‘We the People’ Need the United Nations
Today, the United Nations faces a dire threat. A co-founder of the organization, its host, and major financier, is undermining its very mission and existence. The president referred to the United Nations as “a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.” U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers from the state of Alabama proposed a bill to “terminate” our UN membership. Two draft executive orders threatened to reduce funding to the United Nations and international organizations by a minimum of 40% and undermine multilateral treaties. Now for the first time, the Trump administration has refused to attend a United Nation’s Human Rights Council Meeting.
The consequences of this political turmoil are already catastrophic. International partners question our commitments. Even at home, people have begun to follow the tide: they call the United Nations a relic of a bygone era. Unfortunately, our government is making a serious mistake. It is in the interest of the American people to require our government to actively cooperate with, participate in, and financially support the United Nations.
More than an “ineffectual talk shop,” the United Nation is a leader, a facilitator that has produced results on the world’s most difficult challenges. In a post-World War II order, the United Nations has preserved the rule of law through conventions including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, promoted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and reduced the likelihood of a conflict among world powers capable of destroying the planet. Member-states under the United Nations have brought forth a global agreement on climate change to save our future.
From a financial standpoint, the United Nations is clearly worth the investment. According to a report by the NYC Mayor’s Office for International Affairs last year, the United Nations generates 25,000 full and part-time jobs and $3.69 billion dollars. The UN provides an economic stimulus to New York City equal to hosting 7 Super Bowls in one year. This is in addition to over a billion dollars in UN contracts with American companies, reaching hard-working employees in 30 states over a two-year period.
The United Nations saves American lives and tax dollars. Acting unilaterally, it would be difficult for the United States to justify American lives lost serving as the world’s policeman. For a cost equal to only 1% of the U.S. defense budget and .1% of GDP, Americans reap a huge dividend from the UN’s peace efforts. They reduce our military costs and open avenues for American investment worth billions of dollars. The United States provides 28.57% of UN Peacekeeping missions, or $2.25 billion, which represents a small fraction of the Iraq War’s original $90.3 billion price tag in 2003. According to Susan Rice, the former U.S. Representative to the UN, “If the US was to act on its own – unilaterally – and deploy its own forces…for every dollar that the US would spend, the UN can accomplish the Mission for twelve cents.”
Consider the consequences of a world without the United Nations. Poverty, failed states, and chaos would provide havens for terrorists to attack the homeland. Tensions among nation-states would rise. Conflicts would fester. The possibility of a World War III would threaten the very existence of the human race. We risk forgetting the dangers of war and undervaluing the virtues of peace.
This is not to say that the United Nations is infallible. It is an imperfect solution to an imperfect world, and the UN is in great need of reform. We need an organization that is “doing the right thing” also to “do things right.” The Security Council does not reflect today’s power realities. UN agencies compete with overlapping areas of responsibility. Accountability for actions by peacekeepers is insufficient. While the organization is nowhere close to where we need it to be, severing one’s ties does not fix the problem. We need to maintain our seat at the table, and use our powerful position to instigate change without undermining the UN’s success.
In 1945, New York City competed against 248 candidates for the right to host Paul Kennedy’s Parliament of Man. Today, we are the diplomatic capital of the world, whose presence directly benefits the American people. Will we as a country allow ourselves to lose this legacy? According to 86% percent of voters, the message is clear: no we will not. We should demand that our government actively cooperate with, participate in, and financially support the United Nations.
We have the power to shape a better future. Our actions at the UN today will help us to shape the world we wish our children to see tomorrow. Let’s remind ourselves, and the rest of the world, of who we truly are as a nation.