The United Nations and the global common good: roles, possibilities and limits of UN development cooperation

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and global political shifts have led to new challenges for the United Nations. This research project examines political and institutional factors connected to the roles, possibilities and limits of the United Nations with regard to the politics of the global common good, and aims at identifying recommendations for reform.

Project Lead:
Max Baumann

Project Team:
Sebastian Haug
Anna Novoselova

Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

Time frame:
2021 - 2024 / ongoing

Project description

The United Nations (UN) plays a key role in the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, both as a multilateral forum for the negotiation of global agendas and norms and as the largest player in multilateral development cooperation (with a budget of roughly 36 billion US Dollars in 2018). The UN faces a complex context shaped by global challenges; institutional and political path dependencies; and expanding nationalist movements across member states. Against this backdrop, the research and advisory project examines the roles, possibilities and limits of the UN regarding the multilateral cooperation for the global common good, and identifies recommendations for shaping the cooperation between Germany and the UN. The following questions guide the project's three work packages:  

  1. How does the implementation of the 2018 reforms of the UN development system unfold regarding both operational work and financing dynamics? How are changes to be explained, and what should further reform steps look like ?
  2. How do different layers of the increasingly decentralised UN development system cooperate across headquarters as well as regional and country levels (in combination with a focus on both inter-governmental and operational dimensions of engagement)? What are key fault lines, and what are implications for the politics of the global common good?
  3. How do member states from the global South engage with the UN development system? How do they contribute to the advancement of multilateral development politics at both inter-governmental and operative levels, and what role does South-South and triangular cooperation play at the UN?