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

Recruitment Genius: Quality Control Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing company is a ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultants - Liverpool

£27300 - £36400 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Self-employed B2B Sales Consult...

Recruitment Genius: ASP.NET Developer / Programmer - SQL, MVC, C#

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This distributor and wholesaler...

Recruitment Genius: 2nd Line IT Support Technician

£26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Here’s why I’m so full of (coffee) beans

Jane Merrick
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn