Chicago Journal of International Law


In July 2003, on the heels of the American invasion of Iraq, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan held an extraordinary press conference. At it, he wondered aloud "whether the institutions and methods we are accustomed to are really adequate to deal with all the stresses of the last couple of years." He warned that we are "living through a crisis of the international system." "What are the rules?" he asked. Four months later he proceeded to appoint a group, the "High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change," to recommend ways of "strengthening the United Nations so it can provide collective security for all in the twenty-first century." The High-Level Panel ("Panel") consisted of former governmental officials and in pursuing its task met at various locations around the world. Hopes ran high that its ideas would breathe new life into an organization that needed, in Annan's words, "radical change." In December 2004 it issued its report, which has since become the focal point of efforts at UN reform. For a Burkean pragmatist with any sense of institutional conservation, making the most of the United Nations is a useful project. Massive amounts of capital-financial and otherwise-have been invested in the organization over the past sixty years. To the extent possible, humanity should profit from its investment. Even if the objective were merely to advance individual states' national interests, the UN might be a useful tool for doing so. In any event, it is hard to fault an organization that recognizes the need to reform itself, especially one that has borne the hopes of humanity so heavily as has the United Nations. [CONT]