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21.1 Is the United Nations the best placed actor to maintain international peace and security?

1. If the United Nations did not exist, do you think that we would have seen more conflict with greater severity?

  • Those who would support the claim that no United Nations would result in more serious conflicts, stress that there has not been a Third World War since the creation of the UN. As such, the organization is regarded crucial in ending conflicts and mitigating tensions, through improving development in many parts of the world.
  • Those opposed to such arguments believe that the UN Security Council membership no longer represents today's balance of power.

2. Are there other institutions that are better equipped to deal with threats to peace and security?

  • Many argue that the answer to this question is, quite simply, no. The main reason is that the UN is the only such organization with universal membership, even if military action is often carried out by regional actors/organizations.
  • However, others stress that the structure of the UN Security Council makes it impossible for the UN to act against the interests of the permanent members. Thus, the use of the veto is regarded as impeding effective actions by the organization as a whole.

3. What do you think could be done to ensure that the UN is more successful in meeting the goals expressed in the Charter?

  • One of the main critiques of the UN is with regards to its structure (see bullet point 2, question 2). Some would argue, therefore, that revising this structure would allow for more significant action to be taken by the organization.
  • It might also be argued that the UN should adapt to respond to recent security threats. Some people believe that the UN is ill-equipped to deal with new international security threats, in the form of non-state actors, as it premised instead on interstate conflict.