As world attention descends on the United Nations General Assembly, Intelligence Squared U.S. casts a critical lens on this nearly 76-year-old global organization. In light of recent controversies in places like Haiti, and its limited presence in places such as Afghanistan -- where the Taliban has regained control -- questions are mounting as to whether the United Nations itself is both ineffective and outdated. Those who say “no” point to its promotion of peace and stability in an increasingly fractured political landscape, its devotion to human rights, its addressing of climate change, its commitment to multilateralism, and its widespread delivery of humanitarian aid as evidence of its value. The system is not perfect, they say, but its achievements are many, and are often unsung. Yet those who say “yes” question its usefulness in addressing a radically different global environment than the one in which it was formed, critique its promotion of globalism. They also cite corruption and a lack of accountability with regard to the very populations the body is charged with helping. So, in light of these emerging questions, we ask an especially timely question: Is the United Nations is Obsolete?
- Numerous failures on the part of the United Nations, such as peacekeeping failures in Rwanda and Srebrenica, have shown that the United Nations does not perform well in crises, costing millions of lives over the decades.
- When it comes to real crises, the UN is at best a bureaucratic bystander and at worst a corrupt actor; powerful states in the region are more likely to take effective action.
- A sovereignty-based international system prevents the UN from effectively enforcing its resolutions or missions.
- The structure of the UN has not reflected the changes in international dynamics.
- The space the UN provides to allow countries to come together to speak is invaluable. If there was no UN, it would have to be invented.
- While there are some notable failures, there are many more successes among the UN's peacekeeping efforts that do not get as much publicity.
- The United Nations is what its member states make of it. It has the ability to rise above its challenges and face long-term problems often not addressed by individual countries whose politicians serve shorter terms.
- The world is faced by a series of global problems that require global responses, such as climate change, cyberwarfare, and the coronavirus pandemic. The only way we have to organize those responses is through the United Nations.