UN Legitimacy Should Be Questioned With MDG Failure

The United Nations released its annual report earlier this month on progress made in the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The annual report found that with the UN’s current efforts, all the goals will not be met by 2015. The report declared that “major progress” towards the MDGs has been made, but “the most vulnerable are left behind.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged world leaders to increase their efforts to meet the MDGs. “The MDGs have helped lift millions of people out of poverty, save countless children’s lives, and ensure that they attend school. At the same time, we still have a long way to go in empowering women and girls, promoting sustainable development, and protecting the most vulnerable,” he said.

But the UN is no longer a legitimate organization to handle global issues. Instead, the UN will be replaced by private non-governmental organizations. The UN has become too dependent on the rich countries, and the organization lacks authority among all of its member nations. The nations with the most money influence the policy of the UN, and know they have the ability to control the future of the UN.

One reason for the MDG failures has been the lack of funding. Many wealthy countries promised 0.7% of their countries’ annual income to help in the efforts of the MDGs, yet these nations have never paid this full amount. If the UN continues to fail to meet their goals because of lack of commitment from member nations then their legitimacy will steadily decline.

Jean-Marc Coicaud of the United Nations University in New York and Ian Hurd of Northeastern and Princeton recently launched The UN Legitimacy Series. These lectures looked at the UN’s success and legitimacy. Hurd says that the legitimacy of an organization is determined by the people. The more people believe that an organization is legitimate, the more powerful the organization will be. “Legitimacy is a source of power,” Hurd said.

The criticisms of UN effectiveness damages their legitimacy and international influence. Unfortunately, questions of effectiveness are nothing new for the United Nations. During the 1990s the United States halted its funding to the UN claiming the UN was inefficient. The U.S. refused to pay dues until the UN began reforms, starting with the establishment of the Office of Internal Oversight Services in 1994. More recently, criticism arose over the UN’s handling of the Darfur Crisis and failure to provide enough manpower and equipment to the efforts to end the genocide. Others find that the UN is ineffective because there are rarely consequences for violating resolutions of the Security Council.

The UN will not be relevant as we move further into the 21st century. Instead, other private organizations like the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) Crisis Management Initiative (CMI), Carter Centre’s Conflict Resolution Program, the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), and Center for Humanitarian Dialogue (HD) will become the go-to organizations to provide services of mediation and conflict resolution for international customers.

Today a growing number of people are putting their trust and money into private peacemakers. Norway spends over $30 million which goes to conflict resolution services provide by NGOs, not the UN. The Economist identified why these organizations are successful and becoming more popular. 

Private mediators of conflicts are creative, able to move faster because they do not “bogged down” by bureaucracy, and because they are not diplomats, more parties are willing to talk to them. 

Photo Credit: United Nations Photo 

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Meghan Litten

I am a senior Public Policy and Leadership and Liberal Studies double major at the University of Mississippi. As a member of the Trent Lott Leadership Institute I have traveled to Japan, Ecuador and Jordan to study. I am interested in education policy and international politics.

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