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The United Nations and Global Public Goods: Historical Contributions and Future Challenges.

Bruce Jenks
Les Nations unies et les biens publics mondiaux : contributions historiques et défis à venir [fr]


Published by Palgrave Macmillan

This chapter explores the thesis that the United Nations’ (UN) most important contribution to the production of global public goods has been its role in creating the space and capacity to generate shared values. Starting with the UN Charter itself, the chapter traces the evolution of this contribution through different historical phases. It analyses the impact of globalisation on the role of the UN; in particular it identifies the quality of porousness as a product of globalisation which is critical to understanding the current challenges faced by the UN as well as central to the global public goods agenda.

Through this lens the author briefly reviews the evolution of the UN’s role in the fields of peace and security, human rights and development cooperation. He concludes by identifying eight levers for change that will determine the UN’s ability to contribute significantly to the global public goods: the generation of norms and shared values, the quality of leadership, improved governance, innovative financing, institutional realignment, the further consolidation of legal instruments, focus, and the power of networks.

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Cite this article

Electronic reference

Bruce Jenks, “The United Nations and Global Public Goods: Historical Contributions and Future Challenges.”International Development Policy | Revue internationale de politique de développement [Online], 3 | 2012, Online since 27 March 2012, connection on 26 September 2021. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Bruce Jenks

Senior non-resident Fellow at Harvard University Kennedy School of Government. Hecurrently lectures at the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and DevelopmentStudies and at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs. Heserved as Assistant Secretary-General at the United Nations Development Programmeuntil 2010, and was responsible for the UNDP’s resource mobilisation, and its relationswith the Executive Board, donors, UN agency partners, the World Bank, OECD/DAC, the private sector and civil society.

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Creative Commons License
International Development Policy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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