“The most fundamental constraint on the UN’s performance is neither administrative nor structural, but political,” according to The Hague Institute for Global Justice President Dr. Abiodun Williams. He spoke at a conference organized by the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) Vienna Liaison Office. The topic of the conference in Vienna was “Have the UN Agencies Adapted to the 21st Century?” This is a question frequently raised, in a time of multiple new challenges confronting the 67-year-old organization. In order to engage discussions around this question, ACUNS set up a conference with the UN Vienna-based organizations.
As Chair of the ACUNS Board of Directors, Dr. Williams delivered the keynote address. The theme of his speech was: “A Mixed Record: The United Nations and Adaptation in the 21st Century.” As the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said on 3 January 2012, on UN Radio: “The most difficult challenge at this time is how to modernize our organization, adapting to changes of the 21st century. Technology outpaces our current thinking and people’s ideas outpace our way of working. We have to make our organization more nimble, more efficient and effective, transparent and accountable.”
Dr. Williams said: “Political differences and conflicts of interest among 193 Member States impede change and adaptation… which is possible, but difficult and incremental. However, adaptation is not an end in itself but a means to an end.”
The conference, which was hosted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), was held on 9-11 January 2013. The IAEA, UNIDO, CTBTO, UNODC, and UNIS showcased their efforts to meet the challenges of the new Millennium to an important audience of academics, practitioners and students.