The United Nations (UN) was established in 1945 in San Francisco by the initiatives of the Second World War winners– namely Great-Britain, the United States and the Soviet Union – after Dumbarton-Oaks conference of 1944.
The organization aimed to correct the mistakes of its predecessor – the League of Nations – and had a membership of 51 states in 1945. The main purpose of the UN was to maintain international peace and security between states, in the sense of preventing them from attacking each other and organizing countermeasures if this happened. However, the Charter – the founding document of the UN – also referred to the needs of peoples such as fundamental human rights. Another object for the UN was to function as a forum for addressing different issues and hearing different opinions. However, because the member states were holding on to their sovereignty, the UN’s authority and ability to act were only to be as strong as the states wanted them to be.
3. Need for Reform
During its existence, the structure of the UN system has remained formally the same, despite the reform proposals and even actual reforms going on since 1950s. The main reforms have not been very successful, partly because of the re and strengthening the organization in general resistance from the bureaucrats, partly because the member states have not found the political will to push the reform onwards.
Funding. For over a decade the UN has faced deepening financial crises forcing it to cut the funding of important programs in all areas. This is a result of the UN budget relying on the member states, many of whom – notably the USA with more than 20 % of the UN budget – have failed to pay to the organization their full dues. There have hence been demands to reform the funding of the UN for example via global taxes proposed by former Secretary-General Ghali. Large private funds have been directed to certain UN programs, but the member states responsible for the highest financial contributions have been reluctant to reform the funding system with the fear of loosing their political leverage.
Organization structure. Originally designed to be highly decentralized with constitutionally distinct institutions, the UN system has become constantly concerned with problems of co-ordination, overlapping tasks and inefficiency. Political disagreement among UN’s very diverse membership may shape all reform efforts keeping the organization contradictory and divided institution, even though for long time it has been agreed that a reform is needed. In 1997, the current Secretary-General Kofi Annan took steps to carry forward the reforms instituted by his predecessors in order to consolidate the UN’s organizational structure, reduce overlapping functions and improve coordination and accountability of the system for example via regrouping the Funds and Programs. The second reform of Annan in 2002 continued the themes of the earlier reforms. Yet, critics claim that these reforms have made the UN more conservative and less democratic despite that the modern management increased to some extent. The main policy debate has hence taken place between keynesianism and neoliberalism.
Security Council. The contemporary UNSC still reflects the global power structure of 1945 in favour of industrialized North, notably because of the right for veto. This right makes the UNSC undemocratic and often ineffective giving five permanent member’s opportunity to pursue their national interests. Hence, a reform of the UNSC to reflect better the political and economic realities of the contemporary world has been on the agenda of the GA since the 1993. Yet, despite suggestions to expand the permanent membership of the UNSC, the questions about the new member’s right for veto as well as the questions about their number and their selection have remained unsolved. The permanent members of the UNSC have strongly opposed the reduction of their power in the UN via abolishing the permanent membership as well. Yet, as a result of demands for more transparency, the UNSC has renewed some of its practices on its own initiative for example regarding the openness of its sessions and consultation of the other countries outside the UNSC.
Strengthening multilateralism. New means to further engage civil society – notably via closer working relationship with the NGOs – and the private sector – via the “Global Compact”– in development and world affairs were established by the reform of 1997. In 2000, the member states also reaffirmed to devote to the objects and the principals of the UN Charter – such as peace and security and human rights – as well as enforcing the UN via the Millennium Declaration. The reform of 2002 was aimed to ensure that all different UN activities would be aligned with the millennium goals, even though many poor member states have not seen development been enough emphasized by recent reforms. However, in order to increase the UN’s ability to deal effectively with future threats – such as poverty, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction – a high level panel was appointed in 2003. Another high level panel was also established to further strengthen the relationship between the UN and civil society. The recommendations of these panels have been reviewed by the GA during the fall 2004.
Castañeda Jorge (1969): Legal Effects of United Nations Resolutions, New York: Columbia UniversityPress.
Smouts Marie-Claude, Battistella Dario & Vennesson Pascal (2003): Dictionnaire des relations internationals, Paris: Dalloz
Taylor Paul (1997): “The United Nations and International Organization” in Baylis John & Smith Steve: The Globalization of World Politics. An Introduction to International Relations, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
The United Nations Information Center for the Nordic Countries (2003): Tämä on YK, http://www.un.dk/finnish/fn/Tama_on_YK.pdf
Finland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs www.forming.finland.fi
Finnish UN Association www.ykliitto.fi
Global Policy Forum www.globalpolicy.org
The United Nations www.un.org
The UN Mission of Finland www.finlandun.org
 Before the reform of 1965 the UNSC had only 11 members.
 The Secretary-General has power to bring wide range situations threatening international peace and security to the attention of the UNSC under the article 99 of the Charter. This has expanded the diplomatic role of the Secretary-General.