What is the UN for? These are your strengths and your weaknesses

Since its creation in 1945, the United Nations (UN) has had to adapt to different geopolitical realities and the challenges that these posed for the international community. The situations raised within it have evolved over time, including war conflicts, decolonization processes or humanitarian and environmental catastrophes, among others.

The United Nations system is constantly faced with new challenges and priorities. Currently there is a need to combine civilian, military and civil police personnel in the same situation to provide a comprehensive and more coordinated response to problems that may arise. If to this we add the work with other actors such as governments, non-governmental organizations and citizens, we find ourselves before a vast field of action.

The situations to be covered They range from maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, distributing emergency aid, supporting sustainable development and climate action, or defending international development.

The system has shown, although not always at the pace of the accelerated evolution of the vertiginous times in which we live, flexibility and adaptability despite the rigidity of its administrative procedures.


The Heads of State and Government recognized in the Millennium Declaration the need to strengthen the United Nations in order to turn the organization into a more effective instrument for the achievement of its priority objectives.

Need to adapt to new realities

In 2005, the Secretary General published the report A broader concept of freedom: development, security and human rights for all, in which section V dealt with the strengthening of the United Nations. In this sense, aware of the need to adapt to new realities, they have carried out modernization exercises to adapt their actions to the new situations that have arisen in areas such as international security (Brahini report), the development O gender equality and human rights.

The UN is the international dialogue forum par excellence. It is the only space in the world where 193 countries from all regions of the world, regardless of their political system and values, are represented on equal terms as their General Assembly is governed by the beginning of a country, one vote.

It is, in short, the only place of global action accepted by the international community that we have to resolve conflicts and concerns of common interest through multilateralism and negotiation. This circumstance implies, a priori, on the part of its members, renouncing the use of force to resolve conflicts.

United Nations interventions in different parts of the world they have managed to gradually improve the security climate until a certain stability is achieved. Its continued presence in different territories has managed to carry out a peaceful and democratic political transition.

At HaitiFor example, starting from a situation of civil conflict characterized by the absence of State structures, it was possible to converge into a democratic government that emerged from free and transparent elections in accordance with international standards.

Likewise, the United Nations has become responsible for leading a universal agenda at the global level that has been appropriated by the group of countries that make up the international community in matters of common interest to humanity, such as human rights, environment O sustainable development.

Its dysfunctionalities

However, an organization conceived for another era has a series of dysfunctionalities that appear over the years. These include the bureaucracy and the Security Council.

The UN is today made up of multitude of agencies and dependent bodies that have an operating budget for the year 2021 $ 3,231 million. According to General Assembly resolution 75/591, the total number of UN staff worldwide, between the Secretariat and related entities, as of December 31, 2019 was 77,620.

In 2020, a group of former officials of the organization requested that it be carried out a review of the bureaucracy to improve its representativeness. The processes involved in the operation of this enormous machinery sometimes deprive the UN of the flexibility and speed necessary to respond to certain situations that affect the international common interest.

The Security Council, as we know it today, was created by the Charter of the United Nations signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945. The Charter establishes that the Council will be made up of 15 members, of which 5 they have the character of permanent. In addition, these five countries have in practice a right of veto over the decisions adopted in the Council, as Article 27.3 of the United Nations Charter provides that non-procedural decisions require the affirmative vote of nine members, among the that of all permanent members must be included.

The fact that in the Council, China, the United Kingdom, Russia, the United States and France have veto capacity, being the countries with the greatest military power, and that they take over the majority of the senior positions in the organization, may raise doubts in how much to the principle of equality established in Article 2 of the Charter.

In short, as a defender of multilateralism as an alternative to conflict, I believe that, with all its defects and inconsistencies, the United Nations contributes much more to the common interest of humanity than what remains.

Jordi Feo Valero, Professor of the degrees of International Relations and Law, International University of Valencia

This article was originally published on The Conversation. read the original.


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