[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Friday, 16 September 2005, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Is the United Nations a spent force?
Kofi Annan stands in front of the UN logo
Can meaningful change be achieved at the UN?

This is the second page of your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion received so far:

Post 9/11, international politics have shifted from UN idealism to realism
Floyd Shivambu, Johannesburg, South Africa
Post 9/11, international politics have shifted from UN idealism to realism. Countries are pursuing the maximalist perspectives on foreign affairs, and the UN's a spent force. The agenda is about securing national agendas and goals, at others' expense. The talk of democracy, cooperation and world development is hollow and annulled.
Floyd Shivambu, Johannesburg, South Africa

The UN should form an anti-terror force to fight terror and pass a resolution forcing member countries to allow free access of all their territories to such a force.
Jagdish. R Pillai, Mumbai, India

Annan should have been sacked. We cannot have any confidence in an organisation that sees corruption and mismanagement but does nothing about it.
Alan Chard, Edmonton, Canada

Isn't it funny how many nations want it to be more democratic with all states having an equal say regardless of strength and financial might. Gee, perhaps if those same countries in the Middle East, Latin America, Asia, and Africa practised democracy at home, most of the problems of the world would go away. The UN should be a group of democracies with no representation on any of the boards by dictatorships. If people don't vote at home than that country doesn't vote at the UN.
Joe Pepe, New York City

The UN is a paper tiger and always has been. It absorbs large amounts of money for little show. The major problem is that the EU countries and the US fund it but the African/Asia/Middle East outnumbers the people who foot the bill and thus can vote themselves stacks of cash. It should be run on the basis of one dollar into the UN treasury, one vote.
Gregor, UK

I am afraid the UN is going the same way as the League of Nations. It is more talk than action on the big issues. If the other nations want more say why do they not pay more in? The values of so many nations are less than ours, and it will always struggle to find consensus.
John, Dunmow, Essex

Keep the humanitarian agencies which do an excellent job, and abolish the Security Council. Replace it with a completely independent body based solely on democracies, as suggested by Luis Isava on this page.
Dave, Oxford

It has the potential but lacks the will
Shankar T, Bangalore, India
The United Nations is not spent; it has the potential but lacks the will. It can be best described as a king cobra, but only without its teeth. It has the power, capacity, potential but lacks the intent thus rendering it absolutely useless to the common world citizen.
Shankar T, Bangalore, India

United Nation is a toothless bulldog. In what way has it achieved to resolve the political crisis in the Niger Delta in Nigeria.
Amaka, London

Nations cannot be united. Nations peruse national interest. Nations compete. Nations fight each other. The way we structure our world based on tribal nation states has had it's day. It doesn't work. We are in the stone age when it comes to unifying anything. The UN is not a spent force. It should focus it's efforts on the eradication of the nation state concept. It's time to move on from self interest and arbitrary borders.
Sean, Chonburi, Thailand

The UN was highly successful in Korea during the early 50s. It needs to return to that status, which it can do by making the effort.
Paul, Massachusetts, USA

The UN need to focus on what is important for the security of the world. At the moment they are ineffectual. I agree on their stance on Iraq but other areas like Niger and Zimbabwe they sit back and do nothing. Unless they are prepared to take action they might as well disband.
Donna, Edinburgh

The UN is now what it always has been: a rather pleasant little talking shop for like-minded countries. People still see the nation state as the legitimate governmental actor and because of this the power still lies with the nation state.
Graham, London, UK

The UN is the future. It needs support from all its member countries. We are all members of the same human race; separate countries are what we have left from a past of geographical isolation.
Neil Pugmire, New Zealand

In theory the UN is a great organization
Jason, Detroit, USA
In theory the UN is a great organization where countries all across the globe can come together and exchange ideas, resolve conflicts and assist in crises. In reality the UN is a corrupt, far too political, waste of money that accomplishes none of the above. It's really quite sad.
Jason, Detroit, USA

The UN is a waste of time and money, it achieves nothing.
John Clarke, Gosport, Hants

