Is The UN More Powerful Than The United States? We Find Out

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The United Nations is the most important international organisation in the world. With 193 member states and a total budget of 5.81 billion dollars, the UN works towards global peace and security through international cooperation. The United States is the world’s third largest country. With a population of 328 million people and a GDP of 21.43 trillion dollars, the US is one of the most influential countries in the world.

Both the US and UN are significant global forces, but which actually has more power?

The United States is significantly more powerful than the United Nations. It is the world’s dominant economic, military, political and cultural power. Although the UN is the leading international organisation, its authority is limited. The UN has much less global influence than the United States.

Now we know the United Nations is not more powerful than the United States, it’s important to know why the US actually has more authority than the United Nations. It is also important to know how the UN and US use their strengths differently.

Why The United States Is More Powerful Than The UN?

There are several reasons why the United States is a more powerful that the United Nations. Let’s go over some of the key areas.

The first reason why the US is more powerful than the UN is because it is a sovereign state, rather than an international organisation.

As a country, the United States can command its own resources to achieve its aims. This includes raising taxes, developing trade ties, directing its armed forces, using its geographical land, and educating its population. The US can also direct its own foreign affairs. Being a nation state provides much more global power than being an international organisation.

On the other hand, the United Nations is not an independent country.

As an international organisation, the UN has no physical land, does not raise taxes, does not have its own citizens, and does not have an army. The UN is an organisation made up of member states and it relies on them for personnel, finances, legality, and governance. This is a key reason why the United States is more powerful than the United Nations.

The second reason why the United States of America is more powerful than the United Nations is because it has its own army.

The US army is the largest in the world. With a budget of over 725 billion dollars and 1.4 million personnel, it is a hugely powerful global force. The US armed forces also have the latest technology and America has hundreds of military bases around the world from where it can launch military action if needed. The US army alone is one of the strongest forces in the world.

The United Nations does not have an army, and this makes it weaker than the US. The only armed forces the UN commands are peacekeeping units. These are military forces of member nations that commit to UN peacekeeping missions. They generally cannot take offensive action and are tasked with maintaining peace, not enforcing it. The lack of armed forces of its own means the United Nations is much less of a worldwide authority than the United States.

A further reason why the United States of America is stronger than the United Nations is because of its financial power.

The US is the richest country in the world. It has a total GBP of 21.43 trillion dollars. The US government raises around 3.5 trillion dollars in taxes each year. This huge financial base gives the US enormous power. Being the wealthiest country on earth gives the United States a huge authority on the world stage.

The United Nations has a tiny budget compared to the United States, and this is one reason why it is less powerful.

The total budget of the UN is around 5.81 billion dollars. Although the United Nations has a global presence, the size of its finances compared to the United States simply means it is not as strong. In fact, a large proportion of the UN’s budget is donated by the US, another factor that confirms that the US is more powerful than the UN.

Another way that the United States is much more powerful than the United Nations is in its global influence.

The US dominates the world in terms of diplomacy and technology, as well as politically and culturally. American products, ideas, businesses, and foreign policy are hugely influential in almost all places in the world. Globally, billions of people look to the US because of its authority in these areas.

The United Nations is much less powerful than the US because it has less global influence.

Although the UN is a famous institution and many people in the world can point to the work it does, it doesn’t have the same cultural or diplomatic impact the United States has. The world over people look to the US as a global leader, they do not look in the same way to the United Nations.

A key reason why the United States has more power in the world than the United Nations is because of the size of its population.

The US has 328 million citizens. It is the third largest country in the world. The size of the American population gives it enormous strength and makes it a bigger global authority than the United Nations.

The United Nations is tiny, in-terms of personnel, compared to America.

The United Nations has a total of 37,000 staff worldwide. If it were a country, it would be the sixth smallest in the world and its population would be slightly smaller than Monaco’s.  The United States is simply so much bigger in terms of number of people than the UN and this is a major reason why it is much more powerful.

The final reason why America is a greater force in the world than the United Nations is because they have different primary objectives.

The aim of the United Nations is to be a forum between nations where dialogue can be held, and global peace achieved. This means the UN aims for collective decision-making, multi-lateral agreements, and compromise. This limits the power the UN has as it means it must act is the interests of a collective group of nations.

In contrast, the United States is a single independent nation. Its only objective is to act in the best interests of its citizens. The United States is not obliged to compromise and can act single-handedly where needed. Essentially, the United States has a simpler objective than the UN – achieve prosperity and security for the population of the United States. This makes the US more powerful than the United Nations because it can dedicate its resources to its own aims, whereas the UN must work towards global goals.

