Rudd: The UN Matters

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Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Australia, explained to an audience at IPI why, in his view, the UN is so fundamental to global stability on August 30, 2016.

We must not take the existence of the UN for granted, he said. “The UN matters as a function of global order, but also because we can rediscover the principle of multilateralism.”

Mr. Rudd serves as Chair of IPI’s Independent Commission on Multilateralism (ICM). This Global Leaders Series presentation served as the launch of Mr. Rudd’s Chair’s report, “UN 2030: Rebuilding Order in a Fragmenting World,” in which he provides his personal views on how the UN can adapt to a changing world.

Mr. Rudd spoke prior to the September 21st launch of the final ICM report, which will outline the key conclusions and recommendations from the ICM’s two-year consultative process.

Many states are increasingly working around rather than with the UN, but Mr. Rudd, also President of the Asia Society Policy Institute, said, “The UN is as strong as its member states want it to be.” The inability of the UN to stop mass atrocities in Syria and elsewhere, as well its ineffectual response to the refugee crisis, are just recent illustrations of its failures, he noted.

As such, while reform is necessary, Mr. Rudd stated he hopes the UN will continue to reinvent itself. It would be “far better to seize the day to make the United Nations relevant for the 21st century,” than to forgo the organization’s potential role in “building bridges” between the great powers on such transnational challenges, he said.

This mission is a practical one, according to Mr. Rudd, as it is “the delivery on the ground which changes people’s lives” that is crucial. He offered praise to “the men and women serving under the flag of the UN” in the field, calling them “the personal reasons to defend this organization.”

Mr. Rudd cited the widely hailed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted in September 2015 as an important roadmap for the organization’s work over the next 15 years. “The SDGs raised expectations,” he said. “We need to ensure their implementation, not the delivery of a failed report card.”

The next secretary-general, to take office in January 2017, must actively ensure the goals’ 179 targets in the areas of economic, environmental, and social development are met, he said. A new “global compact between civil society and the UN” would ensure they are fully monitored and implemented.

Mr. Rudd noted that a more inclusive UN would be better suited to achieve the bold aims it has set for itself in the 2030 Agenda. “We need the full integration of women across the UN agenda, and a full approach for global youth to shape their own future,” he said.

Terje Rød-Larsen, IPI President, moderated the conversation.

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