Reform Clouds Darken the Future of the UN Development Program

As the first effects of Secretary-General António Guterres’s ambitious organizational reform plans become apparent, former and current officials of the United Nations Development Program see the future of the internationally influential agency as uncertain if not in peril. Fears center on aspects of the reform plan for development that would allow more political interference by … Read more

An SDG Fund: Supporting the 2030 UN Development Agenda

There is an ongoing process of change in the United Nations development system, albeit a slow one given the size of the challenges. At the country level, more UN country teams (UNCTs) are endorsing the principles of Delivering as One, which have spread from the original eight pilot countries. There is evidence of more joint … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

Advice to António Guterres: A Leaner UN Could Be a Better UN

GENEVA — Whether or not he is a fan of Chinese characters, António Guterres will have to discover the double meaning of a crisis as opportunity. United Nations corridors on First Avenue in New York are buzzing with anxiety about the possibility of impending cuts in funding from the United States, with hints from a … Read more

The UN’s Ninth Secretary-General Takes Office Amid Loud Calls for Change

António Guterres, the new United Nations secretary-general, was chosen on merit and takes over the UN during an especially turbulent period and after a decade of low-key leadership and low staff morale. The “first” UN of governments includes the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council (P-5) that are stoking conflict, flouting international humanitarian law, … Read more

The Next UN Secretary-General: Views From UN Watchers

The results of the latest FUNDS survey of global experts, conducted during the winter of 2015-16, contains clear messages about the next United Nations secretary-general: s/he should be a world leader with integrity and political courage who will prioritize UN reform; and the election process should be open and transparent. There is more room for … Read more

The European Migrant Crisis: Can Development Agencies Do Better?

The unprecedented influx of refugees and migrants to Europe has increased the visibility of the longstanding nexus of migration, development and security. The emphasis on terrorism and national security is understandable but myopic if the essential benefits of migration and development are to be realized. The United Nations will host three key meetings on migration … Read more

Can the UN’s SDGs Live Up to the Hype?

When the United Nations’ member states gave final approval at a special General Assembly session on Sept. 25 to the new global development policy, they were making a commitment to the most wide-ranging and ambitious plan ever attempted by the organization. Now the hard part begins as experts struggle to decide how to measure the … Read more

Human Rights and the UN’s SDGs: A Sidelined Priority?

This month, a summit of world leaders at the United Nations is to adopt a set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to take the relay from the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which have yielded mixed results when it comes to making the world a better place for peace, development and the universal realization of human … Read more

Women’s Rights and the UN: A Long History of Ups and Downs

The 2010 creation of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment (or UN Women) represented an unusual organizational consolidation instead of the typical proliferation. It had a promising start under strong leadership but faces serious challenges with growing resistance to gender equality. Support for women’s rights has a long and checkered history … Read more

BOOKS

New Development Goals: Can the UN Machinery Cope?

The United Nations is now discussing in a broad consultation process the sustainable development goals: a new universal set of ambitions for economic and social development, made up of targets and indicators that all countries are expected to use to frame their agendas and policies from 2015 to 2030, to be adopted by the General … Read more

Now Is the Time for a Female Secretary-General, Says a New Campaign [Video]

Convinced that after 70 years it is time to choose a woman for the United Nations’ top job of secretary-general, a new movement led by an academic spcialist on the organization has been assembled to formally support the election of a woman for the job. The current secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, a Korean, finishes his second … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

Next Best in 2016? The UN Secretary-General Must Be a Reformer

GENEVA — For only the second time — the first was in 1996 — the electoral campaigns for the American president and the United Nations secretary-general are running in parallel. Both promise to be long and protracted. Each already has a growing slate of presumptive candidates pounding flesh and employing lobbyists. But the next two … Read more

How Is the UN’s Development Machinery Perceived? Does Anyone Care?

One year ago, the report of a high-level panel of world leaders and renowned development specialists proposed 12 goals and 50 indicators for the United Nation’s post-2015 agenda. These were already unwieldy numbers, but after a year and a half of juggling and negotiations, member states in New York on the Open Working Group (OWG) … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

The UN Development Program: A New Crisis or a New Opportunity?

GENEVA — For those with longer memories, the latest dip in resources for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the staff cutbacks and restructuring announced by its administrator, Helen Clark, in May are merely the onset of another cycle, just in time for the agency’s 50th anniversary but part of its history since its … Read more

Is a Better UN System Possible? Global Experts Respond to an Independent Survey

An unusual survey of 3,400 people worldwide who know the United Nations has found strong support for some basic rethinking over the next decade on the organization’s work in development. Among the recommendations, over two-thirds of respondents suggested adding more nongovernmental representatives to governing bodies and better consolidating both organizational representation and programs in countries … Read more

The UN Has Lost the Aid-Effectiveness Race: What Is to Be Done?

A UN-supported market in Lebanon.

Recent events have confirmed that the United Nations has a deep reservoir of good will worldwide. But its reputation is undermined by the ineffectiveness of its development assistance. UN agencies could improve their performance by implementing effective evaluations. However, the UN cannot be judged solely on the basis of its development assistance because the organization … Read more

WORLDVIEWS

UN Climate Talks in Warsaw: What Is There to Negotiate?

Oxfam protesters, climate change conference, Warsaw

GENEVA — The persistence of climate change negotiators huddled together in Warsaw from over 190 countries is laudable. Even when countries are failing to reign in their greenhouse emissions that is causing a rise in global temperatures, the negotiations keep going. This is their 19th attempt under the Conference of Parties (COP) of the United … Read more

Rebuilding War-Torn States: Is the UN System Up to the Challenges?

Trellis planting in Afghanistan

Despite the peculiarities of each particular case, when civil wars or other chaos end, countries need to address the root causes of the conflict to make the fragile peace sustainable. In this context, countries need to establish public security; to create participatory political systems with good governance and respect for the rule of law and … Read more

New Development Goals, Plus Ça Change?

“If we want things to change, some things will have to stay as they are.” This inversion of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa‘s aphorism summarizes a key finding of a recent global survey on the future development goals. A select group of development commentators favors maintaining most of the familiar Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) after 2015. … Read more

The UN Development Program Should Revive What It Does Best

Helen Clark of UNDP

Constant reform has characterized the United Nations Development Program throughout its existence, say the authors of two recent books on the agency. Change bespeaks an organization ready to adapt but also fundamentally uncertain about its proper role. It teeters between two sets of tensions. The first tension is between being both coordinator and competitor in … Read more

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