The United Nations: Last Century or Necessity

The Gallup poll states that “only 43% of people think that the UN is doing a good job in solving the problems it’s trying to face”. Our world deals with issues such as poverty, gender inequality, mass human rights violations, and global warming that will only continue to grow. The UN was created to solve these problems, prevent these problems, and bring a time of global peace. However, many people have been questioning the authority of the UN and its capabilities as little progress have been made. There is no place for mistrust among the people towards a global institution only created for the people. Therefore we must investigate the actions of the UN and question its need. By examining the evidence about the effectiveness of the United Nations and its need in our global society, this essay will argue that our world needs a restructured UN that will foster global peace and security.

The United Nations (UN): The UN is an international institution that aims to maintain global peace, security, and friendly international relations. In addition to that, It is focused on creating and implementing solutions to global problems (climate change, gender inequality, and human rights violations). It is separated into many different agencies, one that focuses on security, one on diplomacy, and one on humanitarian aid (there are more clusters, but these are the 3 major ones). The United Nations Security Council (UNSC): The UNSC is a council of 15 member countries that focus on safeguarding our world. 5 member countries are permanent members who are economic superpowers. There are 10 other revolving seats in the UNSC who reflect the smaller member countries. The UNSC votes on whether to pursue potential threats toward international peace.

Many people fear the United Nations will become irrelevant. Dr.Sindu, an NYU professor for Global Affairs, explains that he fears the United Nations will become irrelevant or die, which will increase global nationalism. Many critics have said that the UN has become more irrelevant. This is due to the fact that the UN does not take sides on conflicts and is very neutral, to the extent that it ignores human rights violations. The UN is not only important for countries but important for people who need to be saved from atrocious human rights violations. There is no point in having the UN if it doesn’t hold countries accountable for their actions. If the UN does die, there will be a decrease in global cooperation and an increase in nationalism. This could lead to increased conflict between countries and decreased progress on global issues (poverty, healthcare, gender inequality, etc). Since the UN has made progress it is important we address this problem so we can make the UN more effective and useful. Dr.Sindhu’s findings are supported by a Zogby interactive poll that asked people on their views of the relevance of the United Nations. This poll shows that 'U.S. residents who took part in a July 13-16 Zogby interactive poll indicated a low view of the United Nations. More than half -- 52.8 percent -- said the United Nations has been reduced in its influence and is less relevant in global matters. Some 41.1 percent, however, said they believed the United Nations is needed more than ever'. As we can see there is a lot of distrust between the UN and the citizens. I believe so because there is not much education on this institution in the first place. Additionally, the UN has to be more connected with the citizens it's serving and come up with more effective/compelling ways to fill them in on the progress they have made. Also seen in this poll is a good amount of the public agreeing that the UN has made significant progress. This only fosters more reform and new leadership that is needed for the UN to become more effective and authentic.

Moreover, many people fear that the UN is becoming corrupt and favorable to some member states. According to Yigal Palmer, a former spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the powers of the UN’s security council remain unchecked as they have created an exclusive nuclear club. The 5 permanent members of the security council already are economic and social global superpowers. If they use a global forum to cooperate for means that could increase violence (weapons) this could harm and instill fear in smaller member states. Smaller countries like Ethiopia, Indonesia, Rwanda, and Mexico already don’t have much military equipment or money to protect themselves, they also all face crippling conditions (poverty, natural disasters). This with the additional fact that they don’t have much leadership or much of a voice in the UN causes concern to these countries that members of the security council could attack them, take advantage of them or economically isolate them. Since the UN has helped many smaller member states, we must reform the UN so more equality is ensured among countries, with more representation and accountability taken. Yigal Palmer’s beliefs are supported by a study by Ilyana Kuzimeko, a professor of economics at Princeton University. This study shows, “US foreign aid expenditure, ODA (Official Development Assistance)—receiving countries which hold a rotating seat of the UNSC experience on average a rise of 59% in payments ($16 million); concerning financial support from the United Nations, an increase of 8% ($1 million) is being detected”. Countries on the rotating seats of the UNSC usually play more of a role in global politics and have more of a voice in the UN. Smaller countries also facing crippling conditions who already don’t get that much of a voice or representation won’t receive the financial aid that they need. The UN is based on the concepts of equality and global growth as a whole and focusing on certain areas doesn’t represent their authentic purpose. Additionally, our world is already facing a lack of funding, so the distribution of money is important, especially in severe and dangerous areas. Since the UN has been providing money to member states for aid, this problem only encourages reform in the area of favoritism and corruption to better the UN.