The concept of the UN is a fine one, but the grubby squabbles and petty self-interests of nation states mean that it can very rarely act quickly or decisively. Perhaps when we all become a little more civilised and altruistic the UN will come into its own.
John, England

Until the Security Council itself is democratised or the veto of the five 'major powers' is abolished, there will have been no meaningful change.
Leon Bosch, Tring, UK

Last time I looked every one is human so we all make mistakes, and so give the UN a second chance, and stop breathing down their neck.
Costa Dixon, Washington DC

The UN is not a spent force it is now what it has always been; a dog with no teeth!
John Fitzgerald, Boston, Lincolnshire

Each national government looks after its own interests when they go to the UN
Michael, Penshurst, UK
It is clear that each national government looks after its own interests when they go to the UN and those interests only serve the political ends of the current regime. National governments have clearly shown they are incompetent to rule and most states should devolve so that local communities can run themselves.
Michael, Penshurst, UK

I would like to see the UN fight terrorism, human rights and poverty around the world, most especially in my country Liberia.
Joe H Kollie, Monrovia, Liberia

What do you mean by "a spent force"? I guess it was never a force and never will be. It was always a hand maiden of the so-called permanent members.
Ahmad Farooq, Islamabad, Pakistan

The UN remains the one great hope for a civilised world. By not promoting the interests of one nation it leaves itself open to attack from those nations with a narrow self-interested agenda, vis the USA.
Andy, Argyll, Scotland

During my school days about 40 years back, a disgruntled teacher gave his definition of the UN as a body having "U" from USA and "N" for "no" to everything else. Has time changed the definition for any better?
M Saeed, Islamabad, Pakistan

Why isn't global climate change top of the agenda?
Tim J, Oxford, UK
After the Tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, why isn't global climate change top of the agenda? It is a far bigger and present danger than terrorism.
Tim J, Oxford, UK

The UN has no credibility. The genocide in the Former Yugoslavia occurred under the very noses of the UN who were incapable of protecting the innocent; the embargo on Iraq which led to the deaths of millions, mostly children, occurred in the name and with the collusion of the UN. Israel's continuous violations of several UN resolutions for decades goes uncensored; and recently the genocide in Darfur has further exposed the its impotence. Instead of being treated as a legal international problem solver in times of conflict (for which it has failed miserably), the UN is more useful in times of peace to rebuild and unite.
Ibrahim, London, England, UK

The reports by the UN Reform task Force and the Oil for Food investigation all point to the need to give greater authority to the Secretary General and to establish additional positions of governance such as a chief operations officer. It would seem that the primary road block to all of this continues to be based in the unfounded hysteria over US hegemony. It is a classic case of cutting your nose off to spite your face. It can continue to be relevant with the proper governance. It its current state it is an old and tired generator of meaningless policies and documents.
Thomas, Heidelberg, Germany

How can the UN promote democracy and human rights when members like the USA wont even acknowledge a World Court? The UN is only as strong as their members allow it to be. (especially the nations with veto right in the security council)
Wolfram, Germany

This is supposed to be the United Nations not a terrorist's apologist group
Rick, UK
Get rid of the lot of them! The UN made a deal with Saddam Hussein first time around and that led to thousands of Iraqis being massacred in revenge for rising up against him. And the US and UK had to stand back and watch. Next time round, the UN threatened military action against Saddam Hussein, then they bottled out. He broke the resolutions and they kept giving him chances. And all the while UN families were profiting from Iraqi oil deals. They were even so cowardly, Al Qaeda were able to bomb one of their offices with no fear of recrimination! This organisation is deeply corrupted and Kofi Annan should resign forthwith. If the UN is to regain any respect as a major military and political peacekeeping force, they need to re-elect and get tough. This is supposed to be the United Nations not a terrorist's apologist group.
Rick, UK

I feel the UN is another victim of the selfish world we live in. The wealthy countries of this world will only ever pay the UN lip service and will do very little to reduce the suffering in the world.
Paul Mueller, Leicester, UK

