declaration: to further strengthen the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the International Court of Justice; to improve better cooperation between the United Nations, its agencies and other multilateral bodies; and to further strengthen cooperation with national parliaments through the Inter-Parliamentary Union. There is also a demand to give greater opportunities to contribute to civil society, to ensure a timely and predictable provision of resources to the United Nations and to urge the Secretariat to make good use of those resources by concentrating on the priorities of Member States and by adopting the best management practices.
The UN needs reforms such as reduction in bureaucracy and in the number of very well-paid positions of doubtful benefit, elimination of duplication of departments, improvement of the organization and celerity of peacekeeping missions. An important step in the reform process took place on 15 March 2006 when an overwhelming majority in the General Assembly approved the creation of a Human Rights Council, in place of the much criticised and flawed Human Rights Commission (see further information).
But the UN renovation implies, above all, to reform the Security Council, its powers, composition and the right of veto of permanent member states.
The last time the Security Council structure was reformed was 40 years ago. With regards to important aspects, for example the group of five permanent members, it dates back even to the post-war order defined in 1945. The UN had 50 members then instead of the nearly 200 it counts nowadays. At the present time, neither the big regions from the Southern Hemisphere nor important industrialized countries are permanent members of the Security Council. In this way, the Security Council is progressively less representative and lacks legitimacy.
After the events in and around Iraq, Kofi Annan re-launched the debate on the reform and established a panel of 16 eminent personalities, to which he assigned the task of advising him on specific recommendations to be presented before the 2005 General Assembly, when the organization commemorated its 60th anniversary. Among these recommendations not only is the question of how the United Nations should collectively react to the new threats but also the new basic legitimacy of the main United Nations’ bodies, being the Security Council among them. Kofi Annan has described this next stage as a ‘crossroads’; a moment that is of the same importance for the UN as its founding back in 1945.
Based on the book For a strong and democratic United Nations: A South perspective on UN reform, by South Centre
This online focus page is intended to provide an overview of the follow-up to the High-level Panel’s Report on System-wide Coherence. Here you can find information about the Secretary-General’s follow-up to the report, information about the report itself and what non-governmental actors are saying about the report. Since the release of the High-level Panel’s report, NGLS has organized - or co-organized - several events bringing governmental and non-govermental actors together to discuss the report’s reccomendations and follow-up.
The UN Secretary-General recently released his report, "Recommendations contained in the report of the High-level Panel on United Nations System-wide Coherence in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment" and submitted it to the General Assembly. He formally presented the report in a plenary meeting of the General Assembly on Monday, 16 April 2007. Pdf version.
Ten ways for the U.N. to "deliver as one". Recommendations in brief from the Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on U.N. system-wide coherence in the areas of Development, Humanitarian Assistance and he Environment. 9 November 2006 (pdf format).
The measures and proposals set out in this report –dated in 1997- encompass the reform programme undertaken by the Secretary-General during his first six months in office. It constitutes an extensive and far-reaching set of changes that will move the Organization firmly along the road to major and fundamental reform designed to achieve greater unity of purpose, coherence of effort and flexibility in response. (pdf format)
The present report suggests a number of improvements aimed at ensuring that the Organization devotes its attention to the priorities fixed by the Member States, and that the Secretariat gives better service. However, the intergovernmental organs must also change. The General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council both need to adapt in order to realize their potential, while the stalled process of Security Council reform needs new impetus. The work programme of the Organization as a whole should be better focused, with fewer but more productive meetings and fewer but more useful documents. September 2002 (pdf version).
Secretary-General Kofi Annan presented to Member States his proposals for a fundamental overhaul of the United Nations Secretariat in March 2006. He states that the organization's rules, systems and culture need significant retooling and investment if the UN is to fulfill growing expectations and demands placed on it by the international community. March 2006 (pdf version).
Calling for action, not more words, to fulfil pledges already made, Secretary-General Kofi Annan on 21 March laid before the General Assembly his plan for United Nations reform, ranging from greater investment in developing countries to steps to fight catastrophic terrorism and collective action against genocide and ethnic cleansing.
In September 2003 Secretary General Kofi Annan announced to the General Assembly his appointment of a High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change to make recommendations towards the reform of the UN. Suggestions on taking action against terrorist threats ominously echo the US doctrine of pre-emptive strikes, but a strike would require Security Council approval. December 2, 2004. (pdf document)
More than the sum of its parts, the reform effort is credited with bringing about a culture of greater openness, coherence, innovation and confidence within the world body. It provides a significant re-shaping of the United Nations Organization to respond to the challenge of maintaining and improving multilateralism in the twenty first century.
