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The United Nations has 193 member states. Beginning with only 50 members at the time of its founding in 1945, the UN has expanded to include essentially every country in the world. But why? Why has almost every country in the world joined the United Nations? What motivates them to become members and what benefits do they receive?
Below is our breakdown of the top reasons why countries join the United Nations…
The first reason why countries join the United Nations is for international recognition. Essentially, being a member of the UN means a country is formally recognized on the world stage. As almost every country in the world is a UN member, not being part of the UN shows a country is basically illegitimate.
International recognition is vital for a country. It means other nations acknowledge the government as the legitimate rulers and engage with them in an official capacity. UN membership is a key part of being recognised as a country and this is a big reason why states become UN members.
Being a UN member means a country is fully part of the international community. It can participate in key global forums such as the UN General Assembly and UN Security Council. It can also vote on UN resolutions. Taking part in the UN is an important way a country can be seen as being part of the global community of nations.
The only countries in the world that not UN member states are the few countries that are not recognized internationally. This means other countries do not formally acknowledge their exitance. Examples of these include Abkhazia, Somalianad and Transestria. As well as not being recognized by other countries, not being members of the UN means these countries essentially don’t’ exist.
Participate in International Diplomacy
The second reason why countries join the United Nations is to fully participate in international diplomacy. The UN is the main global forum where nations aim to settler their disputes through dialogue, without resorting to conflict. Countries need to participate in the mechanisms of the UN in order receive the benefits that being part of the international community brings.
The United Nations has a range of bodies that promote international diplomacy. These include the General Assembly, Security Council and the Economic and Social Council. Nations need to be part of the UN in order to have their voices heard in these forums.
International diplomacy is key to a nation’s success. Countries need to build partnerships and alliances, as well as discuss disputes, build trade ties and court friendships. The United Nations is the leading global organisation for international diplomacy. This is a major reason countries join.
If a country is not part of the UN it is excluded from many of diplomatic meetings, decisions and forums where key decisions are made. It also will struggle to build effective alliances and be seen as a nation that fully participates in international diplomacy.
To Better Ensure Their Security
Many countries join the United Nations because they feel it enhances their security. The UN does not directly provide security assistance to countries. However, being a member of the UN means a country is formally part of the international community. This means other nations are more likely to come to their defence or try to deter aggression against them.
Many countries face aggression from neighbouring states. Being a member of the UN gives these countries mechanisms to garner international opinion. It also allows them to appeal for international assistance. The UN is a forum where countries can highlight issues they are facing that they may otherwise struggle to bring to the world’s attention.
UN peacekeepers are one of the key ways the United Nations helps build peace and security. Being a UN member state allows a country to vote on the use of peacekeepers, as well as offer to have their forces deployed. UN members facing internal security threats can also benefit from the deployment of peacekeepers to help monitor peace agreements, protect civilians and help bring an end to conflicts.
An important reason countries join the UN is to be integrated into the international community and build relations with powerful allies that may come to their assistance in times of need.
Access to United Nations Agencies
The United Nations runs specialized agencies that aim to promote global peace and security and address development and humanitarian challenges. Being a UN member state allows countries to participate in programmes ran by UN agencies and also means they can feed into how and where these agencies do their work.
UN agencies cover a huge range of areas focusing on different global issues. These include agencies such as UNHCR, World Food Programme and UNICEF that focus on humanitarian and development work as well as agencies such the International Maritime Organization and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) that focus on coordinating global travel and communication. UN agencies such as WHO and UNESCO help governments in poorer countries run effective services for their populations.
Specialist agencies are an important part of what the UN does. A big reason countries join the United Nations is so they can benefit from the projects these agencies run. This is especially true of poorer countries and nations that often face humanitarian crises.
UN agencies are a key part of the United Nations system. UN agencies do not operate in non-UN member states and so receiving support from UN agencies can be seen as one reason why countries join the UN.
United Nations Online Courses
If you want to learn more about the United Nations, and why countries join, 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 why countries become member states, 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.
Have A Greater Influence On World Affairs
The United Nations is among the most important and influential organisations in the world. A major reason countries join the UN is to be part of this organisation. The UN has a major impact on global affairs. By being a UN member state, countries can influence how the UN, and often the international community, responds to events.
Many vital decisions about the world are made at the UN. From climate change policy to the coordination of international aviation, from the protection of world heritage sites to the use of military force. Every country that is a member of the UN has a chance to influence how global challenges are addressed and how international policy is formulated. This is an important reason countries join.
If a country is not a member of the UN, its ability to influence global affairs is reduced.
Joining the UN is especially advantageous for smaller countries. It allows them to play a more equal role in how many global decisions are made, an amplifies their voice in the global stage.
Receive Assistance From the UN
The United Nations is one of the main organisations providing assistance to poorer countries. It also provides aid to countries affected by humanitarian crises. Joining the UN allows countries to receive its support. It also gives countries a say on how and where UN assistance is given.
Many poorer countries in the world receive substantial assistance from the United Nations. This can include help with hosting large numbers of refugees, assistance with infrastructure and development projects, or technical guidance on healthcare, education or creating a fairer and more effective judicial system. Many countries become UN member states so they can access these types of assistance.
When a country is affected by crises, conflicts or disasters, the United Nations provides humanitarian aid. This help can be vital in allowing countries to recover by providing them crucial financial and material resources. Being able to receive humanitarian and development aid from the UN is an important reason many poorer countries become members.
The United Nations is one of the largest aid donors in the world. Countries join the United Nations not only to ensure they receive assistance, but also to have a degree of influence over how humanitarian and developed aid is distributed by the UN.
If you want to learn more about the United Nations, and why countries join, explore our list of the top UN online courses here.