Most people posting on this site seem keen to blame the US for all the UN's woes. They claim that powerful countries shouldn't "bully the UN". However, why should the rich and powerful countries pay for a talking shop that acts against their best interests? If every country contributed money based upon their populations, instead of their GDP, then I might be more inclined to listen. Would you pay to belong to a club that did nothing but criticise you?
Rob, London - UK

There is a conflict of interest between democratic governments and totalitarian governments in the United Nations
Luis Isava, West Malling, UK
There is a conflict of interest between democratic governments and totalitarian governments in the United Nations. The democratic nations should create a Commonwealth of Democratic Nations to help poor democratic nations to overcome poverty, as well as improve their democratic institutions. To become a member a nation must past a test conducted by the Commonwealth and if democratic credentials are lost (a coup or other ways of destroying the democracy) the Commonwealth can ban the nation from the body.
Luis Isava, West Malling, UK

The implementation of Human rights charter should be UN's top priority, but needs to be revised to include poverty and education issues and issues where nations fail their own people.
A Savva, Cyprus

How can Blair say "it must give leadership on terrorism."? It told the US and UK not to go into Iraq, they did. For the UN to be effective the "nations" need to be "united".
Simon, Bristol

Are we discussing the UN or the EU or the US? What are the structural differences of the 3 organization? One was forged by goodwill after a great war. One tempered by goodwill after a civil war. Another, conceived on goodwill and united by fear of yet another war. Inequities, commonalities - such politics among apes. Goodwill may not be enough.
Ian, Austin, Texas USA

When the UN is squabbling and leaders are at odds an arguing, that's debate
Don Oddy, London, UK
With the incredible changes in communication and a more sophisticated world, the United Nations is scrutinised and analysed more adeptly than ever. And with such scrutiny we might wonder whether or not the UN delivers what it sets out to achieve, and when it so obviously is ignored in recent years we can see why we as observers become cynical of its presence and intent. Yet the UN is a place of debate about the larger issues concerning countries and the well being of the planet. It provides research as well as resolutions of intent about the world order. Where would we be without the UN?

Right now, as dissent makes the UN look divided and disparate, that's the best news. When the UN is squabbling and leaders are at odds an arguing, that's debate. And debate needs to be robust, and neighbours in the global village need to shout and rant. We need to be able to express anything and everything.

And in these times of terror, we need be mindful of our United Nations, that exclusion will provide foundation for terrorists, a clarion call to single separate purpose and ideology, a well of hatred so deep, unity will be a millennia away, if ever?
Don Oddy, London, UK

How many successful stories the UN has achieved so far that have changed the life of poor people? How could they walk away from Rwanda's 1994 genocide? Millions died in DR Congo, Angola, Bosnia from war and diseases! Where was UN? I'm afraid UN was just an observer, despite them having the most powerful weapons in their hands! I believe it is time to scrap it and bring in a new organisation capable of reaching poor people and protecting them! At the moment I believe the UN is just helping and protecting itself!
Jean-Paul Muana, DR Congo/UK

Human rights and terrorism need to addressed, but most countries who are the main cause of these won't ever agree to reforms at the U.N.
David, Israel
If member states abided by the charter of the U.N. which they have each signed, the question as to whether or not it is a spent force becomes irrelevant. More resolutions have been passed against Israel than any other member. It calls for the end of occupation. However, not one resolution has been passed against the occupation of Tibet, or called for a free and democratic state of Kurdistan, or insisted that Turkey end it's occupation of northern Cyprus. Human rights and terrorism need to addressed, but most countries who are the main cause of these won't ever agree to reforms at the U.N.
David, Israel

The world is not stagnate, times have changed, and so have needs and expectations. The question we should thus be asking ourselves is not whether the UN is effective, but rather what we expect from the UN in the first place. Do we want the UN to enforce a collective will, or simply serve in a humanitarian capacity? Is it an impartial judiciary or a definitive law maker? And is it necessary to enforce any of this at the point of a gun? Strong arm, gentle hand, something in between: Answer those questions and you'll find grounds for reform. It's time to set politics aside, come together, and make a few decisions.
Lydia, Ca, USA

