From today on a core group of representatives from 30 countries will engage in extensive consultations on the most contentious topics regarding reform of the UN.
This is an inspiring step forward, because the world body is desperately in need of a strategy to extricate itself from the stalemate surrounding its reform agenda.
The member states' agreement to assign decision-making on matters that may to some extent reshuffle our values regarding international relations to a select group in itself shows the UN's power as a consensus-builder, when it has the political will.
The establishment of the representative core group, which consists of the five permanent members of the Security Council, regional organizations, the Non-alignment Movement as well as the Group of 77, demonstrates the UN is capable of fairness.
Unlike previous debates between envoys of the 191 UN member states behind closed doors, which turned out to be vulnerable to protracted foot-dragging, face-to-face inter-governmental negotiations in a focused panel situation have the potential to be efficient.
If everything goes smoothly, the core group may come up with a final draft on September 2.
This is not a matter of technical details such as whether or not peacekeepers should be dispatched in the UN's name.
Each of the seven disputed topics -- development, anti-terrorism, peace, human rights, disarmament and non-proliferation, protection of civilians under threat of ethnic cleansing, as well as management reform at the UN Secretariat -- are essential to the way countries interact.
They require all governments to think to what extent the UN should be reformed.
To answer that question, they must first understand what has made the reform necessary. Is it that the shared values written in the UN Charter are obsolete? Or is it the case that those values are still valid, but they have become less relevant today?
The discord caused by the fervent pushes for seats in the Security Council was detrimental to UN reforms. It distracted and threatened to derail the reforms.
The UN General Assembly has said it would not set a deadline for the panel discussions, and that countries not included in the core group may also join in the negotiations.
It is important to restrain from rushing to adopt an unfinished draft document through the UN's decision-making process, though an immediate outcome may make 60th anniversary celebrations happier.
For the sake of its legitimacy and effectiveness, the UN must ensure it that its reform plan is based on the widest endorsement and participation possible.
(China Daily August 29, 2005)