United Nations: On the Cusp of Decline 

By Dr Santosh Kumar Mohapatra*

The United Nations is the most important international organization in the world. United Nations Day is one of the most important international Days being celebrated annually on the 24th of October each year. The day marks the anniversary of the UN Charter’s adoption in 1945.

The majority of its signatories, including the five permanent members of the Security Council, confirmed the founding text of the United Nations. On June 26, 1945, the Charter was ratified by nations. After China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States signed the UN Charter in October 1945, the UN was formally established.

The day highlights the UN’s successes while also raising awareness of its aspirations. It may be noted that in 1942, while the country was at war, President Franklin D. Roosevelt coined the phrase “United Nations in 1941.” Every nation distinctively observes its national day.

When the United Nations was first founded, it consisted of 51 members. As of 2023, the number of members has reached 193. The newest member of the UN is the Republic of South Sudan. It joined the organization in July 2011. The 195 flags that fly outside the United Nations Headquarters in New York are arranged in English alphabetical order: they represent 193 Member States (from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe) as well as two Observer States (the Holy Sea and the State of Palestine).

The United Nations Day is also an occasion to remember the values that this organization stands for, including the concepts of humanity, unity, and world peace. The United Nations was established to save humanity from the menace and scourge of war, and fury of destruction following the two world wars and the Cold War most notably, to ensure that the human globe would never again be exposed to such instances of tragedy. Its objective was to bring the nation from Global Conflict to Global Cooperation and also to bring peace between the nations and promotion of the well-being of the peoples of the world, and international cooperation to these ends.

The occasion provided by UN Day, which can be seen annually, allows us to advance our shared goals and uphold the goals and tenets of the UN Charter that have governed us for the past 78 years. Additionally, the day aims to increase global support for the UN’s many operations. To honour the UN and raise public awareness of the UN as an organization, the UN urges its member countries to designate the day as a national holiday.

The United Nations Conference took place in San Francisco on October 24, 1945. As many as 50 countries came to the conference to form the United Nations Charter. The Aim of the United Nations Organisation is to bring peace among the people to stop the War Situation.

Themes of United Nations Day

On each year of the United Nations Day 2023, a new theme is being launched. For United Nations Day 2020, the theme was ‘The Future We Want, the UN We Need: Reaffirming our Collective Commitment to Multilateralism’. For this year, the United Nations Day 2023 theme is “Equality, Freedom, and Justice for All”. This year’s UN Day Concert, on the theme of The Frontlines of Climate Action, is sponsored by the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Tonga to the United Nations with support from the PVBLIC Foundation’s Family Offices for Sustainable Development (FOSD).

The theme of the UN Day Concert reinforces Secretary-General António Guterres’ call for “faster, bolder climate action”, and intends to galvanize world leaders ahead of the COP28 climate conference in Dubai later in the year, and next year’s International Conference on Small Island Developing States in Antigua and Barbuda.

The United Nations designates specific days, weeks, years, and decades as occasions to mark particular events or topics in order to promote, through awareness and action, the objectives of the Organization. Usually, it is one or more member states that propose these observances and the General Assembly establishes them with a resolution. On occasions, these celebrations are declared by the specialized agencies of the United Nations, such as UNESCO, UNICEF, FAO, etc., when they concern issues that fall within the scope of their competencies. Some of them may be later adopted by the General Assembly.

The global work of the United Nations is not without reason compared to that of a family — striving for a common goal in concert with all members for a better future”. — Kofi Annan. The United Nations Organisation will also celebrate Women’s Day, Elders Day, World Peace Day, and other days formulated by the UNO. UNO is now aiming to bring the Values and Principles of Life of the UN Charter to every corner of the world. UNO aims for the freedom of women to bring equality among the people and ensure human rights for all.

The UN is on The Cusp of Decline

Today, the United Nations forms the U.N. system together with other specialized agencies and affiliated agencies. As a result of the large increase in the number of member nations, the increased interdependence among nations, and the complexity and diversity of the problems handled, the United Nations system provides a very useful framework for international cooperation in a wide range of fields, including the maintenance of peace and security, disarmament, trade, economic assistance, social affairs, human rights, labour, improved status for women, population, culture, education, environmental problems, science and technology, nuclear energy, the search for a new maritime order, transportation, communications, and other administrative and financial fields.

However, the UN is on the cusp of decline. It has failed to prevent the decline of democracy in various countries. It is important to note that democracy is a complex concept and there are different ways to measure it. However, the leading approaches to measuring democracy indicate that the world has become less democratic in recent years.

The number of democracies in the world reached an all-time high of 96 electoral democracies in 2016 but has since fallen to 90 countries in 2021. The extent of this decline is substantial, but it is also uncertain and limited. The number of people who have democratic rights has recently plummeted: between 2016 and 2022, this number fell from 3.9 billion to 2.3 billion people.

