Is the UN Effective?

The UN was established in 1945 at the end of WWII with the commitment:

  • 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, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,

And for these ends

  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,

Has it succeeded?

Not completely, there are still wars and billions still live in misery. Nevertheless, there has been no more world wars, wars between nations are very few, virtually all nations belong to the UN. The machinery for international cooperation has expanded enormously, often including civil society and business interests. We have achieved what is arguably the greatest level of global peace and prosperity in the history of the world.

Further, issues of global development, elimination of poverty, human rights, the role of women, the global environment and many other issues have been placed firmly on the agenda of major power politics and consultation.

There is, of course, much to be achieved, and there is a need to expand the capability of the UN to address the many emerging environmental, economic and political issues. UN members also need to overcome their narrow interests to achieve the much needed reform of the organisation.


Read a specifically NZ perspective:  The True Value of the UN - Terence O'Brien


Achievements of the UN

Value of the UN to Small States
     Anotated Bibliography by Anita Wan