Opponents of the UN believe that the UN is inefficient and expensive and therefore needs to be replaced. Anthony Grafton, a historian at Princeton University argues that the UN has wasted money on bureaucratic and diplomatic measures such as its staggering personnel costs, rather than using the money on humanitarian aid. Similar to Grafton, Dore Gold, a former UN Ambassador stated that the UN’s outdated structure makes it overly bureaucratic and slow which wastes money and decreases progress. The UN’s use of money is not transparent. It does receive a lot of money from member states but most of that money is wasted. Especially during this time when the UNSC is at a stalemate which reflects the UN’s outdated structure. In making these comments, Grafton and Gold disregard the fact that the UN is the world’s most inexpensive option for a global institution that has made much progress. Alan Simpson, a former professor at American University says,'Support for the United Nations is one of the most cost-effective ways to address global challenges which has been shown through the progress the UN has made'. Simpson emphasizes the progress the UN has already made especially as its the world's most inexpensive option. Neither Grafton or Gold provide another option other than the UN or references its notable progress it has made (towards its sustainable development goals or its disaster preventative strategies, or the fact that there has been no major world war since the UN was created). They both ignore the fact that the world is dependent on the UN’s peacekeeping strategy and it's the only forum to bring all the countries of the world together. Their criticism of the UN’s outdated structure only fosters more reform.

One solution the UN has implemented to be more relevant is the emphasis it has put on the 3 pillars of the UN (peace, development, and human rights). Dr. Mark Hammargren a researcher says that the 3 pillars will enable the UN to return to its authentic purpose, getting rid of the politics and in effect becoming more efficient. The reason behind the UN’s inefficiency is the politics and diplomacy involved. Member states are afraid to hold others accountable because of the hostility and violence that could be returned. The UN is afraid to lose funding. If you take those diplomatic principles away, you get to the core of the UN. The authenticity is preserved. This will ensure more progress towards development and human rights which will in turn ensure peace. We don’t need to replace the UN, we need to go back to the beginning. Additionally, Dr.Hammargren emphasizes that the discourse on the 3 pillars at the 70th session of the UN has led the way toward internal UN Reform. Having a conversation among all member states at the 70th session is a huge deal. There are so many things the UN has on its agenda, that the 3 pillars might not be as important. But talking about this issue shows the advancements the UN has made toward the integrity of its institutions. This also shows that the UN is ready to re-evaluate its commitment to the 3 pillars.

One solution the UN could use to become more efficient is the implementation of the UN charter (foundational treaty of the UN). Dr. Tracy Hendrickson, a former UN ambassador says that countries should recognize the charter and understand that it is their responsibility to implement it. This charter is one way to better the UN, It will bring back the authenticity of the UN. The UN has all the materials, and we just need the implementation. Moreover, it will increase the effectiveness of the UN and trust among the member states and citizens. Additionally, Dr. Tracy Hendrickson states that the charter will enforce the authority of the UN. The United Nations can only implement its rule of law if countries recognize its authority. Since this is an international institution it cannot surpass a country's sovereignty. However, the charter holds all member countries to a standard that is strictly overlooked. If one member country does not uphold the laws they will be pressured by other member countries. While the Charter will not directly enforce the rule of law from the UN, member countries will be influenced by the charter to do so.

As more is learned about the United Nations, its efficiency, its drawbacks, its progress, research, and implementation have only just begun with the UN recognizing the need for reform in its 70th session. Awareness of UN reform is important so the citizens can start to trust this organization again. This trust will motivate the member countries' governments to partake more in UN affairs (diplomatic and humanitarian). Which will lead to an increased amount of funding, humanitarian aid, and overall progress towards the UN goals (sustainable development goals). As someone who is part of Model UN, I can see the potential of the UN, especially when I work with my counterparts and realize the amazing solutions the UN has come up with. UN reform not only reflects better international relations, it means a better standard of living for all the humans who are suffering. Does the world need the United Nations? Yes. Our world will crumble without the one institution that is only holding us together. That is why we need to strengthen the UN. That is why we need reform.  

07 July 2022
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