Posted: October 26th, 2022

BA Discussion

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Explain the mission and function of the international organization “United Nations (UN)”. Assess how issues of state sovereignty are dealt with for member countries. Use evidence (cite sources) to support your response from assigned readings or online lessons, and at least one outside scholarly source.

Textbook: Whitman Cobb, W. N. (2020). Political science today (1st ed.). Washington, DC: Sage, CQ Press.

Following the failure of the League of Nations in preventing World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed, in the midst of the war, the creation of a new organization to be called the United Nations. While many of the large conceptual frameworks were worked out by the Allies during the war, representatives from fifty countries met in 1945 to write the UN charter. The charter would later be ratified by a majority of countries, and the United Nations officially became established in October 1945.

Like its predecessor, the United Nations was conceived of as an organization through which conflict could be addressed and open warfare therefore be avoided. The United Nations consists of a General Assembly; Security Council; and subsidiary councils, including the Economic and Social Council. In the General Assembly, each state has one vote, whereas the UN Security Council is made up of the five victors of World War II (United States; Soviet Union, now Russia; France; China; and the United Kingdom) who have absolute veto power and ten other rotating members. While the General Assembly is the main deliberative or legislative body of the United Nations, the Security Council has the responsibility of ensuring global peace and security; therefore, where resolutions coming out the General Assembly have little ability to be enforced, the Security Council can authorize the imposition of sanctions or other penalties or even the use of force.

The United Nations has often been criticized for being inefficient and ineffective as well as being unable to ensure global peace. Certainly, war and military conflict have continued to plague the world with the United Nations seemingly unable to stop it. The United Nations has no independent military or police force; it is reliant on member states to contribute people to peacekeeping missions. While the Security Council can authorize sanctions on states, there is no way to force states to actually impose them. The United Nations cannot even force countries to fully pay the dues that they are required to under the charter. Finally, the difficulties of the United Nations are written right into the charter: its mission is to confront global issues like conflict, human rights, disarmament, development, poverty, and health, but the charter recognizes that each member state is a sovereign entity and promises that the United Nations will not interfere within a state itself. How can the United Nations hope to fulfill its purposes with no coercive ability or the ability to mandate and ensure change?

Despite these hurdles, the United Nations has found ways to be relevant and supportive if not overwhelming. It has set overall developmental goals such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) discussed in Chapter 8 about comparative politics and the Sustainable Development Goals. Its related bodies, like the World Health Organization, help to organize medical responses to health crises around the world. The World Bank assists states with development projects by providing not only funds but advice and assistance. And finally, we can always ask the counterfactual of what might have happened in the absence of the United Nations and the ongoing forum it provides for countries to communicate, talk, and discuss with one another. While there will be a distinct lack of power for the United Nations in favor of state sovereignty for the foreseeable future, the United Nations still provides powerful mechanisms through which to encourage constructive dialogue and the development of international norms.

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