UN troops in South Sudan UN Photo/ZumaPress

Is 70 Too Old for the UN?

As world leaders prepare to gather at the UN in New York to ratify the new Sustainable Development Goals and commemorate the UN’s 70th anniversary, a fundamental question has become inescapable. In the face of growing global disorder, does the UN have a future?

NEW YORK – As world leaders prepare to gather next week at the United Nations in New York to ratify the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and commemorate the UN’s 70th anniversary, for many a fundamental question has become inescapable. In the face of growing global disorder – including turmoil in the Middle East, waves of migrants flooding into Europe, and China’s unilateral moves to enforce its territorial claims – does the UN have a future?

Grounds for pessimism are undeniable. Conflicts rage on, seemingly unaffected by upholders of world order. Despite more than two decades of talk, the Security Council’s permanent membership (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) still reflects the geopolitical realities of 1945, not 2015. Denied accommodation in the Bretton Woods institutions (the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) commensurate with its economic clout, China has established its own alternatives, which other countries have flocked to join. The G-20 seems more representative than the Security Council – and more imbued with common purpose.

Yet the UN should not be written off. It continues to serve a vital purpose, and its history suggests that it can be revitalized to meet the needs of the twenty-first century.

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