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After Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, is the UN still fit for purpose? | World News

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The United Nations was conceived at the end of the Second World War with the primary objective of maintaining international peace and security.  

The UN Security Council, with five permanent members, was designed to be the teeth of the UN, able to issue binding resolutions to member states.

However, despite Russia‘s illegal invasion of Ukraine being in direct contravention of the UN’s core values, because Russia is a permanent member of the Security Council with powers of veto over its resolutions, the UN has been rendered impotent.

So does Russia’s aggression mark the death knell for the organisation?

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Missile strike destroys hotel in Ukraine

The failure of the League of Nations – which was conceived following the First World War with the principal mission to maintain world peace – was due to highly ambitious and idealistic aims, coupled with the League’s inability to enforce them on its member states.

The UN was conceived in similar circumstances at the end of the Second World War, and evidently suffers from similar shortcomings, despite lasting much longer.

If the UN is to be effective at championing global peace, the five permanent Security Council members have a huge responsibility to be advocates for, and overtly champion, the UN’s core values.

‘Russia has disregarded the UN’s principles’

Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine demonstrates a flagrant disregard for international law.

It has cynically manipulated the UN to achieve its expansionist objectives.

President Zelenskyy’s appearance in New York at the annual UN General Assembly should have galvanised the international leadership around the UN’s core values; instead, Zelenskyy could not mask his frustration at the evident impotence and inherent hypocrisy of the UN.

Not only did Russia display a complete disregard for the UN’s core principles, but it also encouraged division within the UN ranks.

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Several nations have established closer economic ties with Russia since the start of the war, and Russia successfully coerced them to “sit on the fence” and prioritise national interest rather than championing the collective security principles of the UN.

Worse still, some nations used the UN platform to openly criticise the US for supporting Ukraine and prolonging the conflict.

With an annual budget of more than $3bn (£2.6bn) and a reputation for being heavily bureaucratic and a “talking shop” for minority opinions, if the UN is powerless to fulfil its core mission, is it still fit for purpose?

‘Worthy vision a misguided hallucination without resolve’

Notwithstanding the Ukraine war, not all aspects of the UN’s activities should be judged a failure.

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has been very effective at providing humanitarian and developmental aid to children worldwide and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) provides life-saving assistance for people forced to flee conflict and persecution.

As a global initiative, the UN does not pass judgment on styles of national politics – whether autocracies, democracies, or dictatorships.

Instead, it seeks to align members around core values, principles and the international rule of law – it aspires to Peace, Dignity and Equality on a Healthy Planet.

However, without members’ commitment and resolve, the UN’s worthy vision is nothing more than a misguided hallucination.

Read more:
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The unprecedented loss of limbs in Ukraine

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The second UN secretary-general, Dag Hammarskjöld, once observed the “UN was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell”.

It has undoubtedly provided an invaluable global catalyst for dialogue, understanding and compromise.

But recent events have exposed fundamental flaws that must be addressed if the UN is to avoid fading into irrelevance and obscurity.

As Russia’s illegal invasion has proven, dialogue and compromise do not always prove an effective riposte to the brutal ambitions of those determined to drag humanity into the abyss.

As Leonardo da Vinci wrote: “Men fight wars and destroy everything around them.

“The earth should open and swallow them up.

“He who does not value life does not deserve it.”

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