Can the UN Regional Commissions Survive?

Are the numerous United Nations regional commissions worthwhile? The first such commission sprang up in Europe, amid the aftermath of World War II, when a Polish-inspired resolution, passed by the General Assembly in 1947 to organize the recovery of the continent, led to the creation of the Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva. Soon, other like-minded regional bodies came into being, from Africa to Asia to Latin America, but that does not mean they all survived or have even flourished.

Solar panels in Croatia
In Croatia, the Greeting to the Sun project consists of 300 many-layered glass plates placed on the same level as the stone-paved waterfront in the shape of a circle. Under the plates sit photovoltage solar modules that "communicate" with light. INIA HERENCIC/UN DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM

A new briefing from FUNDS studies the UN’s regional commissions, with financing from Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. (FUNDS is short for the Future UN Development System, a research project of the City University of New York’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies.) The briefing looks at the history of the commissions, their search for a role in the development of their regions and whether they remain relevant. No UN organization has ever been closed. But will the regional commissions be the first?

To read the full briefing, click here.

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Stephen Browne is a veteran of the UN development system and an academic, based in Geneva. His latest book is “UN Reform: 75 Years of Challenge and Change.”

Thomas G. Weiss is Presidential Professor of Political Science at the CUNY Graduate Center; co-chair of the Cultural Heritage at Risk Project, J. Paul Getty Trust; Distinguished Fellow of Global Governance at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs; and Global Eminence Scholar, Kyung Hee University, Korea. His recent books include “The ‘Third’ United Nations,” (with Tatiana Carayannis).

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