There is no mistaking the reasons: the concerted opposition of most developing countries, constituting the overwhelming majority of UN member states, acting under the banner of the Group of 77 plus China, has stalled and frustrated many of the most significant management reforms. These countries, democracies as well as authoritarian regimes, have come to believe the United States and its rich and powerful partners are pressing a hidden agenda of consolidating their control over the United Nations under the banner of reform. So long as this attitude prevails, it will be difficult to find a path to approval by the General Assembly of reforms to an institution widely agreed to be in urgent need of a makeover to meet the immense challenges of the 21st century. October 2007 (pdf version).
This World Economy and Development piece calls the UN High-Level Panel on System-Wide Coherence's November 2006 report a "hybrid of innovation and status quo," with few proposals likely to elicit North-South support. Moreover, the author argues that the UN member states - rich and poor alike - have played a "pivotal" role in the organization's "shortcomings" in development. He concludes that the UN cannot make progress as long as donor nations try to push their own agendas while others remain strongly resistant to any form of change. November 2006 (pdf version).
The strength of the U.N. is that it includes everyone within a common tent. Without the all-encompassing infrastructure, capability for effective international discourse would be crippled. The U.N. is essential to world peace and security. We should be building it up, not tearing it down. August 2006.
There is no doubt that the United Nations could benefit from some serious reforms – but one of the major ones would be an exclusion of the influence of individual member states other than when expressed in collective decisions by bodies like the General Assembly and the Security Council. June 2006.
What the UN needs most is an administrative justice system open to people directly affected by UN policies. In the long run, the UN should have a unified tribunal system with a high court at the top that can issue binding rulings, but it could start with judicial oversight of UN entities that wield power over vulnerable individuals. April 2006.
The mission of the Center for UN Reform Education is to encourage, generate and sustain a serious public discussion of various specific proposals to reform and restructure the United Nations System, all with a view toward improving the effectiveness of that System.
Through the years, scores of independent commissions, governmental studies, and individual scholars have put forward literally hundreds of proposals aimed at making the world body work better, decide more fairly, modify its mandate, or operate more efficiently. Not to be left behind by the reform bandwagon, successive Secretaries-General and units of the Secretariat have engaged in frequent, if episodic, bouts of self-examination and self-criticism, offering their own reform agendas (pdf version, 2003).
Despite the fact that the United States was one of the driving forces behind establishing the United Nations in 1945 and initiated many of the multilateral treaties that have encouraged cooperation on our planet, there has been a steady decline in the U.S. government’s support of the UN and the agreements it helped establish. "The Treaty Database - A Monitor of U.S. participation in Global Affairs" is a report from the Global Cooperation Project of the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. September 2004 (pdf version).
The US approached the World Summit with diffidence because the Summit sought to strengthen the UN's future capacity. Washington was not concerned with the UN’s “structural deficiencies” but rather with allegations of corruption in the oil-for-food programme. The author suggests that the US does not want the UN strengthened and it wants any reform to be only on their terms. The US would rather “de-fang the beast, not give it more bite.” (International Spectator). December 2005 (pdf version).
The months before the "Millennium +5" Summit presented Secretary-General Kofi Annan with a rare opportunity to persuade world leaders to treat the organisation as more than just an annual opportunity to grandstand in front of the TV cameras. His March 2005 reform package -"In Larger Freedom: towards development, security and human rights for all"– was designed to persuade them to live up to their promises, and the UN talked it up accordingly. Sept. 19, 2005.
The United Nations desperately needs reform. The power relations of the global organisation’s structure - particularly the undemocratic Security Council - cry out for transformation. Yet the most powerful member-states determinedly resist any prospect of reduced authority; the desire of the second world war victors to orchestrate the post-war world, however anachronistic, is undiminished. December 2004.
The US State Department has released the full text of a speech by Mark Lagon, Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organization Affairs, made at the conservative Hudson Institute on September 13, 2004.
Discussion about the need for reform of the United Nations is certainly not new, nor is it confined to eliminating the countless shortcomings of the organization in the realm of work procedures, efficiency and cost. Various reform initiatives in the past have always been marked by deep-seated conflicts of interest among member states and have thus usually led to relatively insignificant changes to the bureaucracy. But reforms are now being attempted in all areas of the organization's work. July 1995.
