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Charter of the United Nations

The Charter and UN Reform

Since the establishment of the organization in 1946 there have been many proposals, studies, and discussions around the question of reform. This is still a hotly debated matter.

There are both political and legal aspects to the process of reform. Some proposals may require amendment of the Charter, while other measures may be taken by the organs without Charter amendment. Over the years, various subsidiary bodies have been charged with making proposals for reforms. There have also been groups outside of the UN institutional framework that have made proposals.

Suggestions for Research on UN Reform

UN reform is a very broad topic. It may be best to limit your research to a particular aspect of reform or a particular time during the organization's history. As with most UN research, usually it is best to start with secondary sources and use these to identify relevant primary UN document sources.

The commentaries and reference works cited on the Research Resources page of this guide are an excellent starting point. The third edition of the Simma Commentary has a chapter on UN reform and the Max Planck Encyclopedia of Public International Law has an article on UN reform. Many other books and articles address this topic. Use the bibliographies of these reference works to identify additional sources for research. 

A 2005 Joint Inspection Unit report, "Some measures to improve overall performance of the United Nations System at the country level : Part 1, Short history of United Nations reform in development" includes a list of some reform proposals since 1978 (A/60/125-E/2005/85) and refers to the books edited by Joachim Müller on Reforming the United Nations

Key terms used in discussion of UN reform include:

Reform, revitalization, restructuring, equitable representation, strengthening, Agenda for .... (Agenda for Peace, Agenda for Development, etc.), capacity building, high level panel, governance, intergovernmental negotiations, summit, declaration, goals, Charter amendment, Charter revision, coherence, system-wide coherence, Delivering as One, shifting the management paradigm, repositioning

Selected UN bodies related to reform

Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization

  • Committee website
  • Established by A/RES/3499 (XXX) of 15 Dec. 1975
  • Predecessor: Ad Hoc Committee on the Charter of the United Nations, established by A/RES/3349 (XXIX) of 17 Dec. 1974
  • Working documents series symbol: A/AC.182/-
  • Sessional reports
    • Supplement 33 of the General Assembly Official Records (GAOR)
    • A/session/33
    • Search results in UNBISnet catalogue for sessional reports

Open-ended Working Group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters related to the Security Council

  • Established by A/RES/48/26 of 3 Dec. 1993
  • Working documents series symbol A/AC.247/-
  • Sessional reports
    • Supplement 47 of the General Assembly Official Records (GAOR)
    • A/session/47
    • example: A/63/47
    • Search results in UNBISnet catalogue for sessional reports
  • Last reported to General Assembly in 63rd session

Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the General Assembly

  • Established by A/RES/59/313 of 12 September 2005
  • Sessional reports
    • No established symbol pattern
    • Search results in UNBISnet catalogue for sessional reports
    • Some reports include "inventory of Assembly resolutions on revitalization"