The world has undeniably changed since the end of World War II—when the United Nations was established—but the organization has since failed to keep up.
These last 73 years have been transformed due to incredible advances in trade, finance, communication, transportation and technology. The result is an unprecedented interconnected global network, yet this comes with its own host of problems. Unlike before, occurrences that were formerly localized can spill across borders and have consequences around the entire globe.
Take Syria for example. What had started as small-scale protests has erupted into civil war. The problems plaguing the country have spawned three global crises: the overwhelming flow of refugee crisis into Europe, the creation of widespread terrorist networks, and the exacerbation of the previous conflicts between world powers, notably the United States and Russia.
Though the United Nations has seen some success, such as eradicating smallpox, forming the International Criminal Court, and protecting the Galapagos Islands, it has become clear that the organization will have to deal with huge challenges in the near future.
The majority of these problems stem from one root cause—the same five countries have been in control since 1945. The United States, Russia, China, Britain and France enjoy special privileges as the only permanent members of the powerful U.N. Security Council. These P5 (Permanent 5) members all have veto power, and the disagreements between these world powers have rendered the council unable to decide on action in major crises like Syria and Ukraine.
Though it may be the most powerful, the UN Security Council is just one part of the sprawling UN system of 15 autonomous agencies, 11 semi-autonomous funds and programs, and numerous other bodies. The United Nations is simply too big, and there is no central entity to oversee every part. Though the Secretary General, currently Antonio Guterres, is tasked with coordinating their actions, he has very little actual authority over the various parts of the U.N.
In fact, Guterres predecessor Ban Ki-moon’s time as U.N. Secretary General only serves to prove the limits of this position. For example, Mr. Ban removed a Saudi-led coalition from a report of countries whose armies have killed or maimed children under the threat of the loss of funding for humanitarian operations.
This is not an isolated incident. The UN is running out of money, making it far too dependent on rich countries, and giving them even more power within the organization. With so many international crises demanding United Nations aid, raising money is a constant problem. The majority of U.N. agencies and humanitarian operations rely on outside voluntary contributions, but there simply aren’t enough donations. The World Food Program was even forced to suspend a program serving more that 1.7 Syrian refugees due to the failure of donors to meet their commitments.
It has become increasingly clear that the world’s primary organization to deal with war is not working.
The U.N. has proven to have neither the capacity, resources, nor power to deal with the multitude of issues affecting the globe, and is very quickly in danger of following the League of Nations into obsolescence. Yet as our world shrinks—through advanced communication, rapid transportation, and a complex international economy—the value of effective diplomacy has become increasingly relevant.
The future of the United Nations is unclear, but it has become more important now than ever before.
Photo: CJ News