May 30 2019
Past event

UN reforms and human rights: a civil society dialogue

The purpose of this (Chatham House Rules) policy dialogue is to give civil society representatives the opportunity to receive an update on the UN reforms, with a particular focus on the development system, and to consider implications and opportunities for human rights work.

The Secretary General’s reforms focus on three key areas: management (secretariat), as well two of the three UN pillars; the development system, and the peace and security architecture. The human rights pillar has been conspicuously ignored. Jens Wandel, Special Advisor on UN reforms, said at a December 2018 URG event that these are not human rights reforms, but that “a more efficient UN will be better for human rights.” The Secretary-General has stated that the principle aims of the reforms will be to foster UN wide coherence and modernization, deliver on prevention and support implementation of the 2030 Agenda, all of which have clear links to human rights.

The main objective of the development reforms is to place sustainable development at the ‘heart’ of the UN’s work, with the 2030 Agenda serving at its blueprint. The reform has involved significant changes to the Resident Coordinator system, UN Country Teams and the UN Development Assistance Framework, among others. Notably, the two other reform streams – on the UN’s management paradigm and the peace and security pillar – are mutually reinforcing and display considerable synergies with the reformed development pillar.

This is an occasion for civil society to discuss opportunities for the promotion of human rights in the UN system during this period of reform implementation, and with the resulting structures. This is not intended to duplicate conversations speculating on why human rights is largely absent from the reform proposals, but rather a forward-looking exercise in information sharing, and identifying possibilities for human rights strengthening.



Jean Philippe Bernardini
Repositioning of the UN Development System
Executive Office of the Secretary-General

Karin Lucke
Senior Human Rights Officer
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) NYC

Brianna Harrison
Human Rights Advisor
UN Development Coordination Office


Danica Damplo

Universal Rights Group NYC

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