The United Nations has demonstrated its flexibility in adapting to new challenges and will continue reforming with the support of its Member States, Deputy Secretary-General Louise Fréchette said in Canada on Wednesday evening.
Delivering the Davey Lecture in Toronto, she said that in the last decade and a half, the UN has performed an “an incredible array of functions” beyond those traditionally assigned to it. The innovations include transitioning a country from war to peace, as in the case of Afghanistan, providing electoral support, including for the recent historic polls in Iraq, and investigating the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
“The world turns to the UN for such tasks because the Organization has unique worldwide legitimacy and, imperfect though it may be, has the capacity to deliver,” she said.
“The UN’s record in the last 10 years or so has been a lot better than one would think, and shows that the UN can and does change, that lessons are both learnt and applied,” she said.
Offering one among many examples, Ms. Fréchette said the UN’s proven record of coordinating relief in disaster zones prompted President Bush to invite the United Nations to help in Louisiana and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.
In the face of pressing new challenges – such as the threat of a human pandemic of bird flu – the UN has been at the forefront of the international response, she pointed out.
The September World Summit at UN Headquarters saw significant progress, especially in the areas of development and human rights, although advances on security issues were lacking, she said.
But even if all proposed reforms are successfully achieved, “there will still be more to do, because change and reform are a must, at all times, for any organization that wants to keep on top of its game,” she said.
“The next frontier, I believe, must include a major effort to review and rationalize the way the whole UN system is managed and financed, so that all the different agencies, funds and programmes can be mobilized by Member States in a single, integrated international effort to support the developing countries.”
Reform is “inscribed in [the UN’s] DNA,” Ms. Fréchette said, adding that the world body “can and will be up to the task – provided its Member States are willing to support it.”