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Project: The United Nations System in the 21st Century (UN21 Project)

As the UN embarks upon its second half-century, its future is clouded by widespread skepticism and disillusionment. Following the euphoria of the immediate post-Cold War 'honeymoon' a sense of multilateral fatigue - and sometimes even crisis - has pervaded the Organization. It may even be possible to question whether the UN as it exists today is sustainable. A conceptual and practical reassessment of the Organization's strengths, weaknesses and structure is long overdue.

To explore a variety of aspirations, expectations and views of how the UN can best serve humankind in the future the UNU launched a project entitled 'The United Nations System in the 21st Century'. An opening symposium in 1995 outlined a number of themes and issues facing the UN. The framework used to approach these challenges is based upon three different perspectives of the United Nations: 1) as an Actor, 2) as an Arena, and 3) as a Policy Tool. Research groups have been focussing on the following five primary international actors in their approaches: 1) states; 2) non-governmental organizations (NGOs); 3) market forces; 4) regional institutions, and 5) international organizations. An annual symposium presents the findings of each research group where research outcomes are presented and critically discussed. On the basis of the papers presented at these meetings an edited volume is published by UN University Press in the UN21 series.