How to Save the UN

NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 24: Country flags are seen in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York, United
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 24: Country flags are seen in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York, United States on November 24, 2015. (Photo by Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

One of the reasons that I chose to run for the position of United Nations Secretary General is that I could see the interconnected nature of many of the crises that the world faces today. While I have now withdrawn from the race, I was and remain, full of hope that when we treat them as interrelated issues and work to address their root causes, we can all win.

One of the key crises will be discussed at a UN Summit this week. The crisis is that today we live in a world where 65 million people have been forced from their homes -- more than at any time since the end of the Second World War. Media images of streams of people walking away from their homes have become commonplace over the last 18 months. The heartbreaking stories of those who have lost their lives as they fled the desperate situations in their homelands have lasting implications long after they have left the front pages.

It is anticipated that this week's UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants will seek to better protect migrants and refugees during their perilous journeys, and while this is vital, it will count for little unless we deal with the reasons why people are having to leave.

The UN acknowledges that the international community has been "struggling for years to find better ways to resolve violent conflicts in many parts of the world and to mitigate the impact of climate change and disasters. Alleviating extreme poverty, food insecurity, lack of decent work, inequality, tackling discrimination and human-rights violations and abuses, establishing rule of law, mitigating the impact of disasters and climate change are all massive tasks."

Yet these tasks that are already described as 'massive' are getting bigger. With temperature records being broken month by month, the impacts that climate change has had on conflict and refugees in places like Syria and Mali will only grow. With sea-level rise advancing more quickly than scientists predicted, those communities in the South Pacific and in Alaska who have already been forced to move will be joined by many more. Though climate is not the only factor impacting the choices being made by these people, it is a real and growing danger.

The incumbent UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will leave a legacy of working to reform the UN to break down the institutional silos that slow us down when we respond to such crises. He will leave a legacy of having put frameworks in place -- such as the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement -- that can help address some of the 'massive tasks'.

But this important work needs to be sped up and increased, for example, by incorporating an understanding of climate risk into everything that the UN does. This would ensure that over the longer term we understand better where the hot spots are and how to help prevent system breakdown. It would also give teeth to the conclusions of the inaugural World Humanitarian Summit held earlier this year.

Though I have worked at the heart of the UN for years, I have learnt a lot more about the institution and its peculiar brand of realpolitik over the course of the past few months. It is more clear to me than ever that UN is on the verge of a precipice.

Its next leader -- and there are strong candidates in this race -- has the responsibility to ensure the UN delivers on those groundbreaking agreements made last year, which would see us effectively address poverty, better protect people in their own homes, and create more possibilities of peace. To do in fact what the UN was created to do. But the UN can only do that if it eschews the turf wars and patronage that weakens its ability to do its job properly.

We cannot afford a world without the UN. But the UN must continue to evolve so that it is up to the challenges of the 21st century.

I urge the Security Council to avoid the path of least resistance, I urge them to push for transformation. Though it might seem more difficult at first, this is how we deliver on our promises and put the organisation on a strong footing for the next 70 years, one that will serve the many millions that have already been forced from their homes and those who still live in fear. Don't choose politics, choose the right person for the job.

Ms. Figueres is the top UN authority on global climate change. She was the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) between July 2010 and July 2016. Assuming responsibility for the international climate change negotiations after the failed Copenhagen conference of 2009, she was successful in leading the process to a universally agreed regulatory action framework.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post to mark the occasion of two critical conferences at the UN on the Refugee and Migrant crisis: the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants (Sept. 19th, a UN conference) and the Leaders Summit on Refugees (Sept. 20th, hosted by U.S. Pres. Barack Obama, at the UN). To see all the posts in the series, visit here. To follow the conversation on Twitter, see #UN4RefugeesMigrants.