The UN and Energy - An Institutional Gap or a Promise for the Future?

This paper addresses the United Nation’s role in global energy governance, aiming at giving an overview of how the UN has addressed energy issues over time, with a special emphasis on what the UN has governed in global energy governance.

It concludes that energy issues have become more prominent within the UN since the 1970s and a common belief within the UN system today is that energy plays a key role in many of the challenges that the world faces. In relation to what the UN has governed, this study departs from four different aspects of energy: security, economic, environmental and social aspects.

The findings indicate that although the UN has addressed all four aspects, a special emphasis has been given to social and environmental aspects. In contrast to traditional ways to approach the energy question, security aspects have only played a minor role within the UN.

Further, the UN has increasingly taken a broader view on energy issues, highlighting the need for cooperation and coordination between different policy areas. These findings indicate that even though the UN has not been a major player within global energy governance in the past, it has good prospects of becoming more prominent in forming future energy policy.

Author: Karolina Leopoldsson, MA, Swedish Institute of International Affairs

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