Over the past decades, the United Nations has received numerous critiques, particularly due to their ways of intervening in conflict zones across the globe. Many voices have highlighted the fact that instead of resolving the conflicts, the UN was actually prolonging them because they adopted a status quo position, with no real resolution. In addition, some of their unfortunate interventions have even managed to create rivalries between countries, such as the Israeli-Arab conflict still manifesting today.
However, the UN activity is not all bad and in certain cases, the organization actually administrated conflicts better than any other union or state association. Let’s review why the United Nations is actually an important authority as well as the situations when you can count on it to act right.
1. Child protection (UNICEF)
In spite of the rumors that UNICEF has started taking sides in the Palestine-Israel conflicts, there is not denial that it is the world’s biggest advocate for children’s right for a normal and healthy life. Their efforts of protecting children and helping them overcome the numerous obstacles posed by poverty, discrimination, diseases and violence have had a powerful echo around the globe.
2. Refugee aid (UNHCR)
UNHCR was among the first UN departments to be created, a few years after the Second World War. The central theme of the agency consists of leading and coordinating international action for the purpose of protecting refugees as well as resolving the issues that the individuals in exile are currently facing. Furthermore, the function of the UNHCR implies making sure that every person can exercise his/her right to seek asylum in another state, while still being able to have the possibility to return to his country (or another state if he/she chooses) voluntarily and with the possibility of integration.
3. Food aid
At this point, the United Nations World Food Program is one of the most efficient multilateral activities with outstanding and uncontestable results: it is estimated that more than 100 million people from 80 different countries are currently benefiting from it. Whenever there is a war, natural disaster, epidemic or a country is just too poor to provide food aids for the population, the UN is there to lend a helping hand. Perhaps the most appreciated thing about the food aid is that the program is constantly being adapted in accordance to the worldwide changes. For instance, as we speak, the UN is trying to build a future market designed for natural disasters.
4. The leader of the global battle against AIDS/HIV
When it comes to fighting against AIDS, the United Nations’ role cannot be matched even by the World Health Organization. Well, this is not exactly a competition, but still. As the AIDS virus spreads worldwide with incredible speed, the UN has admitted that the organization cannot wage this war alone and can use all the help they can get. At this point, they set up various mechanisms to attract governments, corporations, non-government organizations and multilaterals in the fight.
5. Ensures the punishment of war crimes
Making sure that dictators and tyrannical rulers are punished for the atrocities they created during conflicts is one of the newest departments of the United Nations. Even though the Tribunals have already convicted the former Yugoslavian president Slobodan Milosevic and its decisions are taken very seriously by people, there is still a lot of progress to be made in this program. For example, the UN is trying to find a judiciary model suitable for difficult cases, such as the ones in Cambodia and Sierra Leone.
6. The UN helps bring invisible issues in the light
Perhaps one of the most respected roles of the United Nations is that of identifying and putting an end to a lot of suffering worldwide. To put it simply, thanks to the United Nations the world found out and stopped oppressions, slavery, child soldiers and many other acts of cruelty and evil that everyone thought were eradicate in the modern society.
7. Militates for human rights (UNFPA)
The UN population fund is focused on ensuring every person’s right for living healthy and benefiting from equal chances. Essentially, the international agency activates mostly in the countries where these basic human rights are not respected and tries to develop programs to reduce poverty, promotes responsible pregnancies and women’s rights to benefit from a dignified and respectful treatment.
8. Ensures elections are running correctly
Overthrowing oppressive political regimes in various countries across the world is another point of interest on the agenda of the UN. However, it does not stop here, as the United Nations are also making an effort to ensure the will of the people is respected afterwards. The best examples in this direction are the elections managed under UN observatories in countries like Afghanistan, East Timor or Iraq, countries where the organization managed to pull it off quite well, given the fact that they sent only
a small fraction of the staff that was actually needed.
Keeping order and helping countries devastated by civil wars get back on their feet is another crucial function of the United Nations. One of their latest successes was the one in Kosovo, a small country in the Balkan region that claimed and got its independence in 2008. After almost a full decade of the UN’s interim administration in Kosovo, the Albanian-Serbian conflict has reached a resolution. At this point, Serbia and Kosovo are undergoing negotiations with very promising outcomes.
10. Gets involved in conflicts when nobody else dare
Even though the United Nations’ interventions are frowned upon, the truth is that this organization is the only one willing to arbitrate in extremely complex situations. Simply put, whenever the EU and US do not want to interfere and there is no neighboring country with the power and will to help out, you can be certain that the population will not be left at the mercy of marauders, mayhem and slaughter. This is when the United Nations comes in and makes these problems its responsibility. Here is one of the many examples: when everyone was making an effort not to get involved, the UN mediated the meltdowns in Liberia and Congo.