Leading article: Still relevant in a globalising world

Share
Related Topics

The Queen, of all people, understands the value of a good institution. Today, at the General Assembly of the United Nations, she will address a body which is, like the monarchy itself, a much-criticised foundation. And indeed much of what it has done – since it was founded in 1945 after the Second World War ended to provide a platform for dialogue to prevent future wars – has been worthy of criticism. It has had big failings, like deciding not to intervene in the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, and small ones, like being bureaucratic and wasteful. But it has had huge successes too, in peace-keeping, in international justice through its court in The Hague and in working for the poor through UNICEF, the World Food Programme and its other arms.

Success and failure, alike, are the outcomes of the core tension at the heart of the UN system between competition and co-operation. It promotes simultaneously the need for internationalism and the protection of national sovereignty. So it has been ambitious over the past half century, venturing into the politics of security, the soldiery of peace-keeping, the protection of human rights, the promotion of democracy and good governance, and addressing the social and economic imbalances between the northern and southern hemispheres of the planet.

It has been easy for the powerful to ignore, as the Soviet Union did throughout the 1950s and the United States did under the unilateralism of the Bush era which reached its low point with its contemptuous disregard of the UN in declaring war on Iraq in 2003. Yet it has remained a yardstick, even when honoured in the breach rather than the observance. The Chilcot inquiry has even this week shown how, seven years on, it stands in cold silent judgement over Tony Blair in his war against Saddam Hussein.

Ours is a globalising world full of challenges – like climate change, nuclear proliferation, international terrorism, energy security, and pandemics like Aids – which can only be addressed at a global level. For all its failings the United Nations offers the only aegis under which many such issues can properly be addressed. That is not a starry-eyed utopianism but a recognition that the weary drudgery of diplomats and politicians is the best hope we have for the promotion of peace, the regulation of law between nations and the promotion of prosperity among them. Democracy, Winston Churchill once said, is the worst form of government except for all the other kinds. We might say something similar of the United Nations.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: TRAINEE RECRUITMENT CONSULTANT - IT - LONDON

£20000 - £30000 per annum + OTE £50k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 bus...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - LONDON

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...

SThree: Graduate Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35000: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 b...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Letter from the Political Editor: Mr. Cameron is beginning to earn small victories in Europe

Andrew Grice
Pakistani volunteers carry a student injured in the shootout at a school under attack by Taliban gunmen, at a local hospital in Peshawar  

The Only Way is Ethics: The paper’s readers and users of our website want different things

Will Gore
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'