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Rosemary Bechler is openDemocracy’s Editor.

Constitutional conventions: best practice

The United Nations is marking its sixtieth anniversary in 2005 by seeking to redefine its role as the central focus of world politics. openDemocracy writers examine the arguments, plans, and divisions that surround this process.

Choosing the next UN leader should not be left to three people

The secretary-general of the United Nations holds the world in his hands. It shouldn’t be possible to count those who decide who that is on the fingers of one.

Why we need a UN Parliament

It isn't less democracy that will allow for more effective global governance. More democracy is urgently needed

The missing link of democratization

A direct democratic connection between the world's citizens and the world's governance needs to be created. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, the former UN Secretary General, calls for a global parliamentary assembly

United Nations in trouble: time for another San Francisco

The sclerosis in the United Nations Security Council is characteristic of a body in desperate want of renovation, says Carne Ross of Independent Diplomat.

(This article was first published on 12 November 2008)

The UN's real history: a response to Dan Plesch

The “united nations” invoked by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill during the second world war was a piece of utilitarian rhetoric, not the precursor to the global institution formed in 1945, argues Anthony Millett.

A mixed-bag summit

The United Nations world summit disappointed optimists, but was its outcome so bad? David Mepham reads between the lines for a deeper assessment.

President Bush discovers the world is flat

The United Nations world summit suggests that the Bush administration is starting to understand its need for allies, says Johanna Mendelson Forman of the UN Foundation.

The United Nations reform drive: a response to Ian Williams

The integration of human-rights concerns into the United Nations’ work is evidence that – United States opposition or no – the organisation’s key role in global governance will continue, writes Julie Mertus.

It's the nations, stupid!

The United Nations summit may prove to be a lost opportunity for reform, says Ian Williams. It is time for member-states who care about the organisation’s principles to act in concert – without the United States if need be.

A United Nations for a fairer, safer world

The international organisation is applying its founding principles to renew itself and address human needs worldwide, says Shashi Tharoor, the UN’s under-secretary-general.

How to democratise the United Nations

The United Nations needs renewed democratic legitimacy that only a parliament elected by citizens worldwide can provide, says Hanspeter Bigler.

What to do with the United Nations?

The United Nations is at a pivotal moment in its sixty-year history. Can it become an instrument of democratic global governance? Daniele Archibugi & Raffaele Marchetti draw on the various proposals for UN reform to suggest a new way ahead based on transparency and legality backed by political action.

The United Nations in Bush's firing-line

Behind the United Nations oil-for-food scandal is a Bush administration attempt to undermine the organisation and dismantle international law, argues Dan Plesch.

The hidden history of the United Nations

Dan Plesch rediscovers a forgotten story of the 1940s: how the United Nations was forged, beat the Nazis and established a lasting peace.

In Larger Freedom: Kofi Annan's challenge

Can the United Nations be reformed to make it a guarantor of human security and development in the 21st century? Johanna Mendelson Forman on the ideas and politics of a historic report.

Reform or die: the United Nations as second superpower

The world needs a reformed United Nations, empowered by global activism and principled governments, that can challenge United States hegemony, says Phyllis Bennis.

A 21st century mission? The UN high-level panel report

How to ensure human security in an age of terrorism and pre-emptive war? As a United Nations think-tank publishes its proposals, two specialists map the international diplomatic minefield on which the UN, its friends and its enemies chart their course.

America, the United Nations, and the world: a triple challenge

The United Nations is exploring how best to work with the United States and the international community to meet future global security threats. The UN secretary-general, Kofi Annan, outlines the thinking behind the high-level panel he appointed to investigate this key 21st century challenge.

The United Nations and human rights: the danger of irrelevance

As the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights begins its 60th session in Geneva, Robert Walgate for openDemocracy asks Irene Khan, head of Amnesty International, why she has so little faith in the UNHCHR’s commitment to improve human rights.

The UN in 2003: a year of living dangerously

The crisis over Iraq has brought the United Nations to a crossroads. At the end of a year when diplomacy was felled by force, the institution can regain its influence only by rethinking its core security mandate.

The mother of all questions: how to reform global governance?

The period of crisis in international institutions and political order inaugurated on 11 September 2001 has left intact public trust in the United Nations itself. The organisation should seize the moment for a bold, imaginative reform of its institutional architecture – one that will help establish a global public contract able to address the problems of democracy, peace, sustainability and the network society that will define the new century.

Is the UN obsolete? A response to Frank Vibert

The United Nations is and will remain a force for good, argues this senior and influential insider. The charges against it of irrelevance and impotence forget the world body’s ability to manage crises, contribute to regional security, deliver valuable programmes for the world’s poor – and represent a universality of human interest increasingly guided by democracy.

The new cosmopolitanism

The shock of the new is always painful. War and diplomatic breakdown are symptoms of a transformed political order struggling to emerge. It will be robust, secular, ideas-based, flexible, and interventionist; but it needs anchoring in legitimate force, institutions and public support. This, says the director of the European Policy Forum, is the new cosmopolitanism: and the century’s agenda.
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