What has the UN acomplished anyway?

Ban said, “let us remember, the world still looks to the United Nations for moral and political leadership.”

The world looks to the UN for moral and political leadership? Really? This kinda got me thinking, what has the UN accomplished that would justify looking to them for moral and political leadership? I don’t mean vague feel good things that have little real world impact; I mean real actual accomplishments. Things like ‘The UN stopped the war in XYZ’ or ‘UN aid stopped the famine in ABC’ or things like that.

The only shining point to the UN I can see has been WHO. That has had a huge impact worldwide, and usually in a rather modest and unnoticed method in some of the poorest areas of the world. Definitely one program that has many real accomplishments. But beyond that, I can’t see how the UN has improved the world at all in it’s decades of existence. From Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, India, and Israel showing the UN is ineffective at preventing nuclear proliferation to the general assembly being (by design) unable to enforce resolutions to the security council being (by design) deadlocked on most issues it seems the UN can’t do jack shit.

Note: I’m not asking for opinion on if the UN is great, a demon out to make the US give up sovereignty, should be kicked out of NYC, should be made the world’s government, or any of that crap. I’m not even asking who’s at fault for it’s issues, Bush can be blamed for ignoring the weapons inspectors but that still means the UN weapons inspectors were useless in how Iraq played out. I’m just wondering is the UN effective, and if so what has it actually accomplished?

Can the continued freedom of South Korea be considered a U.N. successs story?

Weapons inspectors were useless from Iraq’s point of view, but if you were a country which decided not to join the invasion because you believed the weapons inspectors, you might think them very useful.

The UN kept the Congo together - not that it is in any great shape, but I think it would be in worse shape if it were fragmented. They kept Israel and Egypt away from each other from 1956 - 1967. UN peacekeepers have done some good, always limited by their rules of engagement, so I know full well the cases where they stood around watching horrible things happen. The UN gave legitimacy to the creation of the state of Israel, which I think was important.
The most important thing though is that it gives a place where diplomacy can happen on a day to day basis, which makes more of a difference for smaller countries without veto power than bigger ones.

And you have to give it some credit for the fact that we’ve had relatively speaking only minor wars for the 65 years since its founding.

I don’t think so. The Korean War being a UN action was due only to the stupidity of the Soviets for maintaining their boycott of the SC even after the invasion. If the US withdrew, the UN would have no hope of stopping any attacks from the North.

The United Nations stopped World War III, IV, and V.

My point is that it’s hard to list specific instances of things that were prevented. Can you name a list of people who would have died of measles if they hadn’t been innoculated as children?

That does bring up a side point, if a single nation acts mostly unilaterally under the UN’s permission, is that a UN achievement or the individual nations achievement? I suppose it’s open to debate, but I tend to view things like the Korean war as the actions of (mostly) one nation rather than the UN.

I don’t know enough about Congo to have an opinion on way or another. I know it has had issues with civil war, but I don’t know any details. If the UN was instrumental in helping them, good. Although as you point out, it’s pretty much still a shithole so I wonder how much assistance the UN really was.

For Israel/Egypt I assume you’re talking about the Suez Crisis? I was always under the impression that was resolved far more because the US opposed it and put major pressure on England, France, and Israel. I know there was a lot of UN involvement, but that was mostly because the US choose to push it through the UN rather than the UN itself actually did it. Is this like the Korean War, technically the UN but realistic America? IIRC Nasser gave Eisenhower most of the credit for stopping the war.

The creation of Israel is a good point. Considering that, in the recent decades, the UN has been ineffective in pretty much anything involving Israel I had forgotten the role it took in creating Israel.

As for diplomacy, that’s one of those vague statements. It’s hard to judge if giving a place for diplomacy has actually made a difference. Are there cases where two nations would not have talked to each other if it wasn’t for the UN? Or has the diplomacy issue been more of nations willing to talk to each other regardless of the UN deciding to do so through the UN?

I can’t credit the UN for peace. I believe the US/USSR cold war is what prevented major wars from breaking out. Although, it is also responsible for causing a lot of the minor wars. But still, MAD and the fear of becoming the battleground for world powers is what kept wars from getting too large during that time frame.

Assuming you mean the U.S., I think that somewhat ignores the contribution of the ROK, whose combat deaths exceeded the US by a factor of 4 to 1. So even if you want to ignore the contribution of Britain, Australia, Canada, Turkey, France, Greece etc etc, it’s more than a little ridiculous to call it the actions of (mostly) one nation.

What about since 1991?

Here is a quote from Wiki:

The link goes here: http://www.hsrgroup.org/human-security-reports/2005/overview.aspx

To my mind, the mere fact that we had two world wars, causing almost 100 million deaths, in the 30 years prior to its creation, and none since, is one sign that it has accomplishing something.

