By Assad Bhuglah
The United Nations, the biggest intergovernmental organization in the world, which was hoped to be
a beacon of peace and stability around the world, is considered incapable of bringing peace to the
most serious conflicts or contributing to the stability of post-conflict societies. Every diplomatic
tension, geopolitical dispute, international conflict and humanitarian crisis contributes to the already
existing negative perception of the organization.
The United Nations was established in the aftermath of the World War II with the overarching
purpose of preventing this kind of total war from ever happening again. Its formation came after the
failures of the League of Nations, an international organisation that had the same lofty goal of
preventing war. However, there is strong apprehension that the UN will collapse into irrelevance,
much as the League of Nations did in its day. One of the negative points about the UN is that the
decision-making process is often very slow and many institutions like the Security Council are
reactionary, and very easily caught up in power politics, rendering them useless at critical moments.
The ineffectiveness of the UN in the most significant crises areas and the lack of reform and constant
deadlocks on the UN Security Council tarnishes the image of the United Nations around the world.
Despite the hard work of the staff and successful implementation of some of the UN programs,
there is a widespread scepticism about the role, effectiveness and efficiency of the UN system today.
The United Nations is failing due to colossal mismanagement. It is a huge organization with a
bureaucracy so maddeningly complex, requiring so much effort but in the end incapable of
delivering the intended result. The system is a black hole into which disappear countless tax dollars
and human aspirations, never to be seen again.
The United Nations needs to be able to attract and quickly deploy the world’s best talent. And yet, it
takes on average 213 days to recruit someone. During the Ebola epidemic, while the UN team was
fighting a disease that killed many thousands and risked spinning out of control, it was desperate to
get qualified people on the ground. But it had to spend weeks waiting for a health colleague to get
her forms processed. Although the health officer was a UN staff member working in South Sudan,
she could not travel to the UN headquarters in Accra, Ghana, until she received a new medical
clearance. Similarly, the heads of billion-dollar peace operations, with enormous responsibilities for
ending wars, are not able to hire their immediate staff, or to reassign non-performers away from
critical roles. This is how a perversely twisted the bureaucracy gives more importance to personnel
matters than expediting the responsibility to lead a mission on which the fate of a country depends.
Many decisions are driven by political expediency instead of by the values of the United Nations or
the facts on the ground. At times, key missions are entrusted to political persons who are manifestly
incompetent. It is virtually impossible to fire someone in the United Nations for poor performance.
The UN secretary general would need the freedom to appoint a strong, experienced team, with
appointment on merit and not the traditional divvying-up of senior jobs among the “P5” permanent
veto-wielding members, a practice that institutionalises their unhealthy dominance, not only within
the council but also of the secretariat and the information it conveys to the council. Mr Recep Tayyip
Erdoğan , President of Turkey, who attended the UN General Assembly, wants this organization to
reform its non-functional system and focus on the unfolding developments in the world with deep
concern. Last year, the president told the UN General Assembly that "the world is greater than five"
emphasizing that the system, where the five permanent members of the UN Security Council can
block all decisions with their veto power, is paralyzing the effective intervention of the UN in crisis
areas as they use their veto power to protect states that they feel are close to them. The fact that
Muslim states are not represented in the Security Council as a permanent member is also an issue of
The UN has lamentably failed to resolve important conflicts around the world. Failure to resolve the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Israel's occupation, in the words of UN former Secretary General Kofi
Annan, would “continue to hurt the reputation of the United Nations and raise questions about its
impartiality”. No cause has consumed as much UN paper work as the plight of the displaced and
occupied Palestinians. But hundreds of its resolutions on Palestine have not been respected let alone
applied for over half a century. The failed state of Syria, the semi-failed state of Iraq, the rise of
terrorist organizations like Daesh, the arms race among countries in the Middle East and the tragedy
of Syrian refugees have deep impacts on the society, economics and politics around the globe. These
problems necessitate a significant multinational endeavour to grapple with and a collective
enterprise by an international organization that can assess present risks, emerging threats and
generate a forum for countries to be able to work together to resolve these problems before they
spill over to other parts of world or before it is too late for the stabilization process. Evidently, the
UN failed to create the ability to empathize with the people in need and to the risks some countries
face. The organization, with its limited resources, also failed to raise awareness of these problems
and challenges. In particular, a large segment of the world remained inattentive and uninformed
about the plight of Syrian refugees until they tried to reach European countries. Tens of thousands
died on their journey in the Mediterranean Sea, and major international organization merely
expressed their regrets about the loss of lives. So in addition to structural deficiencies, the
organization has also suffered from a lack of direction and role orientation. Similarly, the plight,
persecution and killing of Rohingya Muslims, which the UN Human Rights Chief calls "ethnic
cleansing," is not generating much action from UN bodies.
Despite these shortcomings and despite this ineffectiveness and low public trust, the organization is
still what the world has at its disposal. The question at this point is how to make the organization
more relevant and effective. So far, most of the proposals on reform have focused on structural
problems within the UN. These proposals, however, have been ignored by the major powers in the
international system. In particular, the structure of the UN Security Council, which has been
criticized for years, has failed to be reformed due to the resistance of the permanent members of
the organization. While the ceremonial nature of UN meetings will continue, many people continue
to raise the question of the relevance of the UN in the international system. It is, as if, gridlocked
from within to end up on a failed route.