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Is the United Nations as effective as it set out to be?

BY: Ishrak Ahsan

Since its formation back in 1945, the United Nations has devoted itself to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, and providing economic and social assistance to developing countries. The UN is the biggest Intergovernmental Organization (IGO) in the world with 193 member states and has a global presence, yet many still question if the UN is effective?

An investor looks at the company’s profits to determine if their investment has been worth it, similarly countries look at actual progress and change to determine if their money and cooperation are having a worthful impact. Considering billions of dollars’ worth of international funding go to the UN through mandatory payments and voluntary contributions, it is understandable why the UN’s expectations are held at such a high standard. Wealthier and developed nations need to be assured that the monetary and military support they invest in the UN are aiding the progress of developing nations, and preventing any global catastrophes.

The UN’s first and second charter mandates require it to “Maintain international peace and security,” this is one of the main arguments brought up when debating the UN’s effectiveness. After seeing the devastation of two world wars, countries decided that enough is enough and the UN was founded to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”, but since then there have been countless international conflicts that the UN failed to prevent. From the Rwanda genocide to the US invasion of Iraq, the UN’s impotence to maintain international peace and security has been questioned. There are still conflicts happening around the world right now where the UN has yet again failed to meet its mandates.

It is important to note that the UN is not an international police force but instead they depend on peacekeepers from its member nations to ensure peace and security are maintained. Depending on essentially “volunteer soldiers” results in the UN not having absolute governance over the peacekeepers. This means if a country wanted to pull their soldiers out of a war-torn area and emphasize the safety of their countryman, the UN cannot do much to administer the peacekeepers. That being said it is still hard to ignore the fact that the UN has failed on its mission to maintain international peace and security.

Although the UN has failed to meet its first two mandates, it still does an admirable job of accomplishing its economic and social development goals. The UN’s work in developing countries is where it shines and its effectiveness emphasized. Addressing gender-based violence, achieving gender equality, and higher literacy rates in countries like Nigeria and Afghanistan are a few of the positive changes brought about by the UN. Other initiatives such as alleviating poverty, promoting human rights, improving the plight of indigenous people, and providing safe drinking water are some of the honourable mentions among countless other tremendous things the UN succeeds at doing.

Sure, the UN has failed in various aspects of its intended mission, but it has also achieved and even surpassed many of its other goals. My perspective on whether the UN is effective or not comes down to two simple things: preventing wars and conflicts? No, Helping the developing world in terms of socio-economic progress? Yes.

*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.


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