The twenty-fourth day of October is “United Nations Day.” This anniversary of the adoption of the U.N. charter has been set aside to mark the forming of this organization.
It is also an appropriate time to consider whether the U.N. is living up to its goals and how well it is fulfilling its mission.
The question isn’t merely academic:
The United States spends astronomical sums of taxpayer money on helping to support the United Nations. In 2010, the last year that Congress made the reporting of a total amount mandatory, America gave the U.N. and related agencies $7,691,822,000 — more than seven and a half billion dollars. Are we getting our money’s worth?
It is now sixty-eight years since fifty- one countries joined together in an unprecedented effort to try to build a lasting peace for the generations to follow. WWII had ended only month earlier, and the world was trying to recover from the decimation and destruction wrought by the forces of unspeakable evil. Badly battered by two world wars only two decades apart, western civilization hoped this latest effort at an international organization of this sort would be more successful at ushering in an era of peace than its previous incarnation, the ill-fated League of Nations.
The U.N.’s much-heralded charter states that its goals include seeking to “maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace…”
Many of the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) associated with the United Nations, including partner groups like the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which won the Nobel peace prize this year, do admirable work. However, the two primary bodies of the U.N. — the General Assembly and the Security Council — have a much less impressive record to boast of.
The General Assembly is well-documented for its blatant anti-Israel bias; were there be a Nobel Prize for duplicity, the U.N. General Assembly would be a prime candidate. If not for the fact that the United States has repeatedly exercised its veto power to block anti-Israel resolutions, the Security Council would be equally infamous in this regard.
Indeed, one must scramble to find a legitimate accomplishment that can be ascribed to the Security Council in recent decades. In the proclamation issued by President Obama marking this day, he rightfully pointed out that while the United Nations was founded after a period of cataclysmic war among states, today many of the principal challenges to international peace and security are rooted in the need to prevent or address unconscionable slaughter and violence within states themselves.
In its preamble, the U.N. speaks of a mission “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, [and] to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…”
Yet the utter and colossal failure of members of the U.N. Security Council to reach an agreement on how to end the Syrian civil war, which has claimed more than 100,000 lives, is only the latest example of how inept the current system is. Ironically, the very same veto power which gives the Unites States the ability to veto unfair resolutions has also given Russia and China — also members of the Security Council — the ability to block any tangible progress in this arena.
Across the globe, conflicts continue to rage, yet the U.N. remains powerless, incapable of making a practical difference.
When hundreds of thousands were massacred in Darfur, the UNSC failed miserably to stop the violence. As a nuclear-armed North Korea continues to mock the free world and persecute its own people, the silence of the UNSC is deafening. As the human rights of more than billion people are flagrantly violated under vicious dictatorships and totalitarian overlords from China to Cuba, there is no action from the UNSC.
With the United States the single-largest contributor to the U.N. budget, the American taxpayer has the right and even the responsibility to demand greater accountability and proof that the organization is living up to its charter.