14 October 2011, New York, United States of AmericaOn 14 October 2011, the UNITAR New York Office, jointly with the Permanent Mission of Switzerland, organized a half-day workshop on “United Nations Reform: Institutional Adaptation of UN Governing Bodies.” The workshop opened UNITAR’s four-part series on UN reform in New York that covers topics such as management reform, system-wide coherence and new approaches to mediation and preventive diplomacy.

Yvonne Lodico of UNITAR NYO introduced the four part series and briefly explained its objectives. H.E. Paul Seger, Permanent Representative of Switzerland, followed stressing the significance of persisting with reforming the United Nations. Prof. Thomas Weiss from the City University of New York’s Graduate Center highlighted the culture of sovereignty within the UN as well as the lack of centralized guidance and incentives for UN agencies and bodies to cooperate as today’s main challenges to UN reform. He reminded participants to consider whether any attempted reform effort is actually making a substantial difference to UN decision-making. In response to his own comment, Prof. Weiss pointed to the proliferation of new bodies and agencies in the United Nations instead of combining and streamlining existing ones. Subsequently, H.E. Mr. Eduardo Gálvez, Permanent Representative of Chile to the United Nations stressed the UN’s unique role as a truly inclusive, multilateral body that is in danger of losing authority to smaller, more exclusive fora, such as the G20 and G8.

In the following session, Ms. Joanna Weschler, Executive Director of Security Council Report moderated a panel composed of H.E. Mr. Zahir Tanin, Permanent Representative of Afghanistan and H.E. Mr. Camillo Gonsalvez, Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines on the topic of Security Council reform and General Assembly revitalization. Both panellists agreed that a revitalized General Assembly would positively impact the reform process of the Security Council and vice-versa. Discussing main challenges to Security Council reform, the panellists remarked that for every aspirant for a seat on an expanded Security Council, there exists a regional counter-aspirant.

Prof. Peter Rosenblum from Columbia University moderated the closing session on the UN Human Rights machinery – the latest review of the Human Rights reform. Panellists were H.E. Mr. Mohammed Loulichki and Ms. Peggy Hicks, Global Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch. Ms. Hicks positively noted Member States’ acceptance of the UN Human Rights Council’s review mechanisms which many countries take very seriously. The panel also exchanged arguments on whether human rights violating countries should be accepted to the Council or not: on the one hand, the international community could hold human rights violating countries accountable for their human rights record, but, on the other hand, accepting them to the Council would not reflect well on the Council’s moral authority. In conclusion, panellists positively noted that the issue of human rights is increasingly important in the UN system, as human rights is increasingly considered integral to UN policies.