United Nations needs shake-up to rebuild its reputation

26 June 2019

The United Nations (UN) must do more to attract top level employees and improve its communication in order to rebuild its reputation, according to Dr Thant Myint-U, a former high level UN executive and adviser to the president of Myanmar.

Speaking on a panel at the ANU Crawford Leadership Forum, Dr Myint-U said the UN's reputation had been declining since before the Cold War.

"The UN is absolutely awful at public communication," Dr Myint-U said.

"It doesn't convey very well its past and present successes, and there is very little engagement of public opinion.

"The department that has worked on this area over the decades has always been very small, and not seen as worthy of very much attention.

"In this part of the world in Asia, trust in the UN as an institution has always been low to medium at best."

Dr Myint-U also said the organisation suffered due to its inability to attract and keep top level talent.

"The pay scales at the UN have been in steep decline since the 1950s and it's very expensive to live in New York, it doesn't really attract the best people," he said.

This was supported by fellow panellist Jean-Marie Guéhenno, a Senior Adviser at the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue - which acts as a member of the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Advisory Board on Mediation.

"For the UN to attract the best and the brightest, there are questions of pay, but also questions of prestige," Mr Guéhenno said.

"Today if you are an up-and-coming young man or woman and you want to join a multinational corporation, they see the UN as an organisation of states that is slow and not nimble.

"And they wonder if this is the place where they can have the greatest impact."

The ANU Crawford Leadership Forum brings together Australia and the globe's top leaders from business, government, and academia to address the major geopolitical and economic challenges facing contemporary policy makers.