Still, Hunger and Poverty Persist

Since then, the group has taken on the pledge, and numerous initiatives to improve a lot of people have been made. United Nations also works to reduce poverty across the globe. The United Nations delivers promises for the safeguard of future generations that inequality will be eradicated, human values will be increased and the world will definitely be a better place to live. For this, it had set millennium development goals in 2000 and 15 sustainable development goals (SDGs) in 2015.

In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) created the SDGs as part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda. This agenda sought to design a new global development framework, replacing the Millennium Development Goals, which were completed that same year. These goals were formally articulated and adopted in a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution known as the 2030 Agenda, often informally referred to as Agenda 2030.

On 6 July 2017, the SDGs were made more actionable by a UNGA resolution that identifies specific targets for each goal and provides indicators to measure progress. Most targets are to be achieved by 2030, although some have no end date.

The 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly marks a crucial milestone in the journey towards achieving the 2030 Agenda and the urgent need to put the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) back on track on 19-25 September 2023.

World leaders gathered to engage in the annual high-level General Debate under the theme, “Rebuilding Trust and Reigniting Global Solidarity: Accelerating Action on the 2030 Agenda and its Sustainable Development Goals towards Peace, prosperity, progress, and Sustainability for all.”

Alongside the SDG Summit, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres convened the Climate Ambition Summit, with a call on every leader from Governments, business, cities and regions, civil society, and financial institutions to step up. The UN chief urged individuals or organizations participating in the event to present credible, serious, and new climate action and nature-based solutions that will move the needle forward and respond to the urgency of the climate crisis.

However, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity. The 17 SDGs are integrated—they recognize that action in one area will affect outcomes in others, and that development must balance social, economic and environmental sustainability.

The short titles of the 17 SDGs are: No poverty (SDG 1), Zero hunger (SDG 2), Good health and well-being (SDG 3), Quality education (SDG 4), Gender equality (SDG 5), Clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), Affordable and clean energy (SDG 7), Decent work and economic growth (SDG 8), Industry, innovation and infrastructure (SDG 9), Reduced inequalities (SDG 10), Sustainable cities and communities (SDG 11), Responsible consumption and production (SDG 12), Climate action (SDG 13), Life below water (SDG 14), Life on land (SDG 15), Peace, justice, and strong institutions (SDG 16), Partnerships for the goals (SDG 17).

The SDGs are designed to end poverty, hunger, AIDS, and discrimination against women and girls. However, poverty, hunger, gender inequality and economic inequality still persist. According to a United Nations report published on July 6, 2022, the number of people affected by hunger globally rose to as many as 828 million in 2021, an increase of about 46 million since 2020 and 150 million since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This report provides fresh evidence that the world is moving further away from its goal of ending hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030.

It is estimated that around the world, one in every 9 people do not have enough food to live an active, healthy life. This includes 20 million people who are currently at risk of famine in South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, and Nigeria.

The 2023 Multidimensional Poverty Index Report “Unstacking global poverty: Data for high-impact action” finds that 25 countries halved multidimensional poverty within 15 years, but 1.1 billion remain poor. The report demonstrates that poverty reduction is achievable. However, the lack of comprehensive data on the COVID-19 pandemic poses challenges in assessing immediate prospects.

Failure to Prevent War

All of this illustrates that the United Nations is a living organization that directly reflects the political, economic, and social realities of the world and which can develop and act. Yet since the United Nations is a collective organization of sovereign nations, its ability to act is largely determined by the will and cooperation of its members.

The Security Council has primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. It has 15 members, and each member has one vote. Under the Charter of the United Nations, all Member States are obligated to comply with Council decisions.

The Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression. It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorizing the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.

However, the US, UK, France, China, and Russia are all permanent members of the Security Council and hold veto powers over all decisions. This has been shown to negatively affect how the UN can respond to crises, especially if one of these countries wants to prevent it.

One of the main aims of the United Nations is to maintain international peace and security. However, the UN has often not been able to stop conflicts or successfully resolve them. The UN’s lack of effectiveness in preventing many major wars is a significant reason for concerns. Recently, it has failed to stop conflicts between Israel and Hamas and Russia-Ukraine war.

Throughout the UN’s history, there have been many conflicts that it has been unable to stop. The Vietnam War raged for 19 years and cost the lives of two million people. However, the UN proved powerless to stop it.

Another example of the United Nations being ineffective in ending a conflict is the Syrian Civil War. This has continued for nearly 10 years and cost more than 350,000 lives, as well as displacing over 13 million people. The United Nations has not been able to end the bloodshed in Syria. Iran and Iraq war , US attack on Iraq, etc show the ineffectiveness of United nations.

Despite its myriad failings, and its glaring inade­quacies, the United Nations is still viewed, in the immediate term, as an institution that merits. No other global organization gives hope to so many people for a better world and can deliver the future we want. Today, the urgency for all countries to come together, to fulfil the promise of the United Nations.



The author is an Odisha-based eminent columnist/economist and social thinker. He can be reached through e-mail at [email protected]



DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not in any way represent the views of Sambad English

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