Magazine edition: 2-2014

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Ten suggestions for the UN reform wishlist

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Ten suggestions for the UN reform wishlist

New World decided to suspend reality for a moment and ask 10 academics and experts: if you could wave a magic wand, what would you invent (or reinvent) at the UN?


  1. A mechanism should be created whereby those who fail to react to crimes against humanity or genocide – senior UN officials or member states alike – would be named and shamed on a list displayed in the lobby of the UN headquarters and publicised worldwide – Ban Ki-moon’s new Rights up Front initiative made real.
    Steve Crawshaw, Amnesty International 
  2. I’d take the states’ representatives out of their New York headquarters once a year and take the General Assembly on the road like a travelling rock band. They should set up a big dialogue tent in a different part of the world each time and listen to ordinary people talk about their desires, problems and needs.
    Zeinab Badawi, BBC broadcaster
  3. While the final selection of the Secretary-GeneraI will always be political, I would establish a selection process to ensure that all candidates have the requisite qualifications and experience, and limit the term of office to one period. I’d also introduce a common budget for the whole UN system.
    Dame Margaret Anstee, former UN Under-Secretary-General
  4. Five hundred UN partnership hub centres would be created – at least one in every country – with space and resources for collaborative uses of technology, bringing together young innovators from the private sector, civil society, academia and beyond, to craft innovative and dynamic solutions to pressing global problems.
    Sam Daws, Project on UN Governance and Reform
  5. I would reinvent the Security Council, banishing the veto power of the five permanent members and introducing a mechanism that would give the rotating presidency to the UN’s humanitarian agencies so they could focus international attention on issues such as hunger, nutrition, education, health and human rights.
    Gregory Barrow, World Food Programme
  6. The creation of a UN Citizens' Council – which mirrors the Security Council (SC) but is composed of randomly chosen citizens from current SC member countries – would provide a muchneeded global conscience and voice of legitimacy for the UN. The Citizens' Council would take non-binding decisions on issues of international peace and security based on first-best policies rather than powerful national interests.
    Christine Cheng, King’s College London
  7. I'd persuade the UK government – along with France – to give a real boost to reform of the Security Council by acknowledging that it is a complete anachronism for either of them to be one of five permanent members with a veto, and to commit never to use or threaten to use the veto pending full reform.
    Ian Martin, former Special Representative of the Secretary-General
  8. To increase public scrutiny of states' performance at the UN, the public should be able to signal their approval (or disapproval) of speeches, statements and votes by state delegates, with the results screened live on UN TV (in the same way approval graphs are displayed during US presidential debates).
    Natalie Samarasinghe, UNA-UK
  9. I’d get every UN member state to submit an annual report providing a comprehensive explanation of their foreign affairs, defence and aid budgets in terms of their contribution to global peace, justice and security, with independent critical audits published alongside.
    Paul Ingram, BASIC
  10. I’d reinvent the idealism and fervour of staff in the initial post-war years. We sorely miss the commitment, dedication and integrity of the Brian Urquharts and Margaret Anstees of those days.
    Thomas Weiss, Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies

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