United Nations Online Courses

If you want to learn more about the United Nations, and if it is more powerful than the US, we highly recommend the online course Global Diplomacy: The United Nations in the World offered by SOAS in London. We think it provides one of the best overviews of the UN and its role in the current global order. SOAS is also one of the top universities in the world for international relations and courses related to the UN.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) underpin all of the UN’s work. In order to fully understand the United Nations, and if it is stronger than America, you need a basic understanding of the SDG. We think the online short course The Sustainable Development Goals – A Global, Transdisciplinary Vision For The Future offered by the University of Copenhagen is one of the best introductions to the SDG.

The University of Leiden in the Netherlands offers an online short course on The Changing Global Order. It includes a specific look at how shifting international power dynamics are affecting the current global system and the United Nations. For those wanting to understand the challenges the UN faces, this online course is a must.

How the UN And US Use Their Global Authority: A Comparison

Although the United States is much more powerful than the United Nations, both have significant global influence. However, they use their strength in very different ways. Let’s take a look at a few examples.

The first way that the UN and US use their strengths differently is in the use of military force.

The United Nations deploys peacekeepers around the world to monitor and observe peace agreements. They do not engage in peace building or peace enforcement. UN peacekeepers are only deployed after the agreement of the host country. They cannot be used to invade a nation state or be used as an aggressive military force.

In contrast, the United States uses its military power to defend the US and its citizens and achieve America’s strategic and security objectives. The US armed forces have been used in aggressive acts of war as well as proclaimed actions of self-defence. They are solely commanded by the US government. This is very different to UN peacekeepers and shows how much more power the United States really has.

Another way that the United States and UN use their power differently is what they spend their financial resources on.

The United Nations has a total budget of around 5.81 billion dollars. This covers all UN agencies. The budget is also used for the running of the United Nations including key bodies such as the Security Council and General Assembly. Most of the UN’s budget goes to its agencies, such as UNHCR, UNCIEF or UNESCO. These agencies are tasked with addressing specific global needs and helping governments and population meet challenges.

The United States uses its financial resources very differently to the UN. The US government has a total revenue of around 3.5 trillion dollars. This is used to run the entire US government, including domestic and foreign agencies and the armed forces. America uses its financial might almost solely for the benefit of US citizens. The UN uses its finances to help people across the world. This is a marked difference in how the UN and US allocate their financial resources.

A final example of how the UN and US use their power in different ways is through diplomacy.

The United Nations is a forum where states should work together to achieve peace and security and address global issues. The United Nations is supposed to use its diplomatic power to forward the collective interests of many nations and citizens. However, as the UN is controlled by its member states and has limited actual authority. This means its diplomatic power is limited.

The United States has an extensive diplomatic presence. With 163 embassies worldwide, the US has one of the largest diplomatic corps in the world. The United States uses foreign policy to advance the interests of the American government and its citizens. Although the US does address global challenges, it does so from a perspective of its own interests. The US overseas diplomacy is one of the reasons it is such as huge global power and actually commands more authority than the United Nations.

Does the United Nations Have Any Power Over The United States?

The United States is a sovereign nation. It makes its own laws, elects its own government, and commands its own internal and external affairs.

The United Nations has no formal power over the government of the US. The United Nations is a forum for nations to discuss and coordinate on global issues, it has very limited actual power. The only way the United Nations affects the United States is in-terms of laws and treaties the US has signed-up to, or if a UN resolution is passed against the US.

Now we know the UN has very little power over the US, let’s go over the few areas where the United Nations does affect America.

Although the United States is an independent country, it is subject to international law. This means any international laws the US has signed-up to do affect what the American government can do. The UN makes many international laws. However, it does not enforce international law. This means that although the US may agree to an international legal system at the UN, it can break international law without any major repercussions.

The United N has almost no power to force the United States to stick to international laws.

The United Nations could pass a resolution against the United States. A UN resolution is formal communique issued by the United Nations. It is issued by the Security Council or the General Assembly. UN resolutions are designed to show the UN’s position on the issue and express the views of the global community.

If the UN did issue a resolution against the United States, it still does not have any real power over the US. United Nations resolutions are not enforceable, and the US could easily disregard a UN resolution against in. In fact, there have only been a smaller number of resolutions relating to the United States and none have been formally opposed its actions.

The United States is also a member of UN Security Council. This means it can veto any resolution the Security Council tries to issue against it. This is a further reason for why UN doesn’t have any real power over the United States.

Many people actually say that it is the US that has power over the UN.

The United States is a permanent member of the UN Security Council and so holds veto powers. This means it can stop any resolution it wants, including if they were against it. America is also the largest donor to the UN. Major UN institutions including the General Assembly, International Monterey Fund, UNICEF, UNFPA and the World Bank are all located inside the US territory and as the most powerful nation in the world, America holds significant influence over the UN.

The UN definitely doesn’t have authority over the US, but America has a lot of sway over the UN.

If you want to learn more about the United Nations, and if it is more powerful than the United States, explore our list of the top UN online courses here.


Duncan is the founder of Humanitarian Careers. With over ten years experience in the aid industry across fifteen countries, Duncan set-up Humanitarian Careers to help people launch their own career in international aid.