The United Nations: Should They Continue to Exist?
The world has been changing rapidly in recent decades; and it appears that political institutions fail to keep up with the rhythm. The United Nations Organization, which originated in post war time, has been severely criticized for being clumsy, rigid and bureaucratic. Although these concerns make sense, it is still obvious that there is no alternative to the United Nations nowadays, as no organization has the same number of states involved and possesses such a broad scope of functions. Thus, although reform and modernization may be necessary, the United Nations should continue to exist due to their global role in politics, environment, peace keeping activities and being a tribune for every nation to have its voice, no matter whether it is a big or a small one on a global scale.
One of the context in which the United Nations Organization is most actively discussed today is the concept of global governance. Critics of the UN claim that the whole idea has appeared to be utopian and that the attempt to demonstrate the approach is a mere façade which does not allow less influential countries participate anyway. Needless to say, criticism is fair in many aspects, but the question is whether this criticism is a point for improvement or a call for abolishing the United Nations or at least diminishing its role. The first variant still sounds reasonable, as imperfection is not necessarily the ground for destruction. It can hopefully work as a test for flaws in the system which, consequently, contributes towards a chance to be corrected. In order to understand this aspect of the United Nations’ work, the concept of global governance should be discussed in a more detailed manner.
Global governance is a new political principle that became valid for the globalized world. Many various social and economic processes stopped being bound to a single country because of the globalization process. Corporations are transnational, so are environmental and climate issues, and problems, like drug trafficking, are clearly not limited to the boarders between countries. Under such conditions, it is impossible to control the situation and cope with it just by means of international relations. In fact, this would mean using old tools for super-innovative equipment. This is why organizations are necessary in order to carry out discussions and initiative not only at the international level but at the transnational level in the first place. "Global governance is the output of a non-hierarchical network of international and transnational institutions: not only IGOs and international regimes but also transnational regimes are regulating actors' behaviour. In contrast to international governance, global governance is characterized by the decreased salience of states and the increased involvement of non-state actors in norm- and rule-setting processes and compliance monitoring" (Rittberger et al. 2001). One can argue that there are a number of transnational formations like the European Union or organizations like NATO that might partially cover the functions of the United Nations Organizations. However, one cannot deny that neither of other institutions apart from the UN cover such a broad scope of functions and have such a large number of members. It gives a number of advantages to the United Nations. First of all, it would be fair to state that it is the least biased organization as it unites members from opposing camps without giving clear preference to any of them. Apparently, it is impossible to reach perfection; therefore, some countries will obviously have more influence just because of their political, economic or military weight. Yet, it is also true that the United Nations is a more balanced institution because of a large number of members with different points of view. Figuratively, one can say that it is much easier to sit on a hundred of nails rather than on few nails. This is why when reconciling polarities, the United Nations works as a significant stabilizing factor in the world. Indeed, there are organizations that partially cover some of the UN functions in either of its spheres. Yet, in a global world specialized organizations are not always effective because some issues cover several fields simultaneously. For example, environmental issues are related to automobile emissions, to production, etc. This is the reason for the ability of the United Nations to work more efficiently as they have a wider range of tools to influence all aspects of any global issue. Another aspect of global governance, carried out by the United Nations is “equated with multilevel governance, meaning that governance takes place not only at the national and the international level (such as in international governance) but also at the subnational, regional, and local levels" (Rittberger et al. 2001). Hence, it is crucial to notice that governance at a local level in a global context offered by the United Nations cannot be alternatively provided by any other organization. Undoubtedly, it is not provided in a perfect way nowadays, but it is still a valuable contribution to a global management pattern.
When speaking about the United Nations, history demonstrates that it has always been more moderate in terms of political decisions than other structures. For instance, taking the war in Iraq started by the United States, it is worth remembering that the UN warned against this military conflict. Hence, the role of the organization is to influence its members when they are about to take an ambiguous decision. Thus, NATO supported the US in its decision to start a war, while the United Nations expressed concern about the fact. The reason for such difference is not about being positive or negative but about the precise scheme according to which decisions are taken. Since NATO is a biased organization representing one party of a situation, its position has to be more extreme just because it stands for one side. In contrast, the United Nations Organization has to be moderate not because it is “better” than NATO or the American authorities, but owing to the fact it has to deal with all sides. The United States and other members of NATO are simultaneously members of the UN. However, Iraq is an equal member too, as well as Muslim countries which are likely to support it. Thus, from this standpoint, the United Nations becomes a significant medium of stability in the world. Historically, the War in Iraq was not the only case of the peace keeping activities that the UN carried out. The organization has participated in resolving such issues as the Caribbean crisis, the war in Afghanistan, the war between Iraq and Iran, civil wars in such countries as Cambodia, Mozambique, Guatemala.
Experts point out that expectations from the United Nations are changing. One of the primordial concerns is that the problems to be tackled urgently are not in fact addressed by the organization as quickly as it is expected. Hence, calls for reforms are targeting the way things are structured, that is the hierarchy and decision-taking process. However, it is not only the form of the organization that is expected to be reformed by also the content, meaning that the issues that require the UN participation are in many ways different than they used to be years ago. "Attention is shifting to the interlinked global problems that straddle human security, migration, environmental degradation and climate change. Today's demands are new and multi-faceted, but the machinery is old and creaking" (Banks 2008). Still, the original purpose of the United Nations is never out of date and is expressed in the core values, which it should promote: human rights, peace, quality of life and law at the international level.
