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2 J. Int'l L & Int'l Rel. 121 (2005-2006)
Norms, Institutions and UN Reform: The Responsibility to Protect

handle is hein.journals/jilwirl2 and id is 123 raw text is: Norms, Institutions and UN Reform: The Responsibility to
Our problems are not beyond our power to meet them. But we cannot be content with
incomplete successes and we cannot make do with incremental responses to the
shortcomings that have been revealed. Instead, we must come together to bring about far-
reaching change'
Reform is an ambiguous term. In the mouths of diverse proponents it can mean
radically different things. The only common denominator is a call for change, and by
definition not a revolutionary change. But change in what? Change in which
direction? The mantra of UN reform is a striking case in point. For US Ambassador
John Bolton, reform seems to mean change and shrinkage in the internal structure
of the UN Secretariat, change in financial management, change in hiring practices,
and an increase in accountability. For many interlocutors from the developing
world reform means change in the decision-making processes of the Security
Council, the Human Rights Commission and the international financial institutions,
and change to promote responsiveness to the interests of sovereign states. For
some international relations scholars, primarily from the North, reform means a
significant reshaping of the UN bureaucracy to promote greater competency,
efficiency and transparency. For many international lawyers, reform is shorthand
for normative evolution in the key areas of global concern such as human rights and
the use of force. The Secretary-General set the bar for reform very high, suggesting
that the UN might slip into irrelevance if there was no agreement on normative,
institutional and bureaucratic change. In this assessment he was clearly picking up
the gauntlet thrown down by the US administration, which has been warning of the
UN's possible irrelevance for a number of years.
The various UN reform initiatives are not mutually exclusive. Some may
even be mutually reinforcing. Others, however, may tend to cancel each other out if
pursued on parallel but uncoordinated tracks. The Outcome Document produced at
the 2005 UN World Summit reveals both the promise and the potential incoherence
Professor of Law and Metcalf Chair in Environmental Law, University of Toronto.
President of the Trudeau Foundation; Chair and Rapporteur, United Nations Working
Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; former Dean of the Faculty of Law,
McGill University.
United Nations Secretary-General, In Larger Freedom: Towards Development, Security and
Human Rights for All-Report of the Secretary-General, UN GAOR, 59th Sess., UN Doc.
A/59/2005 (2005) at para. 11, online: United Nations <http://daccessdds.un.org/doc/
UNDOC/GEN/NO5/270/78/PDF/NO527078.pdf?OpenElement> [In Larger Freedom].

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