As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine draws significant backlash from the international community, some have begun to question the efficacy of the UN and whether it has a role in today’s society.
In 1945, in the wake of the devastating effects of World War II, the UN was formed as a means for all the world’s nations to “gather together, discuss common problems, and find shared solutions that benefit all of humanity”. Nearly 77 years later, after various crises and a decades long Cold War, the UN finds itself at a crossroads as war rages in Europe once again. While the UN has issued an official resolution condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, many have begun to question whether these condemnations have any real weight to them.
Many people doubt the legitimacy of the UN and their purpose on the world stage. Jokes about the UN issuing ineffective sanctions against countries openly committing genocide are not uncommon. This negative sentiment was especially prevalent after the UN’s failure to prevent genocide in Rwanda in 1994. Since then, the UN has been derided as unnecessary and ineffective by critics. Allegations of rampant sexual abuse of civilians by UN Peacekeepers have only worsened the reputation of the UN.
Many have lost faith in the UN as a result. This shows in the UN’s funding, which has decreased by 2.1% since 2020. In the wake of major world power Russia invading Ukraine, some have begun to question if the UN was effective at keeping peace and whether it was actually necessary. However, these people fail to realize that the UN is a massive organization operating on a global scale, and as such, does a lot more than most people might think.
The current peacekeeping budget of the UN for the years of 2021-22 is about $6.38 billion. This may not be even a fraction of a percent of the almost $2 trillion in global military expenditures, but the amount is still substantial. And with this money, UN Peacekeepers are hard at work trying to help marginalized communities and nations worldwide in areas such as humanitarian aid, peace and security, and human rights among others. And with the backing of almost all recognized countries and over 44,000 workers worldwide, the UN is able to support the well-being of billions.
The humanitarian arm of the UN is probably one of the most important portions of the UN’s operations. The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) serves to offer aid to regions and people affected by disasters and conflict. This is achieved through its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), which delivers aid rapidly to regions in need of its assistance. With the rise of disasters due to climate change and rising conflict worldwide, this service will undoubtedly be high in demand in the near future.
The peacekeeping arm of the UN has two branches: the Security Council and the General Assembly. The Security Council works to identify and respond to threats to international peace and security while the General Assembly is mostly responsible for legislation. Together, these branches work to enact policies necessary for maintaining peace throughout the world.
Lastly, there is the human rights arm of the UN, which mostly concerns itself with maintaining democracy and protecting the rights of marginalized people worldwide. The UN proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which still serves as a keystone for the human rights work that they perform in vulnerable regions of the world. This is an integral part of everything that the UN does because by ensuring everyone has their human rights maintained, they can improve the standards of living in even the most vulnerable of countries.
Despite everything they do for those afflicted with disease, conflict, and disasters, the efficacy of the UN is still being questioned. While it is by no means perfect, there is no doubt that billions of lives have been saved and improved through their humanitarian and peacekeeping work. By maintaining human rights around the world, the UN is dedicated to making the world better and more peaceful. The UN may have failed in some areas like failing to prevent genocide in Rwanda, but they have succeeded in improving the overall quality of life around the world.
The UN is not only necessary for billions of people, but it will be much more important in the years to come as climate change and various world conflicts rage on.