A Fool’s Errand? The Next Secretary-General and United Nations Reform

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How can the incoming Secretary-General António Guterres promote and lead change? The view in many policy circles is that the UN urgently needs comprehensive change, and the next Secretary-General is expected to capitalize on the honeymoon to initiate a transformation. We argue that initiating transformational change is counterproductive for the next Secretary-General. A better strategy is to implement modest changes that accumulate over multiple rounds and to influence and empower the leadership of so-called ‘smart coalitions’ of state and non-state actors seeking to enact ambitious changes to intergovernmental structures and global norms. Specifically, we propose a change leadership strategy for the next Secretary-General based on five guiding principles and including illustrative reforms that suggest how the next Secretary-General might put each principle into practice.

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