A presentation to the Open-Ended High-Level Working Group on the Strengthening of the United Nations System, February 1996. Released by the Bureau of International Organization Affairs, February 20, 1996.
“The United Nations faces serious problems: it has a hide-bound organizational edifice in which, for example, there are overlapping agencies for development and humanitarian assistance; a patronage system that allows member states to appoint supporters and hence encourages incompetence and waste; inadequate financial discipline; and an often indistinct vision. Its record of past successes, such as ending apartheid in South Africa, moderating the nuclear arms race, instituting democracy in El Salvador and Haiti, and bringing peace to Guatemala and Angola, has been tarnished by such persistent bureaucratic and political defects. Indeed, the organization's vexing and long-running fiscal and political crises have for the first time raised questions about its ability to survive into the next millennium.”
Stephen Schlesinger is director of the World Policy Institute at the New School for Social Research and acting publisher of the World Policy Journal. He wrote this article in 1997, while working in a book on the 1945 San Francisco Conference that founded the United Nations.
The Assembly supports the package of structural reforms presented by the Secretary General in July 1997, and the subsequent related resolutions of the General Assembly. It considers that these measures, which are largely already being implemented, constitute a solid basis for an improved management structure and a more effective use of available resources.
Since the birth of the League of Nations in 1919, a residual isolationism in the United States has periodically inhibited the struggle to build even a minimally effective world organization. New York Review of Books. July 16, 1998.
The Chairmen of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and of its Subcommittee on International Operations asked GAO to assess the status and impact of the U.N. reform program. Specifically, GAO assessed whether the United Nations had put into place the three core elements of its reform program and whether U.N. management and performance were improving as intended. May 2000 (pdf version).
“President George W. Bush's major address to the United Nations General Assembly in New York on September 23, 2003, was a powerful wake-up call for an organization that is in danger of becoming an outdated irrelevance on the world stage. At the dawn of the 21st century, the United Nations looks more like a glorified debating society than a serious global body designed to confront the world's growing threats and problems.”
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., is Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory Affairs in the Center for International Trade and Economics, and Baker Spring is F. M. Kirby Research Fellow in National Security Policy in the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies, at The Heritage Foundation.
Article 109 of the U.N. Charter required that a general conference "for the purpose of reviewing the present Charter" be held within the world body's first 10 years. If such a conference was not held before the 1955 annual autumn session of the U.N. General Assembly, the Charter stated, a proposal to call such a conference would automatically take its place on the agenda of that year's 10th session of the General Assembly, where every member country gets an equal vote. Pat Orvis has been covering the United Nations as a resident correspondent since 1982.
On February 16 2006, the United Nations announced the appointment of a new High-level Panel on UN System-wide Coherence in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment. Crosscutting gender and women's rights issues had not been included among the Panel's responsibilities until national and international women groups lobbied Kofi Annan. It seems that not only is it necessary to incorporate the discussion into the High-Level Panel but also that many more things should be changed to be able to talk about equity. March 2007.
The UN Human Rights Council, established in March 2006, will investigate the human rights record of all member states every four years through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR). This inter-state mechanism only allows country representatives to question each other. Several NGOs feel that this prevents them from participating actively in the review process. UN officials disagree with this criticism, arguing that NGOs can contribute to the process by providing recommendations as part of country's delegations. April 2008 (pdf version).
The UN Human Rights Council was established in 2006 to replace the widely discredited Human Rights Commission. Through the reforms it intends to adopt, the Council aims to better promote and protect human rights around the world. But a year after its existence, activists are saying that the Council has acquired the same flaws that its predecessor had. June 2007.
Human rights groups struggle to increase their involvement with the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council (HRC) and ensure that HRC decisions translate into action in their respective home countries. A coalition of Asian NGOs made recommendations for strengthening international human rights so that victims can receive compensation despite "faulty" domestic processes. September 2006 (pdf version).
NGOs welcomed the creation of the Human Rights Council but now fear that a failure by the new body to recognize the long fought-for "rights and privileges [they] acquired at the Commission" could potentially weaken NGO participation. In this article, the Conference of NGOs (CONGO) expresses hope that the newly created Council will retain active NGO involvement in its work. March 2006.
