SUMMARY The article addresses the question of UN reform from the perspective of food security. It offers a balance sheet of UN strengths and weaknesses, praising the UN role in advocacy, technical coordination and resource mobilization, but identifying serious politico?bureaucratic problems, and new challenges to the UN mandate caused by the coexistence of hunger and conflict. In understanding why the weaknesses occur, there are useful connections to be made in the debates on public administration, good government and the sociology of international politics, as well as those more directly on UN reform. These lead the article to identify four general principles for UN reform in the food security area, and to explore two options for change, one to improve the status quo and one to introduce more radical change. The latter is preferred: the UN mandate needs review, particularly in the area of conflict; there are too many agencies; and there are too many independent budgets. The article argues for a focal point in the UN system for policy determination and resource allocation for food security.