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The United States of America is the richest and most powerful country in the world. It is also one of the founding members of the United Nations and arguably among the most important. However, the US and the UN are not always aligned. Some argue the US should withdrawal from the UN, others that that the UN would be better without US influence. Neither are right though. The United States is vitally important to the UN, here’s why…
Because of US Funding
The first reason why the United Nations needs the United States is because of the huge amount of funding America provides.
Currently, the US gives 22% of all UN funding. This money is enormously important. It is key to funding UN operations including the General Assembly and Security Council, specialist UN agencies and the UN’s humanitarian and development work. America is vital to the United Nations because of the huge amount of UN work it funds.
An example of how key the United States is to the United Nations is the financial contribution America makes to UN peacekeeping. American currently funds over 27% of all peacekeeping operations. This money is vital to allowing the UN to bring peace and security to conflict torn regions.
Another example how important America is to the UN is that it gives enormous amounts of money to specialist UN agencies. The US gives a significant percentage of funds to UNRWA, UNHCR and World Food Programme, just to name a few. Without this money, the United Nations would struggle to fund the important work these agencies do. This shows just how much the United Nations needs the US.
Simply put, the United Nations would struggle to operate without US funds. If America stopped funding the UN, other nations may not be able to make-up the shortfall. For this reason, the US is crucial to the future of the United Nations.
To Provide Legitimacy
The second reason why the United Nations needs the US is because of the legitimacy it provides. America is the richest and most powerful nation on earth. As the leading international organization working for global peace and security, the UN needs the US as a member in order demonstrate that powerful nations support its work.
The aim of the UN is to bring nations together to resolve their disputes by dialogue. America is vitally important to the UN because it needs to show that all countries are participating in its efforts and support international diplomacy. A United Nations without America would seriously lack global authority.
Another reason why the United Nations needs America in order to remain legitimate is because without the US, other powerful nations may leave the UN or refuse to cooperate with it. The United Nations is recognised as a leading global authority partly because almost every nation in the world is a member – including all the major ones. Without the US, the UN would be significantly diminished in its global standing.
A major failing of the League of Nations – the organization set-up after World War One to prevent another conflict; and the predecessor of the UN, was that America didn’t join. This reduced the legitimacy of the League of Nations and meant other nations could leave when decisions went against them. To avoid collapsing like the League of Nations, the UN the United States.
To Give Leadership
Another reason why the United Nations needs the United States is because of America’s place as a global leader.
The US is the most powerful country in the world. It has enormous global influence. America takes a leading role among other powerful countries in the United Nations. This is important and is a key reason why the US is vital to the UN.
As one of the founding members of the United Nations, the United States played a key role in setting up many of its institutions. It is a permanent Security Council member and has crucial involvement in many UN decisions. The US has a leadership position globally and therefore it is crucial that the country is a member of the United Nations.
America is one of the world’s leading advocates on many key issues. These include human rights, climate change, nuclear-proliferation, humanitarian action and sustainable development. The United States is also actively involved in peace building and diplomacy around the world and has played a key role in ending many conflicts. The United Nations needs the US because of its dedication to many of the causes the UN works towards.
Although some criticize the UN for being too under the influence of the US, in fact America plays an important role in supporting the UN and this is why it is needed.
Because of US Military Strength
America has the most powerful army in the world. A key reason why the United Nations needs the US is because of the backing this military strength gives it.
The United Nations aims to bring countries together to achieve global peace and security. It does not have an army of its own. However, it can authorise the use of military action by member states. Having the United States as a member is important to the UN because it shows that US military strength is generally aligned with the UN.
The United Nations has no power to command the US to take military action. America also ensures that its military force is completely independent of the UN – sometimes even going against its wishes. However, America is important to the United Nations because it means it has the backing of the most powerful military in the world.
A major criticism of the United Nations is that it is ineffective at stopping war crimes and atrocities, and that it has failed to curb dictatorial regimes. However, the UN has authorized the use of military force by America to act against brutal regimes and groups. The UN needs the US because without American military power there would be many times the UN would be unable to act.
United Nations Online Courses
If you want to learn more about the United Nations, and why the UN needs the United States, 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 America is important to the UN, 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.
To Lend Technical Expertise
Another reason why the United States is important to the United Nations is because of the highly qualified American staff who work throughout the UN.
American citizens are some of the most educated and productive in the world. The US education system is also highly successful in training people in areas such as medicine, engineering, management, international relations, humanitarian action and sustainable development – all key areas the UN needs qualified staff. Due to the high skills of American workers, they are regularly sought after by the UN.
The United Nations currently has thousands of American staff. These include people in key positions such as David Beasley – the Director of the World Food Programme, Laila Baker – the representative to Jordan of the UNPFA, and Brendan Varma – Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly.
The United Nations needs a wide range of technical expertise to implement its projects. US staff are often highly educated and well trained. In total, the UN has over 37,000 workers from all over the world – all UN staff are well educated and qualified. However, with up to 12% of all UN staff coming from the US, it would be hard for the UN to function without American expertise.
As An Important Counterbalance
A major reason why the United States is important to the UN is as a counterbalance to other world powers.
Throughout the history of the United Nations, there have been periods when major world powers vied for influence and control around the world. The UN was at the centre of many Cold War disputes between America and the Soviet Union. In recent years, the rise of China and resurgence of Russia have also challenged the UN.
The UN needs America because it acts as a balance against other large and influential countries. Without the United States, the United Nations runs the risk of being dominated by countries such as China and Russia – that don’t necessarily see human rights, the rule of law and international peace and security as their interests.
The United States is one of the founding members of the UN and permanent member on the Security Council. This means America holds veto rights on the Council and can stop resolutions it does not agree with. However, other countries also hold veto power – including France, the UK, Russia and China.
America is important to the UN because it needs US influence to counterbalance that other powerful countries. Without the US, the United Nations could become dominated by countries that have values that do not align with its founding aims of international cooperation and a strive for world peace.
To Ensure A Focus On Values
A final reason why the United Nations needs the United States is to ensure it retains a focus on good causes.
The objective of the UN is to work towards global peace and security. It does this in many ways, including running specialist agencies and international bodies focusing on issues such as human rights, humanitarian relief, promotion of the rule of law, protection of property rights and environmental protections. However, these values are not universal.
Without the United States, the UN risks losing focus on many important international issues. America has been a strong champion of liberal values. It has ensured from its founding that the UN would focus on tolerance and cooperation.
The US is important to the UN because it ensures the UN is not controlled by nations that do not have universal human rights at the core of their beliefs.
America was founded on Enlightenment thinking. Many key outcomes of the enlightenment – such as freedom of religion, inalienable human rights and individual freedoms are built into the UN from its beginning. The United Nations needs America to make sure these values are upheld and to stop it from being pulled away from its important work.
If you want to learn more about the United Nations, and why the UN needs the US, explore our list of the top UN online courses here.