Assessing the United Nations

March 20, 2012 • Volume 6, Issue 6
Is it worth the money?
By Tom Price


Emotion overcomes a Syrian boy during a demonstration at UNICEF offices in Amman, Jordan (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)
Emotion overcomes a Syrian boy during a demonstration at UNICEF offices in Amman, Jordan, on Feb. 20, 2012, demanding that the U.N. children's agency better protect children caught in the fighting in Syria's cities. Some 100 civilians a day, including women and children, are dying in a crackdown on dissenters by the Bashar Assad regime. Russia and China, strong allies of the dictator, vetoed U.N. resolutions condemning the attacks and calling for Assad to step down. (AP Photo/Mohammad Hannon)

As the government of Bashar Assad slaughters thousands of civilian protesters in Syria, the United Nations stands impotent — blocked from intervening by Russian and Chinese vetoes in the U.N. Security Council. The inaction contrasts dramatically with the U.N.'s success in stopping similar atrocities during an anti-government resistance movement in Libya last year that led to the overthrow of longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The stark difference between U.N. action and inaction in the two venues helps explain the wide range of opinions about the effectiveness of the global organization, created in 1945 to preserve peace after World War II. Some critics say the U.N. is too heavily influenced by countries run by dictators, while others say it is dominated by industrial democracies. Several countries are conducting studies to determine which U.N. agencies are most cost-effective, and some in the United States want to make all U.N. contributions voluntary. Meanwhile, many U.N. agencies quietly continue to feed the hungry, aid needy children and enable mail, telecommunications and aircraft to move smoothly across borders.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
United Nations
Jun. 24, 2016  Reforming the U.N.
Sep. 04, 2012  Millennium Development Goals
Mar. 20, 2012  Assessing the United Nations
Apr. 2007  World Peacekeeping
Feb. 27, 2004  The United Nations and Global Security
Aug. 18, 1995  United Nations At 50
Jul. 27, 1990  A Revitalized United Nations in the 1990s
Oct. 04, 1985  United Nations at Forty
Aug. 29, 1975  United Nations at Thirty
Oct. 05, 1966  Future of the United Nations
Aug. 19, 1964  United Nations Peacekeeping
Sep. 18, 1963  Afro-Asians in United Nations
Mar. 07, 1962  United Nations Financing
Sep. 12, 1961  United Nations Reorganization
Jun. 20, 1960  United Nations: 1945–1960
Jan. 09, 1957  Policing by United Nations
Mar. 28, 1952  Treaties and Domestic Law
May 28, 1948  Revision of the United Nations
Sep. 18, 1946  Veto Power in United Nations
Jun. 12, 1945  National Sovereignty
Apr. 05, 1945  San Francisco, Yalta, and Dumbarton Oaks