Since its foundation in 1946, the United Nations has undergone a continuous process of reform, each phase reflecting the renewed priorities of its membership.
The decolonization period and the subsequent independence of numerous States in Africa and Asia provided a unique opportunity for the United Nations to address the needs of the newly independent nations. Within twenty years of its creation, UN membership more than doubled reaching 118 by 1965. The emergence of new States showed the need for a strengthening of the United Nations system in the area of socioeconomic development. Various institutions, funds, programs and agencies were established to meet the needs of the expanded membership. The United Nations Development Programme was founded in 1966 as the main arm of the development strategy of the United Nations. United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) was established in 1965 to provide training and support to the new Member States in meeting their challenges as new Members of the Organization.
With the end of the Cold War, a new chapter opened for the Organization. The first half of the 1990s saw the launching of a string of new peacekeeping operations by the Security Council in Europe and Africa. Suddenly the United Nations was entrusted with huge peacekeeping operations which stretched its managerial, financial and administrative capabilities to the maximum.
Recognizing the limitations of peacekeeping operations and the realization that the absence of military conflicts does not ensure peace and security, the United Nations Security Council decided in 1992 to reform its approach and also give priority to addressing non-military sources of instability. It identified specifically economic, social, humanitarian and ecological fields as a potential sources of threats to peace and security. The concept of post-conflict peace-building was born.
In the late year 1997, Secretary-General Kofi Annan launched a series of reforms to improve the coherence of the United Nations and the ability of the Organization to respond to increased challenges in socioeconomic development, humanitarian assistance and human rights. The United Nations Millennium Development goals were agreed upon in the year 2000. The Global Compact, a platform to engage private corporations in adopting accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption was launched.
The next reform phase started as of the year 2005 World Summit, which reaffirmed the importance of an effective multilateral system and the need to provide multilateral solutions to increased challenges in the fields of development, peace and collective security, human rights and the rule of law. The United Nations Human Rights Council and the Peacebuilding Commission were established. In the year 2007, the United Nations launched Delivering as One to streamline the work of all UN Funds and Programs in the area of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment.
At another level, calls for the reform of the Security Council have been debated since the year 1993. Demand for the reform of the USCR came from major contributors like Germany and Japan as well as from India, Brazil, and the African Group. No consensus has emerged on an expansion of the UNSC. Ideas have also been advanced to revitalize the work of the General Assembly.
The membership also called for increased efforts to strengthen the Organization through a series of management and secretariat reforms. Under-Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations consolidated its activities aimed at empowering women through the establishment of one agency, UN Women. The disarmament and non-proliferation agenda of the United Nations was also re-energized. A robust accountability system has been developed with an emphasis on transparency and integrity.
In the year 2020, the United Nations marked its 75th anniversary. While there is general agreement that the Organization is more indispensable than ever for the peace and security of the world. Reform is not an end in itself. It is a process which allows the Membership to review the agenda and structure of the Organization.
When the United Nations was created, the alliance among the founding Members was built on the ashes of some eighty million deaths in the preceding two world wars. Today, the United Nations has evolved into a highly complex system of organizations and programs tasked by the membership to solve problems that cross nations and often seem unresolvable. The number of international treaties keeps increasing.
An interconnected world does not translate into a more unified world and challenges to the role of the United Nations are ever-growing and ever more numerous. Globalization has been accompanied by decentralization. The priorities and interests of the United Nations Membership are diverse and all-encompassing. The role of States has also evolved. Civil society, non-governmental organizations and private corporations cross national boundaries and impact core national priorities. A growing network of NGOs now complements the capabilities of governments. The wealth of some private individuals is greater than the GDP of many member states. The increased number of international and regional organizations created outside the United Nations system is also a challenge for the Organization as some States believe that some global problems can be more effectively tackled through other institutions.
The United Nations operates today in a volatile economic environment governed by financial crises and a global redistribution of the geography of poverty and exclusion. During the past years, an increasing number of Least Developed Countries (LDCs) have achieved sustained economic growth. This entailed less reliance on Official Development Assistance (ODA). However, the distribution of wealth and inequalities persist and they extend today to middle and high-income countries. The United Nations is faced with the challenge of reinventing the global development agenda.
As a pivotal world affairs organisation and to maintain hegemony to global governance in the present situation, United Nations has to adopt action that increases the effectiveness of allied Peacekeeping forces through more efficient or effective use of defence resources to uphold the United Nations Charter to its alliance members with stipulated International laws.
Keeping the process of reform is vital to help galvanize new resources and arrangements for international cooperation that transcend the boundaries of geography and sector. Reform is key to the survival of the United Nations.
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