Reform Process of UN
The reform process is picking up speed again
The summit in September 2005 ahead of the 60th General Assembly was seen by Kofi Annan as an excellent opportunity to try to move forward with the reform of the UN’s organization and work. But the result of the summit was disappointing for many. UN members had difficulty agreeing – not least since the US delegation led by the controversial UN critic John Bolton wanted to delete mentions of the Millennium Development Goals. The developing countries then demanded their own changes, especially among proposals intended to strengthen the secretariat’s efficiency and the Secretary – General’s room for maneuver. UN members failed to agree on controversial issue of enlargement of Security Council (see Structure). But the main failure was, according to Kofi Annan, that measures to strengthen the disarmament work had to be excluded in the final declaration. See healthknowing for definition of UNCTAD.
However, some progress was made. The most important were the formation of a new Human Rights Council, a Commission for Peacebuilding and the commitment that states had a collective responsibility to protect the peoples of the world from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity. This joint declaration by the UN states would be remembered as one of Kofi Annan’s foremost efforts. In January 2007, he handed over the post of Secretary-General to South Korean Ban Ki-Moon.
Ban Ki-moon himself made it clear when he took office in January 2007 that one of his first priorities would be to improve relations with the United States. Under his representative Kofi Annan, relations between the UN and the United States had become increasingly icy – not least after Annan openly accused the United States of violating international law when Iraq was invaded.
Ban Ki-moon also announced that he would not put a reform of the Security Council in the forefront. In 2011, when Ban was also re-elected Secretary-General for another term, he embarked on a reform process with the ambition of making the world organization more efficient.
Change of power in the US and global financial crisis
There is little doubt that the United States, as the world’s largest power and the main financier of the UN budget, has a strong influence over the world organization. The attitude towards the UN by the incumbent American president has in many ways been crucial for the world organization’s work, not least in peace and security. George W Bush and his administration had a UN-critical stance, which was reflected in the US refusal to join the ICC, in the stance on the Kyoto Protocol with restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions, and in the US UN Ambassador John Bolton’s actions in U.N. The hopes were all the greater in 2009 that the new US President Democrat Barack Obama would succeed in repairing relations with the UN. In 2009, the US Congress decided to increase the US:Budget) but when the Republicans gained an advantage in Congress after the 2010 midterm elections, it became more difficult. Obama also showed in a number of areas that he wanted to act within the UN system, unlike his predecessor. Among other things, he emphasized that the world community’s handling of the problem countries Iran and North Korea, with their ambitions to develop nuclear weapons, must take place within the UN system.
Confrontations with North Korea and Iran were a recurring feature of the Security Council agenda a few years into the 2000’s, and on several occasions UN sanctions were imposed on both countries (see North Korea and Iran, respectively).
Also the Israel-Palestine conflict (see Israel-Palestine conflict) continued to require a great deal of attention from several UN agencies. Through its veto, the United States has many times over the years stopped what were considered Israeli-critical resolutions in the Security Council. The UN is part of the so-called quartet together with the EU, the USA and Russia. It has sought to persuade the Palestinians and Israel to follow the peace plan, the so-called “roadmap”, drawn up by the group. In this, guidelines were drawn up for a solution where two states, one Palestinian and one Israeli, could live in peace side by side. However, Israelis and Palestinians have not been able to reach an agreement and attempts to breathe new life into the negotiations in the early 2010’s have quickly died down.
In 2011, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, despite strong pressure from the United States to abstain, submitted an application for UN membership to the Palestinian Authority. The Security Council could not agree to pursue the issue of membership for consideration in the General Assembly. But in November 2012, Abbas was able to celebrate a triumph when the General Assembly, at his request, voted to raise the status of Palestinian Authority in the UN from observer to observer state.
In the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, many UN agencies were otherwise busy dealing with the consequences of the economic crises that shook the world. The financial crisis that erupted in the United States in 2007 quickly took on global dimensions and hit the world’s poor hard, while threatening the opportunities to achieve the Millennium Development Goals on poverty reduction. The crisis led to reduced trade, lower remittances from citizens abroad and cut aid for many developing countries. At the same time, rising food prices combined with declining agricultural production contributed to another crisis in many developing countries and to an additional 40 million people starving.
Deficiencies in the global financial system were discovered through the financial crisis. A UN conference was held in June 2009 on the financial and economic crisis and its impact on development work.