Perhaps because the International Peace Garden has struggled to finish a conference centre suitable for the occasional negotiation, the United Nations remains the foremost headquarters for global diplomacy. It began with a treaty in San Francisco, signed on this day in 1945, and the hope was to build a lasting institution for global peace.
When viewed through the lens of its flashy New York Headquarters, the UN gives a not-entirely-inaccurate impression of being byzantine and ineffective. Even allowing for its successes, has to assign it some responsibility for failing to solve its own problems, let alone the world’s.
To start, there’s a democratic deficit in the UN that ought to be resolved by a planetary parliament. Without any clear mandate or enforcement powers, General Assembly resolutions have all the impact of a wet paper towel.
The UN is incapable of levying even the sparest of taxes — say, 0.7%, to support its development goals in impoverished nations. It is not anywhere near the heartbeat of global trade; it is in fact totally bypassed by regional blocs, the WTO and other multiparty agreements.
The United Nations Security Council is a fossilized remnant of the 1940s global power structure. Done over again today, it would not be Britain or France with Security Council seats, but Germany, India, Brazil.
And yet, there is no organization that is doing more to help refugees, the malnourished, the undereducated, the war-torn. No other NGO matches the scope of its humanitarian and peacekeeping efforts. The UN is at present, doing its best, playing second fiddle on a shoestring. Whether its next 70 years are glory or infamy depends entirely on how the global community repairs this impressive international institution.