Social development and the UN system

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The United Nations (UN) can take much of the credit for the renewed importance attached to 'social development' in the 1990s. Social issues undeniably belong among the core tasks of the whole UN system, even though individual countries take prime responsibility for them. The UN and-despite the major differences among them-its specialised agencies have a number of advantages that enable them to make an appropriate contribution to the promotion of social development in the context of development cooperation. However, they also have various shortcomings that reduce their effectiveness significantly. This is true, for example, of the fragmentation of their tasks and their fixation on governments as interlocutors (in, say, the implementation of measures). In addition, there is a gap between what the UN has been able to achieve conceptually in the area of social development (e.g., the '20:20 Initiative' and the Human Development Reports) and what can be identified in practical work at country level. Clearly, the current attempts at reform need to be joined by greater efforts to make the UN and the specialised agencies better suited to contributing effectively to social development and other important development policy tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)593-598
Number of pages6
JournalInternational Social Science Journal
Issue number162
StatePublished - 1999


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