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Charter of the United Nations (1945) Research Guide

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, Agenda 2030, Our Common Agenda

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

Documentation pattern:

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 Digital Library 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 Digital Library for sessional reports
    • Some reports include "inventory of Assembly resolutions on revitalization"

Proposals related to the reform of the Trusteeship Council

UN Photo 714633 : Image of Trusteeship Council Chamber

Since the conclusion of the work of the Trusteeship Council in 1994, there have been several proposals put forward regarding the reform of the Council and its mandate.

  • Eliminate the Trusteeship Council
    • This would require amendment of the UN Charter, in accordance with Chapter XVIII of the UN Charter
    • Proposed by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1994 (A/49/1)
    • Recommended by
      • A/59/565: Report of the UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges,and Change, "A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility"
      • A/RES/60/1 para. 176; no action has been taken to implement this decision
  • Review the role of the Trusteeship Council
    • Request by Malta (A/50/142, 16 June 1995); Comments received (A/50/1011)
    • Reports of the Special Committee on the Charter of the United Nations and on the Strengthening of the Role of the Organization (e.g. A/60/33para. 61)
  • Transform the role of the Trusteeship Council
    • "Member States appear to have decided to retain the Trusteeship Council. The Secretary-General proposes, therefore, that it be reconstituted as the forum through which Member States exercise their collective trusteeship for the integrity of the global environment and common areas such as the oceans, atmosphere and outer space" (A/51/950, para. 85).
    • "I invite States to consider making the Council available as a multi-stakeholder body to tackle emerging challenges and, especially, to serve as a deliberative forum to act on behalf of succeeding generations. Among other tasks, it could issue advice and guidance with respect to long-term governance of the global commons, delivery of global public goods and managing global public risks." (A/75/982, para. 125)