Amnesty International, Association for the Prevention of Torture, Baha'i International, Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions, Colombian Commission of Jurists, Franciscans International, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists, International Service for Human Rights, Lutheran World Federation, Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture, Quaker UN Office and Rights Australia welcome the strong reaffirmation in the Secretary-General's report "In larger freedom", that human rights and the rule of law are integral components of the "vital and achievable" reform goals for the Millennium summit in September 2005. April 2005.
The reform process of United Nations mechanisms for the protection of human rights, launched by the Secretary General, is on the way. Several documents: the Secretary General’s report, In Larger Freedom, the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ The OHCHR Plan of Action: Protection and Empowerment, and, Mr. Jean Ping’s Draft Outcome Document for the High Level Plenary Meeting of the General Assembly of September 2005, have started to give shape to the reform process. While numerous aspects remain unclear and are not unanimously approved, it appears that the basic principles are being agreed upon. July 2005.
When the US, one of the self-declared champions of human rights, ran for a seat in the 53-member U.N. Human Rights Commission back in May 2001, it suffered a humiliating defeat and was ousted from the panel for the first time since its creation in 1947. Now the United States is spearheading a campaign to disband the commission and replace it with a new Human Rights Council to be elected directly by the 191-member General Assembly by a two-thirds majority. September 2005.
Members of the Campaign for a UN Democracy Caucus signed a letter urging the Convening Group of the Community of Democracies to lead the Democracy Caucus to work actively in the negotiations for a strong and effective Human Rights Council. (PDF document).
This draft proposal "decides to establish a Human Rights Council, based in Geneva, in replacement of the Commission on Human Rights, as a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly". The draft has been supported by Nobel prize winners Jimmy Carter, Oscar Arias, Kim dae Jung, Shirin Ebadi, and Desmond Tutu. March 2006 (pdf version).
Mary Robinson, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, argues that the Human Rights Commission draft resolution contains many positive aspects. She includes how candidates must be elected by an absolute majority of the general assembly, with abstentions counting as negative votes. In practice this procedure could set a "higher standard than the two-thirds majority test initially proposed." She also argues that drafting marks only the beginning and people must ask what governments will do after the vote to make the Council effective. (International Herald Tribune) March 2006.
The Center for U.N. Reform Education has issued (May 2003) a volume of essays offering a number of proposals for a global parliamentary assembly, entitled “A Reader on Second Assembly and Parliamentary Proposals”. UNA-USA's executive director of policy studies, Jeffrey Laurenti, was invited to contribute an article critiquing the proposals.
The FutureUN project intends to examine the future of the United Nations Development System. The project has arisen from a recognition that the 30 agencies of the UN Development System have lived through several decades of a fast-changing global environment and will need to adapt to the new realities, challenges and actors. February 2010.
Major changes in the way the United Nations system works in development, environment and humanitarian affairs have been proposed by the high-level panel on UN coherence in a report launched on 9 November at the UN secretariat in New York. The panel proposes sweeping reforms of the UN's activities at country level, as the UN system is envisaged to move towards "one UN" (in terms of office, chief representative, funding and programme). The panel also suggests the establishment of new institutions and mechanisms at UN headquarters level. November 2006.
"This is over. This document, the manner in which it was conceived, its contents, how they are eroding the modest goals of the Millennium, all this shows that at 60, the United Nations system is suffering from terminal cancer," said Venezuela's president, Hugo Chávez at the UN World Summit. 16 September 2005.
The United Nations is at a cross-roads and 'under siege' and fundamental issues need to be tackled, needing some major reforms, says the South Centre in a policy paper on the future of the United Nations.
The UN has failed the world, and its mission has been taken over by the United States because the UN did not have the necessary tools to enforce its resolutions. Dr. Mariam Al-Oraifi is a Saudi academic. She is based in Riyadh.
Some 50 civil society organisations from all over the world claimed this week for the creation of an Intergovernmental Commission on International Cooperation on Tax Matters to protect nations from abusive practices, including evasion and the race to the bottom in corporate taxation.
The Year in Review 2006, published by the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS), gives a snapshot picture of civil society engagement in the policy and normative work of the UN and reviews the various consultations, forums, policy dialogues, hearings, CSO advisory committees, that have taken place throughout the year 2006. The Year in Review 2006 is available on line in English, pdf format. April 2007.
