United Nations (UN) development agencies are established multilateral development actors. They set universally valid norms and standards, have a near global presence, and are preferred partners for developing countries. Despite substantial progress, there is still need for improvement and reform of the UN development system. The UN’s contribution to global development challenges needs to become more effective. This study analyses the motives and preferences of key states concerning current UN reform options. It concludes that the opposing positions of industrialized countries on the one and developing countries and emerging powers on the other hand currently do not allow radical institutional change. The ongoing incremental reform process with a focus on UN operational activities seems to have greater chances for success. The study formulates a number of recommendations concerning how the German government should position itself in the current reform process.