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The United Nations is the most important international organization in the world. It aims to ensure international peace and security and be a global forum where countries can resolve their disputes without resorting to conflict. However, the United Nations has not always lived up its aims. It is often criticized, and some people even think it should be disbanded or replaced. But why is that? What is bad about the United Nations?
Too Much Power Is Held By A Few Countries
The first reason why the United Nations is bad is because it concentrates power in the hands of just a few countries.
The UN was formed after World War Two by the victorious nations. The US, UK, France, China, and Russia were all instrumental in establishing the United Nations. However, built into the UN system is huge amounts of power for these countries. This is bad because it means UN decisions need the approval of these countries and it excludes major decisions being taken by other world powers.
The most obvious example of how power at the United Nations is held by only a few countries is in the UN Security Council. The US, UK, France, China, and Russia are all permanent members of Security Council and hold veto powers over all decisions. This has been shown to negatively affect how the UN can respond to crises, especially if one of these countries wants to prevent it.
The United Nations is bad for the world because it lets only a few countries control major global decisions, as well as allowing them to shape international politics for all nations.
It Can’t Prevent Wars
The second reason why the UN is bad for the world is because it has often proved incapable for stopping conflicts.
One of the main aims of the United Nations is to maintain international peace and security. However, the UN has often not been able to stop conflicts or successfully resolve them. The UN’s lack of effectiveness in preventing many major wars is a significant reason it is bad.
Throughout the UN’s history there have been many conflicts that it has been unable to stop. The Vietnam War raged for 19 years and cost the lives of two million people. However, the UN proved powerless to stop it.
Another example of the United Nations being effective in ending a conflict is the Syrian Civil War. This has continued for nearly 10 years and cost more than 350,000 lives, as well as displacing over 13 million people. The United Nations has not been able to end the bloodshed in Syria.
The United Nations inability to stop wars is a major reason why it is bad for the world. By being ineffective at bringing peace, the UN ultimately allows conflicts to continue.
The UN Is All Talk And No Action
Another reason why the UN is bad is because it makes grand gestures but fails to follow-through with impactful actions.
The United Nations claims that it brings countries together and encourages international peace and security through dialogue. In reality, the UN can be seen as talking shop where grand gestures can be made, but little action is taken.
The UN can have a negative impact on the world because it can allow countries to look and act as if they are taking action on global issues, without making significant progress.
There are several examples of how the UN is all talk and no action. Climate change is perhaps the biggest threat facing the world. The United Nations is seen to produce reports, advocate for countries to go green and convene conferences environmental action. However, the UN is said to take very little actual action on climate change, essentially relying on individual countries to make changes.
Many countries are able to use the UN to look as if they are taking action, when they are not. This is a major way the United Nations is bad for the world.
It Has No Real Power
A regular complaint about the United Nations is that it has no real power. This is seen as one of its most significant negative points.
The UN has 193 member states. Although it can pass resolutions, make international law, and deploy peacekeeping missions, it doesn’t actually have any direct power over member countries.
The UN is bad because it can’t make countries do the right thing… and many choose not to. This means that countries can easily defy the United Nations. Once many countries have seen the UN has no power to stop them, they take this as tacit international approval for their actions, or at least that no one will really prevent them.
Essentially, this means the United Nations stands by whilst countries break the laws it lays down. Examples include international aggression or crimes against humanity, such as Russian involvement in Ukraine or the Rwandan Genocide. In these cases, the UN was unable or unwilling to take any meaningful action. This shows how the UN can be inadequate.
The United Nations is bad for the world because it provides the illusion of upholding international laws and norms, whilst actually being almost completely unable to stop nations acting as they wish.
United Nations Online Courses
If you want to learn more about the United Nations, and why it’s bad for the world, 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 it’s bad, 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.
The United Nations Gives Legitimacy To Terrible Regimes
Out of 193 United Nations member states, only 26 are classed as ‘Full Democracies’. This means the majority of countries within the United Nations have only partially democratic and inclusive political systems or are fully dictatorial regimes.
The UN is bad because it gives legitimacy to dictatorial and often terrible regimes. Countries such as North Korea, China, Iran, and Syria are all full UN member states. Countries such as these have horrific human rights records and are incredibly repressive regimes. However, they are allowed to participate fully alongside free and democratic countries. The UN has no real way of holding these governments to account and this is why it is bad for the world.
The United Nations treats all countries equally. Although this is admirable in some ways, it creates a ‘false equivalence’ between open and free countries and some of the worst regimes in the world.
Another reason why the UN can be terrible is that it often gives formal legitimacy to repressive regimes. An example of this was when China and Russia, governments with very poor human rights records, were elected UN’s Human Rights Council.
It’s Too Focused On Some Issues, And Not Enough On Others
The United Nations is often criticized for focusing too much on some issues and not giving enough attention to others. This is a major reason why it is bad.
There are a huge number of global challenges that the world needs to address. The UN plays a key role in highlighting issues for individual countries or regions, as well as international crises that require a worldwide response. However, the United Nations too often focuses on a select few crises and draws the world’s attention to these, whilst other major issues go almost ignored. This is a significant negative point of the United Nations.
An example of how the UN focuses too narrowly on some issues is the disproportionate attention given to the Israel – Palestine conflict. The UN Human Rights Council has issued more resolutions against Israel then every other country in the world combined. Although the Israel-Palestine conflict is a significant global issue, the scale of the issue vs the huge amounts of resources the UN dedicates to it is not correct. This over-focus on some issues is a major reason why the UN can be considered a bad thing.
Alternatively, the UN also appears to ignore some major global issues. For example, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, and Burundi all have significant ongoing crises that get almost no attention from the United Nations.
The UN Cannot Resolve Many Global Issues
The final reason why the United Nations is bad for the world is because it has proven incapable to resolving many crises.
The UN is the most recognised, powerful, and respected international organisation in the world. However, the United Nations has regularly shown to be unable to resolve problems and ensure that nations work together to settle their differences. This is a huge problem with the UN.
There are many examples of issues the UN has proven unable to resolve. These include the repatriation of Rohingya Muslims to Myanmar, the resolution of the conflict in Cyprus, and the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. In many examples, the UN’s inability to find solutions to these issues creates a disincentive for the countries involved to work towards a conclusion.
Although the United Nations has successful resolved a number of high-profile disputes, its long history of stalling crises as opposed to resolving them shows that it is not necessarily good for the world.
One of the main aims of the UN is to bring nations together to resolve their differences. It has often proven unable or incapable of doing this, and this is why it is bad for the world.
If you want to learn more about the United Nations, and why the UN could be bad for the world, explore our list of the top UN online courses here.