It has been 75 years since the United Nations was founded. Today the world needs international cooperation more than ever amid the coronavirus pandemic, but the organization is faced with a crisis of dysfunction caused by U.S. President Donald Trump’s “America first” policies.
The U.N. was formed in October 1945 mainly by the United States, Britain and the former Soviet Union that were victorious in World War II. The new organization’s starting point was the regret that the world could not prevent the recurrence of a great war.
The number of member nations has since grown from the initial 51 to 193. Japan joined the U.N. in 1956.
While the organization’s main function is to realize world peace and security, as well as international amity, its activities span a wide range of fields including the economy, development, human rights, poverty and the environment.
As globalization spreads, global-scale challenges are growing, from infectious diseases, international terrorism, refugees, climate change, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction such as nuclear arms to growing trade protectionism.
While the importance of the U.N. is rising, it has failed to sufficiently address these challenges.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a speech at the General Assembly ceremony marking the organization’s 75th anniversary, “Today we have a surplus of multilateral challenges and a deficit of multilateral solutions.” The Trump administration is largely contributing to what Guterres described as the United States turning its back on international cooperation and taking the U.N. lightly.
The U.S. didn’t send its president or ambassador to the U.N. General Assembly’s commemorative event, only its acting deputy representative to the organization. Furthermore, President Trump denounced China in his speech to the General Assembly and urged other nations to put their countries first.
Due to such an attitude from Washington, China and Russia have remained stubborn in the U.N. Security Council. It took over three months for the council to adopt a resolution for a global ceasefire to tackle the coronavirus pandemic due to the U.S.-China conflict, after the motion was proposed by France and Tunisia this past spring.
Meanwhile, the United Nations is not problem-free itself. The organization has grown fourfold in terms of the number of member states, but the structure of the Security Council’s permanent members, which have veto power, has remained fundamentally the same. There are no council member states in Africa or Latin America, which leads to a lack of regional balance.
To make the United Nations an organization adaptive to changes in international affairs seen in the past 75 years, the Security Council needs to reform.
The world must not make the U.N. a place for a hegemonic struggle. To rebuild the structure of international cooperation, which is the organization’s origin, Japan should take a leading role along with the European Union and other members.