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Understanding United Nations reform. Ten theoretical clues: (6) Universality and regionalism

Published on 18 March 2015
Updated on 05 April 2024

Another possible vector for a meaningful strategy of reform is turning into better account the potential of regionalism in achieving the goals of the United Nations (UN). Decentralisation based on thematic criteria and technical specialisation does not rule out asserting the principle of subsidiarity in its regional expression. One such proof is the emergence of the African involvement in peacekeeping operations in Africa.

There are significant reserves of pragmatic use of regional solidarities, cultural and linguistic affinities, and above all, convergence of common interests and concerns. The example of regional integration is very telling.

Globalisation does not rule out, but rather opens new perspectives to the regional mechanisms of the UN. Presenting the latter’s independence in analysis, research, and field action is both desirable and feasible.

Moreover, upholding the regional specific as a factor of influence in designing policies of global scope – as debated in the multilateral framework – brings additional value. Although the UN regional economic commissions will never have too important a say in the allocation of resources for development, their role is still useful. They may provide conceptual pluralism which is badly needed if we engage in a really critical analysis of mainstream economic thinking.

From an impartial and independent posture, the economic regional commissions tend to stimulate a balance between the global transnational forces and the interests they pursue. They may also enhance the weight of the specificities and the interests which the continental geography might coagulate, in particular in Latin America and Africa.

A comprehensive reform brings the opportunity to strengthen the means available to the world organisation, including the legal and institutional connections with regional arrangements, thus helping the UN to effectively leave its imprint on debates on economic and trade policies which are decided in other, more specialised, forums.

Petru Dumitriu

[Editor’s note: To learn more on the United Nations and multilateral diplomacy, join our Multilateral diplomacy course.]

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