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This article responds to persistent critiques of the value of the UN human rights treaty system and ongoing efforts to increase its perceived ineffectiveness. Rather than analyze specific strategies for reform, the article draws on theoretical insights from the emerging field of enterprise transformation to analyze the reasons why reform of the treaty system has proved so intractable. By doing so, its central aim is to focus debate on how current plans to revisit the issue of treaty reform by the UN in 2020 might profitably be redirected and indeed reconceptualized. It begins by providing some background and context to the establishment and operation of the treaty system; the challenges that have been encountered over the years in making it more effective in practice; and the fate of reform efforts generated to date.