"We approach the Report of the High Level Panel on UN System-Wide Coherence (Panel's Report) and the process of UN reform of which it is part and parcel as civil society groups with a long experience in carrying out advocacy towards reform of the UN system. In this intervention, as in previous ones, we seek to ensure that some values and principles remain at the centre of the processes of institutional reform." April 2007 (pdf version).
NGLS is a small inter-agency programme, established in Geneva and New York in 1975 and 1976 respectively, with the aim of strengthening UN-NGO dialogue and cooperation in the fields of development education, information and policy advocacy on global sustainable development issues. In October 2004, NGLS launched a new section of its website to provide up-to-date information on UN reform with a special focus on UN – Civil Society Relations. The new section also showcases background information on the reform process, including reports issued by the Secretary-General and the Secretary-General's Panel of Eminent Persons on UN Civil Society Relations, statements by Member States, perspectives from the NGO community, background papers and more.
On 16 September 2004, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan released his response to the Cardoso Panel report “We the Peoples: Civil Society, the United Nations and Global Governance”. A few days later, an NGO paper in response to the Secretary General's recommendations on the High Level Panel on UN-Civil Society Relations has been produced. The paper addresses some misunderstandings and concerns of governments and NGOs related to the Panel's report.
NGOs contribute valuable information and ideas, advocate effectively for positive change, provide essential operational capacity in emergencies and development efforts, and generally increase the accountability and legitimacy of the global governance process. The United Nations must strengthen and deepen its relations with NGOs in order to create a stronger, more effective and more legitimate organization. Submission to the President of the General Assembly by: Eurostep, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, Global Policy Forum, North-South Institute, Social Watch, Third World Institute, WEDO, World Federalist Movement- Institute for Global Policy. March 2006.
Historically, the selection process of the UN Secretary-General has been almost exclusively conducted behind closed doors by the five permanent members of the Security Council: Russia, China, the USA, UK and France. Thus, in choosing the highest international official, there has been no formal and transparent process, timeline, candidate criteria, or background check. UNSGselection, a new initiative of The World Federalist Movement – Institute for Global Policy, is a global campaign calling for a democratic, transparent and effective selection process for the UN Secretary-General. February 2006.
This web site -a project started by the World Federalist Movement - Institute for Global Policy (WFM-IGP)- provides up-to-date information about UN reform in 2005: its background, Member States' positions, reactions from parliamentarians, and civil society responses.
United Nations Watch is a non-governmental organization based in Geneva whose mandate is to monitor the performance of the United Nations by the yardstick of its own Charter. UN Watch was established in 1993 under the Chairmanship of Ambassador Morris B. Abram, the former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva. UN Watch participates actively as an accredited NGO in Special Consultative Status with the UN Economic and Social Council.
Flavio Lotti, a representative of the Italian NGO Tavola della Pace, has been working since 1987 for the restructuring of the United Nations. The aim is to make the UN more democratic and less dependent on the agenda of rich countries, particularly the United States. January 2005.
This report has been prepared in response to the report of the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations--Civil Society Relations (Cardoso Report). It offers comments and recommendations from the perspective of the UN Secretariat and is expected to be presented to the General Assembly in early October. Building on the Panel's proposals, this report makes a number of concrete suggestions and actions in connection with strengthening the participation of NGOs in UN intergovernmental bodies, the accreditation process, improving involvement of NGOs from developing countries and enhancing the UN's own institutional capacity for NGO engagement (pdf version).
Report of the Panel of Eminent Persons on United Nations–Civil Society Relations, that was launched on 21 June 2004 by the Chairman of the Panel, former Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The Panel believes that “constructively engaging with civil society is a necessity for the United Nations, not an option” (doc version).
This report concludes that the Cardoso Report is seriously flawed and, if implemented, would not improve UN-NGO relations. The report raises questions about the “partnership” and “multi-constituency” models offered by the report and it urges a more fundamental critique of global institutions and power relations (pdf version).
The current process of reform has focused on matters of form and procedure as well as on “capacity building”. According to this paper, NGOs believe that, to truly enhance the system, reform should also address underlying problems such as: the difficulties faced by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in processing reports and ensuring appropriate follow-up, because of inadequate resources; the methodology used in the consideration of reports by treaty bodies; the lack of political will that determines non-reporting by certain States parties; and the insufficient independence and/or expertise of some treaty body members.
