Keeping the U.S. Engaged with UN Reform
In September 2005, the world’s leaders came together around the 60th anniversary of the United Nations to examine ways to strengthen the organization’s structure and update its key functions to better meet its mandate of promoting peace, prosperity and justice around the world.
Getting 192 countries to agree to a broad and sweeping modernizing agenda was a challenge. Adding to the difficulty, at times the United States position was at odds with that of other Member States and, at some junctures, the atmosphere was downright poisonous. Knowing that U.S. support and participation was essential for any meaningful reform to happen, we worked to keep the U.S. engaged in this process and prevent a major fracture between the U.S. and the rest of the UN body.
In 2006, the impasse reached a critical moment when the UN was in danger of running out of money due to a cap put on its budget by the U.S. Then-U.S. Ambassador at the UN John Bolton was threatening to continue holding up the budget until particular management reforms were pushed through. To prevent a total breakdown in U.S.-UN relations and a shutdown of the UN’s critical operations, we launched our first major grassroots advocacy campaign.
“Resolve the Crisis: Don’t Shut Down the UN” was a campaign and petition urging the 191 Member States of the UN to take the steps necessary to ensure continuation of the reform process and see there was no interruption in the UN’s operations because of a lack of necessary resources. In all, more than 14,000 individuals from 146 countries signed a petition to world leaders. We also pulled together a broad coalition of international organizations and advocates, built support and consensus for the key reforms being debated, and launched communications efforts to encourage all governments to work together on achieving this ambitious agenda.
Within a year from the World Leaders Summit, the United Nations General Assembly agreed to the following mechanisms to strengthen UN operations: the Peacebuilding Commission; the Central Emergency Response Fund; a global counterterrorism strategy; a reformed Human Rights Council; the Democracy Fund; and a series of management oversight reforms.
We were pleased to have been a major voice in the call for these updates to the UN system and for keeping the U.S. at the table during this important juncture in the history of the United Nations.