Cite? :smiley:

The UN does an enormous amount of good in a thousand ways in impoverished countries without anyone really paying attention. Feeding refugees, fighting disease, building schools, providing clean water, conducting research etc. Any one of those initiatives may be small but cumulatively they certainly add up. I think there is also a strong case that an international body like the UN will have an advantage over a purely national body in doing this work. A national body will inevitably be constrained by its domestic politics; think of abortion politics and family planning aid in the US. This is less likely in an international body where no single country dominates. Secondly when we are talking about very specialized issues like say using biotechnology in Kenyan agriculture the best experts are likely to be spread out in different countries and it will be easier for an international body to bring them together.

As for individual issues, just a few of the areas where the UN has made a significant difference:
Ending apartheid: multilateral sanctions played an enormous role and these could only be imposed through an international organization
Global environmental issues: The UN played a major role in the Montreal Protocol which tackled ozone depletion and successfully reduced CFC emissions. It has also played a major role in raising the global warming issue and the UN-created IPCC is the main body evaluating and disseminating climate change research.
Nuclear non-proliferation: It’s a minor miracle that more countries haven’t gone nuclear in the last 50 years and the IAEA has played a major role in this.

That Human Security Report seems really interesting; I will try to read it sometime. You raised an issue I have been wondering about: how does the UN compare to the US when it comes to peacekeeping? Now the average UN peacekeeping mission is at best a modest success usually going to a truly wretched and violent place and making it a little less bad. But certainly UN doesn’t seem to do a worse job than the US has in Iraq and Afghanistan and the latter has vastly greater resources than the UN. It is truly extraordinary how little the US has achieved in these two countries given the scale of the effort. I think it has to do with the deep suspicion in the region of US motives because of its history there, support of Israel etc. as well as bad strategy dictated by US politics and the lack of nation-building expertise in the US military which plays the biggest role.

The bottom line is that US floundering in Iraq and Afghanistan has made UN peacekeeping missions look a whole lot better.

Holy shit yes.

There is a common conception of the UN as extending only as far as the Security Council and diplomatic missions, but UNDP, UNICEF, etc. accomplish very real, very tangible results that reach countless millions of people–outcomes ranging from retraining child soldiers to ensuring potable water availability. Yes, there is waste, graft, incompetence, and malfeasance within any large body, but there is tremendous success.

It’s a forum for international conflict resolution, as well as all the humanitarian stuff it does worldwide. It can only be as effective as the narrow national interests of its powerful members allow it to be. The world does look to the UN to deal with international issues, for leadership, because that’s the international body we created to deal with that kind of thing. Whether it gets it is down to the powerful members/blocs in the UN.

I don’t buy that. If the Cold War stopped major wars, why didn’t those major wars start happening once the Cold War was over? Its been about 20 years, after all.

Ok. So, apart from helping in South Korea, Congo, preventing World War III, IV and V, creation of WHO, feeding refugees, fighting disease, building schools, providing clean water, conducting research, ending apartheid, dealing with global environmental issues, preventing nuclear proliferation, UNDP, UNICEF, retraining child soldiers and providing a forum for international conflict resolution, what has the UN done LATELY?

Brought peace?

Oh, that goes without saying. It was pretty violent before that. But apart from ALL that, what have they done for us lately?

The World Health Organization is an agency of the UN. WHO exterminated smallpox. I’d say that alone is worth every penny ever spent on the UN.

Wikipedia. It describes World War III as “hypothetical” and has no entries for World War IV or World War V.

Not particularly funny as a gag anymore, and not really correct either. The U.N. is ultimately a trivial portion fo these things, which would probably go on under other names and programs without it. if the UN died tommorow, we’d probably not be much worse off. And the truth is, it’s massively ciorrupt pile of kleptocrats and self-absorbed diplomats.

Which is not to say it’s totally useless. But nobody really exspects leadership from it: that’s not its purpose. In fact, it’s completely contrary to its purpose. The UN isn’t supposed to lead or make policy, because it’s bad at it and because nobody really wants to lsoe sovereinty from it. Well, ther may be a few silly lefties who dream of it, but they’d hatre the actual nightmarish hell it would likely crete, being mostly the creaton of, well, selfish third-world kleptocrats.

But, it is worth its salt as nice little place where countries are, for a variety fo reasons, constantly shoved in together to meet and greet. Has it prevented WW3? No. There are far bigger reasons. But I expect it has reduced some tensions between some nations just by having a constant presence. it’s not the only way: the world has gotten more connected in a lot of ways. But it does help make even smaller conflicts more visible, when both sides have a representative in New York.