At the core of the policy and institutional reforms endorsed in the Millennium Declaration is a commitment to ensuring that the United Nations serves the needs and hopes of people everywhere – giving new life to the opening words of the UN Charter – “We the Peoples”. Through this Declaration, the United Nations has made “putting people at the center of everything we do” its guiding motto for the 21st Century.
From Wall Street to Main Street, Americans are, often for the very first time, paying attention to the role of the United States and the United Nations in the world. This public inspection has opened a window of opportunity for American internationalists across the political spectrum – from progressives to conservatives –to affirm a new American vision of international institutions and laws.
The following analysis covers events and Member States dynamics in the Open-ended Working Group and in the Security Council during the 62nd General Assembly session, and also on the road ahead. November 2008.
In the context of Security Council reform, the concept of a transitional approach (sometimes also referred to as “an intermediate model,” “an interim solution” or as in the Task Force report, “a timeline perspective”) was first floated by Germany in the mid-1990s in an attempt to entice skeptical states to begin direct negotiations. Most such proposals included “transitional” permanent seats for Germany and their partners in the Group of Four (G4): Brazil, Japan and India. Although India often notes their preference for a comprehensive and permanent settlement, in reality they appear to accept the idea of a “transitional approach” as well. June 2008.
Most Member States agree on expanding the membership of the Council, but they are sharply divided on the category in which the increase should take place and by how many. During a plenary meeting of the General Assembly, the current president, Srgjan Kerim, reiterated the importance and complexity inherent to the reform process, which world leaders had stressed during the 2005 World Summit. During a press conference on 15 June 2007, Mr. Kerim supported the view that the Security Council should be more representative, more efficient and transparent in order to strengthen the legitimacy of its decisions. December 2007.
For more than a decade, the working methods of the United Nations Security Council have been the topic of much discussion within and outside the Council. This reflects concerns about a number of aspects of Council practice and procedure. Essentially most of these concerns are related to four key areas: transparency, participation, accountability, and efficiency. This Special Research Report looks back over the period from 1993 to the present and describes many of the efforts made to address these key issues. It is not an exhaustive history. The focus is more on issues and reforms to Council working methods which have ongoing relevance. October 2007.
The ambassadors of Tunisia, Cyprus, Croatia, Chile and the Netherlands facilitated a UN General Assembly report on Security Council reform. The report proposes temporarily expanding Security Council membership as part of a transitional approach to reform. Making available more Security Council seats would increase countries' chances of achieving Security Council membership. April 2007 (pdf version).
Jeffrey Laurenti is executive director of policy studies at the United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA). He presented this paper in his personal capacity at a symposium in Tokyo on March 17, 2003, on "What is expected of United Nations diplomacy now?—Seeking peace and prosperity in the 21st century," sponsored by the United Nations University and the Japanese Foreign Ministry, as part of a panel on “The U.N. Security Council and Japan.”
As the debate is now in full swing in the General Assembly, Global Policy Forum has just published a paper on Security Council reform, in which James Paul and Celine Nahory argue that adding more permanent members to the Security Council would enlarge a discredited oligarchy rather than build for a democratic future. They also oppose the addition of elected members, arguing that an expanded Council would be too large to function effectively and not substantially more representative. Instead, they propose a process of stronger regional representation as a future-oriented approach that can develop in stages and without the headache of Charter change. July 13, 2005.
While UN member states discuss adding new permanent seats to the Security Council, African states disagree on which countries should represent the continent as new permanent members. Various factors such as troop contribution records to UN peacekeeping missions, democratic values, African representation, financial contributions to the UN and financial capability will determine the likelihood of obtaining a seat. April 2005.
The Security Council has primary responsibility, under the Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security. It is so organized as to be able to function continuously, and a representative of each of its members must be present at all times at United Nations Headquarters. Five powerful countries sit as "permanent members" (China, United States, Russia, France and the United Kingdom) along with ten other member states, elected for two-year terms. Since 1990, the Council has dramatically increased its activity and it now meets in nearly continuous session. It dispatches military operations, imposes economic sanctions, mandates arms inspections, deploys human rights and election monitors and more.
Though many states favor reform of the Council, change in this conservative body moves very slowly. The five permanent members prefer a status quo that favors them, with only cosmetic changes. In 1965, Council membership expended from 11 to 15 members, but few find the body representative or accountable. This section assembles extensive information about Council reform, adressing issues on transparency, expansion, and voting methods.
