But as with the global parliament or UNEPS, that is the point! The resistance to the Tobin Tax is not about money, it is about power. The main geopolitical actors are unwilling to allow the UN to become an independent actor that can fulfil the goals of the ‘responsibility to protect’ ethos in an efficient and a political manner. It is unlikely that independent financing for the UN will occur without a major global civil society movement that would have to be on a scale comparable to that which brought the International Criminal Court into being. In most respects the ICC would seem far more threatening to statist prerogatives than would independent financing for the UN. In this sense, the political will of global civil society must be strengthened if such an indispensable reform is to become a live political project in the years ahead.

The successful movement to establish an International Criminal Court (ICC) is illustrative of a reformist move that came into being, at least formally, outside of these limits on feasibility. William Pace, a leader of the NGO coalition that collaborated with governments in the late 1990s, likes to tell the story that he was advised by many within the UN that the ICC project was impossibly utopian given the firmness of US opposition. In this instance, the mobilisation of global civil society appeared to create a momentum that overcame geopolitical resistance. Of course, the success may be less than meets the eye if the ICC fails to produce significant indictments and prosecutions in coming years. The first real opportunity for the ICC seems likely to arise out of its anticipated role in dealing with allegations of crimes against humanity in the context of the Darfur genocide in Sudan. There are other important indications that civil society initiatives can obtain results despite geopolitical opposition: the separate requests to the International Court of Justice for Advisory Opinions with respect to the legality of nuclear weapons and of the Israeli security wall; the push for a treaty of prohibition on the use of anti-personnel landmines; and widespread adherence to the Kyoto Protocol restricting greenhouse gas emissions. Such successes should not be overstated. A minority of opposing states can still nullify the ‘success’ by refusing to comply with or by simply ignoring the institutional or normative claims. The lesson here is that global civil society, acting in collaboration with sympathetic governments, can pursue reformist projects that stretch, if not break free of, the geopolitical limits on political action, and that such action is an indispensable contribution to the global reform process, within and without the United Nations.

It is in these ideological and historical circumstances that this chapter considers the issue of UN reform from the perspective of global civil society. It begins by presenting the debate on reform as emerging out of a swirl of conflicting political projects, and then proceeds to discuss how reform has accompanied the evolution of the UN. Because changes in the Charter of the United Nations are often impossible to achieve by formal amendment, the story of reform is often mainly told in terms of shifting patterns of practice, especially in the Security Council and Secretariat, which adapt the UN to changing values and imperatives, and amount to what might be described as ‘reform from within’. This discussion is followed by a consideration of three important reports addressing UN reform produced on the initiative of the Secretary-General. This is essentially a state-friendly approach to UN reform that can be understood as ‘reform from above’. A further section considers some prominent initiatives that emanate from global civil society and enjoy widespread support in the more radical reformist domains, and can be understood as ‘reform-from-below’ (and without), although on occasion with crucial collaborative support from coalitions of governments. It is this pattern of political action that successfully brought the International Criminal Court into being despite intense opposition from leading geopolitical actors. That is, this kind of globalism is a new form of diplomacy that should not be regarded as either traditionally statist in character or a postmodern instance of non-state transnationalism. It is really a diplomatic hybrid that could be tentatively identified as the ‘new globalism’.