Intended for healthcare professionals


Is the UN broken, and can we fix it?

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 08 September 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:525
  1. Kelley Lee, reader in global health (
  1. Centre on Global Change and Health, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London WC1E 7HT

    No—and aggressive fixes may make things worse

    The world summit to be held at the United Nations' headquarters in New York next week is billed as the largest gathering of world leaders in history. More than 170 heads of state will attend to give statements, go to plenaries and interactive round-table meetings, and adopt a final document of decisions and recommendations. There will also be a special meeting on financing for development. All this in three days. If there is one thing the UN is good at, it is holding big meetings.

    The UN also excels at setting big challenges. The summit is described as “a once in a lifetime opportunity to take bold decisions on the areas of development, security, human rights, and reform of the UN.”1 The thinking may be that tackling these four areas together is necessary in a globalising world—and taking advantage of the attendance of so many world leaders spurs such ambition.

    In recent weeks there has been much talk of the need for the UN to reform. Given that this meeting marks the UN's 60th anniversary, it seems an appropriate …

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