To make a conclusion about the efficiency of the United Nations in these fields, it is worth considering each of the functions in a more detailed manner. As a matter of fact, the following five principles have been declared in order to define the scope of work carried out by the United Nations: “collective responsibility, global solidarity, the rule of law, mutual accountability, a commitment to multilateralism” (Banks 2008). Speaking of collective responsibility and global solidarity, it is worth saying that the task of the United Nations is to react to the challenges at a global level, especially in the issues of human rights. Whenever crimes against humanity are committed, it is the United Nations’ role to act in order to establish legal justice. No other union has an institution such as the International Criminal Court which consider the cases of genocide, terrorism at the transnational level. Moreover, it is the only organization that is empowered by all states to act in that direction. The mandate of trust from all camps is its best card on the international stage which is not accessible for more biased organizations.
One way, in which people expect the United Nations to change is to obtain more weight and power on the international arena in questions of peacekeeping and resolving conflicts. Today, peacemakers on behalf of the UN participate in a number of operations worldwide. Yet, in many cases, the decision making power against the will of individual states proves it is not strong enough to be the main playmaker on the political stage. Thus, many have approved of the United Nations being antimilitary in the first place, but they do not approve the fact that such warnings do not prevent states from acting. Hence, as public opinion surveys worldwide show, people would prefer to accredit more power to the United Nations.
One of the issues that question the existence of the organization is the fact that some of its functions are now partially or fully fulfilled by other organizations. In this respect, it is natural to think of reconsidering the scope of tasks performed by the UN in order to focus on those which are exclusive ones. Thus, such essential functions include humanitarian projects which already have a solid background and roadmap. Other projects similar to UNAIDS and UNISEF, which are quite successful and are not replicated by other groups, should emerge. Programs struggling with hunger in developing countries are also among those which should be handled by the United Nations in the future. Another abovementioned area is peacekeeping, as it is one of the most crucial ones and needs close attention. Finally, as experts point out, the United Nations should also focus on new fields in order to remain effective and up-to-date.
A point for improvement is the involvement in conflicts as a mediator. In fact, participation in peace operations is a result of the trend that the conflicts have gone too far, while there was probably a chance of preventing them before arms were actually applied by the two sides. These new functions would clearly work in alignment with the humanitarian values of the United Nations. The Under-Secretary-General in Political Affairs has already announced which steps are going to be implemented in order to acquire these new areas: "The first practical step Pascoe is taking is to beef up the Mediation Support Unit in the Department of Political Affairs, to give the United Nations a much needed ability to draw on a small team of experienced mediators based in New York, or a roster of people with regional expertise who could be quickly available" (Banks 2008). However, the issues of balance between sovereignty and globalization are relevant for the UN, as well. For instance, there is a debate about how far it can go in order to make countries stop escalating violence. Many people are afraid of conflict prevention as it can appear to be just a pretty wrapping for pressuring independent states in interests of other, more powerful ones. Another organ within the United Nations which has been created to progress in conflict resolving is the Peacebuilding Commission. In many ways, this is just an experiment, a test-drive of new strategies’ implementations, so started to operate in two countries only. Time will show whether it will be as effective as expected. Yet, the strive of the United Nations to evolve gives hope for its reformation. Thus, this is another argument in favor of the organization’s further existence, as it appears to be not that rigid and capable of change.
One of the concerns expressed by critics of the United Nations is the fact that its structure and ideology are not up-to-date. When it was created, the situation on the political arena was quite different, while the Cold War determined the polarity in the world. Now that the world is less polar and more diverse, it is clear that one should think about representing this diversity in a fair way in the UN. Many complain that the permanent five countries that have the right of veto do not include representatives of some regions, like Africa. Yet, the question of expanding the list of countries having this right is quite controversial. On the one hand, it can establish a more fair balance of forces in the world and finish discrimination of developing countries. On the other hand, it might be dangerous, because it would be more difficult to achieve consensus about significant issues. Hence, vetoing can hamper the process of decision making, which is not what is expected from the United Nations. The organization is accused of bureaucracy now, what is going to happen when reaction is going to be even slower? Certainly, fair balance of forces needs to be considered but not at the expense of speed. Indeed, simplicity, quickness and efficiency are those traits which are able to modernize the United Nations and give the world another chance to become a truly global community.
In conclusion, it is worth saying that the criticism of the United Nation is deserved in many aspects. As a post-war formation, the organization had to perform different functions initially and face different challenges. Since the world has been rapidly changing recently, the United Nations has a dilemma about its existence and reform. One can say that because its vast structure, it is not flexible enough to change quickly. Of course, smaller organizations are more adaptable in this sense. However, even in its today’s unreformed state, the United Nations Organization still plays a crucial role in the world. Its vital function is global governance which is transnational as opposed to international governance. Such areas as peacemaking, anti-AIDS and anti-hunger programs are quite successfully carried out by the United Nations. This proves that this organization has a right to exist in the future. At the same time, in order to be effective, it has to be modernized and conduct new functions like being a mediator in conflicts between countries.
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