America Needs the UN
The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945 on American soil. Its name was coined by American President Franklin Roosevelt. Since its foundation, the UN has played a major role in shaping the globalized world we live in today. The organization works to unite countries, maintain world peace and security, promote human rights and international justice, and ensure economic and social progress. For example, the UN has recently focused on current global issues, such as climate change, the refugee crisis, and disease outbreaks. Despite leading United States politicians’ expressions of skepticism, the UN continues to provide a vehicle through which the US promotes its interests around the world and makes the international system that the US leads possible.
The US has partnered with the UN since its creation and has always supported the UN as an international organization, and a non-state actor that stewards the world’s needs, addresses interdependent issues, and mitigates threats to world peace and security. Both the US and the UN have benefited from this relationship. The UN was established as a peacekeeping organization that aimed to provide an arena for member states to discuss and resolve conflicts. The first conference was held in San Francisco, California where the delegates drew up the UN’s founding document, the UN charter.
According to the UN charter Article 1, the purpose of the United Nations is to maintain international peace and security. The UN is often successful in keeping and building peace in the world, despite not being able to rely on its own coercive military power. Since 1945, the UN has led 71 peacekeeping operations worldwide and has successfully educated many member states about the value of addressing conflict through peacemaking and peacekeeping agreements, rather than by engaging in wars or violence.
The UN-US relationship is based on mutual cooperation. Although the UN has 193 member states, the US is, without a doubt, a special member. It has notable leverage as a beacon of democracy with a strong economy that drives the world’s markets. The former UN Secretary-General Kofi Anna said at the Heinz Foundation at the University of Pittsburgh on October 21, 2003, that “it is no surprise that we owe the very existence of the United Nations to great American President: Franklin D. Roosevelt.” Although the UN acknowledges the relevant role of the US, it also reinforces and encourages cooperation among all nations.
The US is connected to the UN in multiple ways, but the lion’s share of its influence comes from its position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC), whose goal is to maintain and promote world peace and security. The UNSC has 15 members, 5 permanent, and 10 non-permanent members who are elected every two years. The US holds one of these 5 permanent chairs. Each member has the right to one vote. All UN members can participate in the discussions, but only the 15 UNSC members can vote. Any member, state or party involved in a dispute may participate in the discussions, but has no right to vote. The UNSC calls upon its members whenever international peace and security is threatened. Passing a resolution requires 9 positive votes. Five of the permanent members have the right to a veto. If only one of the 5 casts a veto, the decision cannot be approved. Since the existence of the council, the US has already used the right of veto 79 times.
The UNSC summons its members and the parties involved in the dispute to settle peacefully when there is a world threat, pursuing solutions to promote and restore world peace via diplomatic approaches such as authorizing sanctions and peacekeeping missions. If it is necessary, the UNSC has the right to authorize the use of military force to maintain or restore world peace and security. For that reason, the UNSC is responsible for the deployment of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). The UNSC must adopt a resolution that is approved by its members in order to establish a peacekeeping operation. The peacekeeping missions attempt to foster stability in many countries by keeping the peace, promoting human rights and facilitating both economic and political development.
The UN has helped the US advance its foreign policy interests and shape outcomes through striving for stability and facilitating interstate cooperation in order to create and maintain the liberal world order which benefits the US.
The UN also provides other avenues for cooperation through its multiple agencies. For instance, in concrete national security terms, the UN helps keep America and its allies safer through cooperation. For instance, the UN framework has already created 19 international treaties on counterterrorism partnerships.
One criticism of the UN is that it is wasteful and spends too much. On the contrary, because the US often holds the purse strings for most of the UN budget, it has enormous influence over possible reforms. Because the US is the largest financial contributor to the UN, contributing more than 25% of the UN annual budget, and 28% of its peacekeeping budget, the US needs reforms to be effective to see some return on investment. At the General Assembly on September 18, 2017, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “he shared Trump’s vision for a less-wasteful UN that will live up to its full potential.” Even though the UN has imperfections, the UN’s proposed reform in response to the US requests indicates the cooperative relationship between the UN and the US endures. The US and UN cooperation remains as essential as ever in order to maintain the current ordered liberal world.