Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Strengthen UN Rule-Making and Capacities

pg. 24: Strengthen the state-based part of the system where its rules and capacities are inadequate...

Readers' Guide Comment on “strengthen the state-based part of the system where its rules … are inadequate”

It is clearly necessary to strengthen the adequacy and scope of rule-making activities by nation-states and the UN system. Rule-making is needed in the financial sector, in the environmental sector, in the social sector, and in about every sector one can name. GRI’s endorsement of new rule-making is welcome. However, the text following Step Two does not feature any specific recommendations for how to enhance the nation-state role in global rule-making in any field.

WEF chose not to endorse calls made by other international leaders for an Economic Security Council, for new international conventions on the right to information, 1  for General Assembly standards for corporate behavior, or for stronger rules on the trade of military technologies.

One way to understand this contradiction is that GRI wants to appeal to the leaders of nation-states for support for its over-all proposals, but remains fundamentally opposed to state-led rule-making, as this would infringe on the potential space for the corporate-dominated, multi-stakeholder governance system. In short, the principle articulated in Step One -- the primacy of the new ‘geometry of cooperation’ over the legally binding conventions -- takes precedence in practice to the goals of Step Two -- a renewed effort for state-based rule-making in the international arena.

Readers' Guide Comment on “strengthen the state-based part of the system where its capacities … are inadequate”

It is necessary to rejuvenate the organizational capacities of every part of the UN System. The current disconnect between the stated objectives for organizations in the UN system (e.g. “Health for all by 2000,” 2  “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” 3 ) and the institutional resources available is extreme (e.g. WHO staffing has been dramatically reduced in the past decade and the UN Security Council staff generally has one or two people per crisis area). While the GRI study acknowledges the weakness of organizational capacities in Step Two, it makes significant organizational recommendations for the only for the international finance organizations (IMF and regional development banks) and the employment stability functions of ILO.

Again, it seems that this element of Step Two is designed to attract the support of heads of UN agencies and those who support the UN system than to seriously recommend the resources, the structural skills, or the staffing needed to make the state-based international organizational system an effective one.

In this sense also, the first part of Step Two --a call to strengthen of the organizational capacities of the UN system – is also secondary in WEF’s view in the second part of Step Two – to involve non-state actors in the delivery of international services .

Related Ideas: Step One and Two; a public-private UN system; fixing the UN system; Readers Guide : concluding observations

The Readers' Guide welcomes comments with alternative examples or counter examples, supplemental assessments of the extracted GRI text or commentary – critical or otherwise – of the above interpretation of GRI’s perspective.

  • 1. ^ Based on Rio Principle 10 and the regional Aarhus Convention. Rio Principle 10 states in part ” Environmental issues are best handled with participation of all concerned citizens, at the relevant level. At the national level, each individual shall have appropriate access to information concerning the environment that is held by public authorities, including information on hazardous materials and activities” .  For additional information on of the Aarhus Convention (the UNECE Convention on Access to Information, Public Participation in Decision-Making and  Access to Justice in Environmental Matters ), see http://ec.europa.eu/environment/aarhus/
  • 2. ^ The World Health Organization’s 1990s motto .
  • 3. ^ United nations Charter, First line of the Preamble, 1945

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