The United Nations (UN) is a remarkable organisation. It has achieved some outstanding results for humanity and it continues to do so. The 17 Sustainable Development Goals offer an example, amongst many, of its tireless work for the planet and its people. Despite its achievements, however, the UN is flawed. Its many failings relate to its structure, its principles and its functions.
Here are some examples:
The language and structure of the UN Charter are engrained in the post war world of 1945
- Those countries who had fought against the Allies are referred to as “enemy” states in the UN Charter and treated differently.
- The five permanent members of the Security Council were the main victors of the Second World War. Their selection had nothing to do with fair representation or moral authority.
- One of the six organs of the UN, the Trusteeship Council is redundant. It was established to oversee the independence process of territories still occupied by colonial powers. Of course, it could have diversified and worked for oppressed people within nations, but it chose not do this.
The permanent members
- The privilege of the five permanent members to wield the veto (Article 27) allows for gross misjustice and abuse. IN 2015 France even tried to limit its use in cases that could lead to genocide, but their proposal was dismissed by Russia as “populist”.
- The UN is frequently undermined by its most powerful members, such as Russia and the US
- Calls for the UN to be reformed constitute a recurring theme of the yearly General Debates, but the UN is fettered by permanent members of the Security Council and unable to make any significant progress.
- The UN principles that are supposed to inform the decision-making process, are so vague and limited (Articles 1 & 2) that member states ignore them as a matter of course. When talking about discrimination, only race, sex (gender), language and religion are mentioned.
- The UN’s resolutions are periodically ignored by member states, with impunity
- Many human rights violations receive minimal attention (if at all) because a large proportion of the member states are guilty of them. LGBT rights is a case in point. Homosexuality remains illegal if over a third of UN member states.
- Despite all the atrocities committed by countless nations since 1945 and the fact that the UN reserved the right to expel nations that do not abide by its principles (Article 6), none have ever been ejected for this reason. The only state to have been expelled was the Republic of China (Taiwan), who suddenly found itself kicked out in favour of Mao’s People’s Republic of China.