Paper by the Chairman of the Open-Ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters Related to the Security Council. Razali Ismail - United Nations General Assembly President and Malaysia's Foreign Minister in 1997- consulted with 165 of the UN's 185 members and made a proposal for UNSC expansion on March 20, 1997. His plan would increase the number of UNSC members, permanent and non-permanent, from 15 to 24.
There is currently a consensus among the developing countries that the structure of the Security Council is anachronistic and unreflective of the current realities of the post-cold war world. Developing countries now make up more than two-thirds of the total UN membership, but are grossly underrepresented on the Security Council. This can be explained by the fact that many did not exist as sovereign independent states at the time the organisation was founded.
When the UN Security Council, led by two of its three key European members, stood defiant against Washington's drive towards war from September 2002 to May 2003, President George Bush failed to win international legitimacy for the Iraq invasion. The Bush administration spurned the global body as "irrelevant." But throughout those eight months the Council, and the UN as a whole, commanded more importance, more influence and ultimately more relevance than perhaps ever in their history.
The United Nations and 21st Century Security is a Stanley Foundation initiative aimed at helping the United Nations create a sustainable international security system in the new century, including support for the work of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan's High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change.
Peace operations: the UN and international conflicts
Far too often, Blue Helmets end up either creating more conflict than its resolution or being counterproductive or ineffective. In the first instance, peacekeepers become paramilitary enforcers for an outside authority. In the second, they do more harm than good because they've done nothing to ameliorate conditions or improve the situation on the ground and end up more a hindrance than a help. This article focuses mostly on the former using Haiti as the primary case study example after reviewing peacekeeping operations briefly in six other countries. In each case, the examples chosen show people on the ground as helpless victims of imperial exploitation (usually US-directed) with UN Blue Helmets used by outside powers for social control and domination, not keeping the peace. February 2007.
This groundbreaking study by the Henry L. Stimson Center and the Peace Dividend Trust attempts to quantify the economic impact of UN peacekeeping operations on the strained economies in which peacekeepers operate. The report concludes that UN missions "do less harm," in economic terms, than commonly believed. But there is also considerable room to promote local economies, especially in procurement practices and in how missions hire and pay local personnel. The report warns that if missions don't acknowledge the economic impact of their presence and the need to manage them, UN peacekeeping operations may actually hinder the long-term development prospects of the fragile economies that international institutions and donors are trying to help. March 2006 (pdf version).
The Secretary-General asked the Panel, composed of individuals experienced in various aspects of conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peace-building, to assess the shortcomings of the existing system and to make frank, specific and realistic recommendations for change.
The United Nations Foundation (UN Foundation) - as a chief supporter of the UN and its mission - has launched an initiative with a number of partners worldwide, “United Nations and Global Security,” that aims both to support fresh intellectual contributions to the dialogue surrounding the challenges facing the UN and to enlarge the circles of informed citizens who actively follow and contribute to that debate.
The Project on Peacekeeping and the United Nations is a public education effort to increase U.S. support and leadership for multilateral approaches to conflict. Begun in 1994, the Project is a program of the Council for a Livable World Education Fund, a non-profit, non-partisan educational organization.
In light of the need for an international body with sufficient legitimacy and authority to make inclusive and effective decisions on world social and economic affairs, Global Policy Forum's Jens Martens outlines the history of proposals to reform ECOSOC. Due to its lack of decision-making power and inappropriate size, reforming ECOSOC or establishing an alternative has been a recurrent issue of debate. November 2006.
This article argues that the UNs Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has sunk into obscurity. ECOSOC President Marjatta Rasi proposes that for the Council to reclaim its relevance it must improve cooperation with the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council and work more closely with the Bretton Woods Institutions.
The Economic and Social Council coordinates the work of the 14 UN specialized agencies, 10 functional commissions and five regional commissions; receives reports from 11 UN funds and programmes; and issues policy recommendations to the UN system and to Member States. Under the UN Charter , ECOSOC is responsible for promoting higher standards of living, full employment, and economic and social progress; identifying solutions to international economic, social and health problems; facilitating international cultural and educational cooperation; and encouraging universal respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
The European Union believes that an integral dimension of achieving effective levels of performance by the UN system in the field of development requires a capacity for provision of overall guidance on policy and operational matters by UN Member States. January 28, 1997.