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Irrelevant or Indispensable?

The United Nations in the Twenty-first Century

Paul Heinbecker

Publication Year: 2005

Suffering from a divided membership, the United Nations is at a crossroads, unable to assure human or national security. The UN has been criticized as irrelevant by its most—and least—powerful members alike because it can’t reach consensus on how to respond to twenty-first-century challenges of global terrorism, endemic poverty, and crimes against humanity.

Secretary General Kofi Annan has proposed a package of sweeping reforms that would safeguard the rule of law, outlaw terrorism, protect the innocent from abusive governments, reduce poverty by half, safeguard human rights, and enlarge the Security Council. Intended to reinvigorate the institution and galvanize its members into action, his proposals are extensive and innovative, courageous and controversial.

This volume assembles the perspectives of current practitioners, leading academics, civil society representatives, and UN officials on transforming the secretary general’s proposed reforms into action. Their assessments are frank and their views varied, but they do agree on one thing—the United Nations must be made more effective precisely because it is indispensable to the promotion of economic development and collective security in the twenty-first century.

Co-published with the Centre for International Governance Innovation

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Studies in International Governance


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

In March of 2005, the Secretary General released his report on UN reform, In Larger Freedom. The leaders’ summit, where he hopes member states will endorse his reform package, is scheduled to take place in September of 2005. For the proceedings of our April 2005 UN reform conference to have any impact on the debate in the ensuing months...

List of Acronyms

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pp. xi-xii

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-6

International institutions are often forged in the fire of experience, responses to events that demonstrate what can happen when international cooperation breaks down. The United Nations (UN) is one of these organizations. In the wake of two catastrophic world wars within a thirty-year period, the victors of World War II convened fifty-one...


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2. The United Nations: Adapting to the Twenty-first Century

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pp. 9-18

I joined the United Nations on a wave of reform—indeed, the position that I occupy, that of Deputy Secretary General, was part of Kofi Annan’s first reform package in 1997. The reforms put in place at that time did much to restore confidence in the organization—confidence that had been badly eroded, above all, by the UN’s failures in Bosnia...

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3. The Millennium Project: From Words to Action

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pp. 19-24

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were adopted following the Millennium Assembly in September 2000. In 2002, Secretary General Kofi Annan asked me to direct the UN Millennium Project, which has identified practical ways to achieve the MDGs by 2015 in all countries affected by extreme poverty. The UN Millennium Project, organized around ten task...

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4. UN Reform and the High-level Panel Report on Threats, Challenges, and Change

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pp. 25-32

This conference is taking place at a very good moment and it’s just when we should be taking stock of the UN Reform agenda. The cards are already all on the table, some might argue, rather too many cards, but I don’t believe so myself because we are dealing with extremely complex matters and it doesn’t help to simplify them excessively. You’ve got the Report of the High-level Panel...

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5. Implementing the Secretary General’s Report, “In Larger Freedom”

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pp. 33-40

Thank you very much, and thank you to Paul in particular for the invitation to be here today for this meeting. I have a fairly easy job because I get to rest on Jeff Sachs’s and David Hannay’s work in introducing the security and development aspects of the report before us. I’ll try to be fairly brief because much of what I had intended to say was already covered to some extent by the Deputy Secretary...


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6. The Monterrey Consensus: Developing the Policy Innovations

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pp. 43-62

The International Conference on Finance for Development, hosted by Mexico at Monterrey in March 2002, came after nearly two decades of contention between the North and the South on macroeconomic issues in the UN and elsewhere.1 Ever since President Ronald Reagan delivered his stark message at the North-South Summit held at Cancun...

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7. Ensuring Adequate Resources to Meet the Millennium Development Goals

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pp. 63-76

In 2005, the need for a dramatic global scale-up in official development assistance (ODA) is receiving rare public and political attention. Several high-level initiatives have recently put forward bold and practical policy recommendations for ODA, each stressing major increases as essential for both development and international peace and security. These recommendations have helped contribute to a frank...


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8. WMD and Terrorism: Can the UN Help to Keep the Genie in the Bottle?

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pp. 79-88

On 13 April 2005, the United Nations General Assembly adopted by consensus an international treaty against nuclear terrorism.1 Thus the Nuclear Terrorism Convention (NTC) will open for signature on 14 September 2005 and enter into force after twenty-two states ratify it. This step coming after seven years of negotiations and less than a month after...

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9. Legal and Legitimate Use of Force under the UN Charter: A Critical Analysis of the Report of the High-level Panel

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pp. 89-104

Contemporary conflict over the meaning and the legal status of use-of-force constraints in the Charter and the problématique of the original understanding Within the past few years, a number of international lawyers, mostly from the United States, have argued that Charter norms purporting to regulate the use of force have become so inconsistent with state practice...

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10. Small Arms, Big Killers

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pp. 105-112

The central challenge today facing Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan (Darfur), the Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti, Colombia, and several other states is arguably insecurity stemming primarily (but not exclusively) from the proliferation and misuse of small arms and light weapons.1 The ability to establish public order, to deliver humanitarian relief, to...


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11. Freedom from Fear: Effective, Efficient, and Equitable Security

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pp. 115-130

According to the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change (HLP), “The maintenance of world peace and security depends importantly on there being a common global understanding, and acceptance, of when the application of force is both legal and legitimate.”1 The provision of security imposes two requirements: those not authorized...

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12. The UN Reform Agenda and Human Rights

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pp. 131-140

I am deeply honoured to address such a distinguished group this evening of Ambassadors, UN professionals, and scholars, all quite obviously committed to improving the United Nations, as was evident today from the extremely rich and often quite heated discussion that we had throughout the day. I’m also pleased this evening to be joined by so many Canadians, because Canada has played a critical, perhaps even a unique...


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13. The UN Security Council: Reform or Enlarge?

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pp. 143-152

The Secretary General’s sweeping reform plan1 has many impressive attributes: its conceptual teaming of development, security, and human rights; its bold proposal for a smaller Human Rights Council populated, no less, than with member states that actually respect the rights of their citizens; its timely suggestion for a Peacebuilding Commission; and its unambiguous strategy for defeating global...

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14. Working Better Together: Implementing the High-level Panel’s Recommendations on Peacebuilding

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pp. 153-166

In its analysis of the United Nations capacity to promote and maintain peace, the Secretary General’s High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change identified a key institutional gap: there is no place in the United Nations system explicitly designed to avoid State collapse and the slide to war or to assist countries in their transition from war to peace. That this was not included...


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15. Making the Case for Change

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pp. 169-176

Thank you. I welcome the chance to be here. We have one useful practice at the University of Winnipeg that is relevant to these proceedings— the “brown bag lunch” series where students and faculty can get together to harass the president while munching on sandwiches and celery sticks. The tone is not one of highbrow challenges to higher education, but...

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16. Managing the Reform Agenda: A Call for Timely Action

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pp. 177-180

Today’s context differs from the one which was prevailing when the UN was founded in 1945. The membership has grown from 51 to 191 member states, the Cold War has come to an end, and we are living in a globalized and interdependent world. As highlighted in the High-level Panel’s report, the world is facing many more challenges and threats of a much more complex...


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17. The Way Forward

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pp. 183-188

At a time of historical amnesia, strategic myopia, and diplomatic inertia, we need to remind ourselves why the United Nations exists in the first place and why it is still important. We need to go back to first principles, to review why the world needs a system of collective security based on the rule of law and why the United Nations is at the...

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 189-192

Appendix: Conference Agenda

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pp. 193-196

E-ISBN-13: 9780889209176
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889204935
Print-ISBN-10: 0889204934

Page Count: 210
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Studies in International Governance