Adjunct Professor, Tulane University, USA
Kofi Annan once said, ‘Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family.’ He was right. And, ‘knowledge’, especially ‘knowledge for development’ may well be what the United Nations does best. While the UN mission focuses on peace and security, human rights, humanitarian aid, social development, and international law, it is likely that the knowledge the UN has collected, produced, warehoused and disseminated in these areas is its most significant asset and most valuable global service. The collective knowledge of the UN throughout its numerous agencies, funds, programmes and offices encompasses a vast resource of accumulated information and experience. With the technological progress of the past several decades, this represents an incredible asset to leverage for advancing member states, especially the lesser developed of the member states. From the various UN training centres spread around the world to its multiple libraries, universities and academic programs; its publications monitoring the state of the world in all dimensions; the UN press, television, radio, photography, documentary and social media products and services; its virtual and physical databases; its global statistics; treaty and international law repositories; consulting services and much more, the UN is in a unique position to facilitate knowledge transfer and acquisition across a wide range of topics. To harness this incredible potential, the UN needs to heed more Kofi Annan advice: Deliver as one. This is truer now with the challenge of the Sustainable Development Goals than ever before. The power of ideas starts with knowledge, so those who manage knowledge propel ideas. It would require considerable work and innovative rethinking, but knowledge could, indeed, be the UN’s hottest commodity and most impacting global legacy.