UN 101: From Understanding to Action

May 1st, 2023

It is a cliché, but true, to say the United Nations is needed more — and under more duress — than ever. Overstretched and constrained, it has struggled to keep up with the scale and challenges facing humanity, from the climate emergency to the global cost-of-living crisis, from geopolitical fractures to pandemics. Small wonder that the past five years have seen a proliferation in reports, consultations and efforts aimed at reforming the organization. Even less surprising is the modest progress they have yielded.

The latest contribution, “A Breakthrough for People and Planet” was delivered recently by the UN high-level advisory board on effective multilateralism. It proposes six “transformational shifts” and 26 recommendations for consideration before the Summit of the Future planned for fall 2024. Bold and imaginative in parts, circumspect in others, the report reflects an enduring dilemma of the UN: progress tempered by politics.

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