Letter from the Editors

By Akhtar, Sarah; Balasubramanian, Aditya | Harvard International Review, Spring 2011 | Go to article overview

Letter from the Editors


Akhtar, Sarah, Balasubramanian, Aditya, Harvard International Review


Perhaps no organization better understands the call to global responsibility than the United Nations. In the wake of political revolutions in the Middle East and a wave of natural disasters culminating most recently in Japan's catastrophic earthquake, this body is facing an unprecedented array of challenges that has injected new life, and new concerns, into UN organizations.

Of particular concern is the criticism of the United Nations as ineffectual. John Bolton, America's controversial ambassador to the United Nations, dismissively said that "There's no such thing as the United Nations. If the UN building in New York lost ten stories, it wouldn't make a bit of difference." Several of the lofty UN Millennium Development Goals are far from reaching the 2015 date of completion. The Economist, in its March 3 issue, noted that while the expulsion of Libya from the UN Human Rights Council merits praise, this took place just a year after bringing Libya onto that same Council and lauding its human rights accomplishments. Rather than a dynamic and agenda-setting entity, the United Nations can often look like a weak rubber-stamp for the ever-changing attitudes of the global community.

Our symposium seeks to continue this lively debate on the reforms, successes, and failures of the United Nations. Thomas Weiss, author of What V Wrong with the United Nations and How to Fix It, opens the debate with an overview of UN reform in "A Pipe Dream." Next, Timothy Wirth, President Clinton's Undersecretary for Global Affairs, considers the oft-recognized "US-UN Partnership" and offers an impassioned defense of the efficacy of US involvement in the United Nations. Next, former UN Undersecretary General for Political Affairs James Jonah takes on the difficult question of the proper role of a Secretary-General, evaluating Ban Ki-moon's performance and the likelihood of his re-election in "Ki-moon as Key Player." The next two articles shift the focus of the symposium to questions of nontraditional UN activities and partnerships with nongovernmental entities. Robert Orr, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Strategic Planning and Policy Coordination, discusses the UN's new business model for the delivery of global public goods. Then, NR Narayana Murthy, founder and Chief Mentor of Infosys Technologies, reflects on how private sector organizations can join forces with the United Nations to achieve its goals in "Corporate Connections."

The symposium then debates the Millennium Development Goals. …

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