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The UN’s Unhappy Birthday

As the United Nations turns 75, the COVID-19 pandemic is keeping world leaders from gathering in New York City to mark the occasion and attend the opening of the annual General Assembly. In fact, the pandemic helps illustrate why the UN is not fit to organize and manage the international cooperation that the world urgently needs.

NEW YORK – The United Nations turns 75 this autumn, and if this were a normal year, many of the world’s leaders would gather in New York City to celebrate this milestone and open the annual meeting of the General Assembly.

But this year is anything but normal. There will be no gathering because of COVID-19 – and even if there were, there would be little grounds for celebration. The United Nations has fallen far short of its goals to “maintain international peace and security,” “develop friendly relations among nations’’ and “achieve international cooperation in solving international problems.”

The pandemic helps illustrate why. The UN Security Council, the most important component of the UN system, has made itself largely irrelevant. China has blocked any significant role for the UN’s executive body lest it be criticized for its initial mishandling of the outbreak and be held responsible for the consequences. Meanwhile, the World Health Organization deferred to China early on and has been further weakened by the United States’ decision to withdraw from it. The result is that the major powers get the UN they want, not the one the world needs.

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