The never-ending reform of the United Nations

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T he Library of the United Nations Office at Geneva hosts on a regular basis the well-named “Library Talks” on key subjects for the United Nations and the international community. Last September Humanitarian Alternatives attended the presentation of the book (only available in English) “Reforming the UN: A Chronology” by Joachim Müller published in June 2016. The book editor, also Director for Management and Finance at the organization for security and co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and former Director for Resource Management, World Meteorological Organization (WMO); gathered with John Burley Former Director, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and Chargé d’affaires of the international Development Law Organization; and Khalil Hamdani, Advisor to several multilateral organizations and former Director of the division of Investment, Technology and Enterprise Development, UNCTAD, in a debate moderated by Kathleen Cravero-Krifstofferson, President of the Oak Foundation, former Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and Director of the United Nations Program on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS).

Described as “a dictionary” by John Burley, the book, details reform initiatives from enlarging the Security Council to establishing mechanisms to protect Human Rights, passing through improving aid efficiency, strengthening peacekeeping, approving the Sustainable Development Goals and reforming UN management practices.

The book, seventh issue of a series of publications(1)Also find in the same series of publication: Joachim Müller, Reforming the United Nations: The struggle for Legitimacy and Effectiveness, Brill & Nijhoff Editions, August 2006 or Joachim Müller, Reforming the United Nations: The Challenge of Working Together, Brill & Nijhoff Editions, April 2010. launched on the same subject by the Brill and Nijhoff editions, is structured in four parts: the chronology of main reforms initiatives developed by each Secretary-General; a detail chronology of reforms written on a day-to-day basis; an introduction to the UN system and the recent and effective UN reforms. The editor illustrates political confrontations, the support and constraints of each major reform and the dynamics of decision-making within the UN.

During the presentation, the panelists stressed that one of the difficulties of achieving UN reforms mainly lies in the definition of the term “Reform” itself: “For some governments it means implementing better management, for others it is a matter of representative governance and for civil society it is a matter of empowerment and being able to tackle major issues”, stressed Khalil Hamdani.

 Slightly more than seventy years after its creation, the UN is now facing new realities and is confronted with complex crises that no longer correspond to the current structure of the organization. This publication will, beyond doubt, allow capitalizing on past experiences to better engage in future reforms. However, we regret that the dissemination and access to this rich source of information are in fact limited by an exorbitant sale’s price (159 €). This is probably not the best way to interest a wide range of people in this crucial but never-ending issue.

Audrey Sala – Coordinator of the review Humanitarian Alternatives

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1. Also find in the same series of publication: Joachim Müller, Reforming the United Nations: The struggle for Legitimacy and Effectiveness, Brill & Nijhoff Editions, August 2006 or Joachim Müller, Reforming the United Nations: The Challenge of Working Together, Brill & Nijhoff Editions, April 2010.