Mending a global giant: How to fix a 70-year-old United Nations

Illustration by Abhilasha Dewan

As the United Nations turns 70 on Oct. 24, we look at some of the more pressing areas in need of reform and increased support within the institution — from the refugee system and peacekeeping operations to how secretaries general and security council members are selected. 

Should the UN’s unpaid internships be abolished (yes!) and should Canada ramp up its involvement in peacekeeping missions (also yes!)? Reforms within the UN have long been identified. With contributions from Ramesh Thakur, Paul Meyer, Omer Aziz, Walter Dorn, Stephen Lewis, Yazan Al-Saadi and Ban Ibrahim, we explain how changes to the system can and should roll out in order to make the UN a more efficient and just organization. 

In the series

Stephen Lewis

In conversation with Stephen Lewis, the United Nations’ sharpest critic and greatest champion

True to form, Canada’s former ambassador to the UN speaks frankly about making the organization fairer and more efficient, its greatest successes and its most worrying failures.

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The UN at 70: A return of Canada, the Peacekeeper

Contributing personnel and technology can improve Canada’s standing with the U.S. and the international community, all the while helping to modernize peacekeeping operations 

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Why the UN must do away with unpaid internships

While the United Nations supports ‘the right to just and favourable remuneration’ and fights inequality, it leads the pack in reinforcing a system that rewards elites.

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How to choose the next UN Secretary General the right way

If the UN wants a powerful, international advocate at its helm, like Kofi Annan and Dag Hammarskjöld once were, it needs to take ensure the Security Council does not have full control over the selection process

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How ‘refugee’ became a bad word and how to reclaim it

The international refugee system, under the leadership of the UNHCR, is in crisis. It’s time for either a drastic restructuring or alternative where refugees are part of policymaking.

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Is cyber peace possible?

There is an urgent need for global rules around state conduct in cyberspace. But, building new norms is a slow and complicated process — is the UN up for the task?