Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has taken office at a time of significant turbulence in international politics. As the Secretary-General and his new ‘cabinet’ begin to take stock of the UN’s agenda and relevant capacities, they face several sets of challenges. Some of these emerge from the terrain character of conflict; some from the transitional international political environment; others from a growing band of competitors; and some from the UN itself. This brief note traces some of these challenges through the lens of their potential impact on the space available to the UN to play a political role in conflict and crisis management; and sets out some elements of possible strategy to navigate the likely turbulence ahead.