Some people seem intent on judging the UN on one or two highly publicised recent events. But what about the work done by the UN Development Programme? By the UN Children's fund? By the World Food Programme? Or by the many, many other programmes and initiatives which employ people who make a real concerted effort to help the world and not destroy it. To glibly suggest that it is 'broken' and not appreciate the sheer size of the organisation and the huge amount of good that it does is not benefiting anybody, except those that wish to destroy it. What Mr Bush and Mr Blair want to hear is the sound of the UN rolling over on its back and going along with whatever depraved 'security measures' these two hawks think of next.
Tom, Hemel Hempstead

Member states must stop appointing spent politicians to its highest posts
Geneletti, Italy
There is a crisis of the UN - the organization - that can be fixed. Member states must stop appointing spent politicians to its highest posts. There is the crisis with the multilateral way of tackling international issues which will not go away unless some countries - the US first of all - are prepared to negotiate, which means to give something to get something.
Geneletti, Italy

Even though we haven't had a world war since 1945, the ideals behind the UN still hold true. The organisation is far from perfect, but Capitol Hill or Westminster have known scandals too. Is it very surprising if the most vehement critics of the UN are the USA, whose overwhelming economic and military power would otherwise enable them to do what they damn please in the world?
Philippe, London (UK)

Unfortunately, I do not believe that under Kofi Annan, the UN has a chance to become a respected international body again. After the food for oil scandal Mr Annan should have resigned, but I suppose it is a good post and with good financial gratification too. The UN should be completely reorganised, so in the future it will not just sit and pass endless number of resolutions (i.e. with regard to Iraq) instead of acting. And if I was an American I would be very upset that they are expected to contribute to the UN's costs in high percentage and be slagged off all the time regardless.
Natalia, Gdansk, Poland

The U.N. was fatally flawed from its inception. Had it been a Democracies-only club it would have succeeded beyond belief. It isn't, it never will be, and it will always fail. (Banquets, bribes and corruption is all it ever will be?)
James Newman, San Diego USA

Can anyone tell me of anything positive that the UN has contributed to the world in the last 20 or 30 years?
John R Smith, UK
Can anyone tell me of anything positive that the UN has contributed to the world in the last 20 or 30 years? It sat on the sidelines during the genocide in Yugoslavia, it allowed the same thing to happen in Rwanda and then the Sudan. So what is it actually for? Well past its sell-by date, in my opinion.
John R Smith, UK

How about moving it to Gaza? Seems like a perfect way to jump-start the economy there. Put it in the middle of areas which need its attention and get it out of NYC, where the temptations seem to be too many parties and not enough work.
David Erbach, Indiana, USA

While diplomats make a fortune, why bother? Politicians should receive regular salaries and curb the expenses, after all they chose office. "Let's talk about poverty over a 5-course lunch and luxury cars", is what they do best. UN re-read your job spec, lose your so important perks and actually look after the poor of the world. Too much to expect? Guess it is!
Rob Morgan, NYC ex-pat from Wales

The US is the greatest obstacle to the UN working smoothly - it has vetoed more things than anyone else, it is consistently late with its dues (by decades) and it bribes and threatens anyone who holds the good of the world to be more important than the good of America. The UN needs reform - and a good start would be kicking out the US until it grows up.
Jo Selwood, Newbury, UK

The UN is an important body for international negotiations and agreements, but people need to realise just what this means. The UN is not some sort of global government, it does not have any power (nor legitimacy) to enforce it's principles upon other countries. The UN should act as a place for negotiations, agreement and international planning, rather than being mistakenly idolised as a worldwide guardian of good in a naive and almost religious manner.
Jonathan, Coventry, UK

Its member states, especially The USA, need to be more supportive of it, and then it will get things done
Joe, England
The UN is not a spent force. Its member states, especially The USA, need to be more supportive of it, and then it will get things done. It does need reform: 1. More permanent security council members, and members from Africa. 2. To provide its TV and radio services more openly across the world, not just on the web. 3. Stop the diplomatic role of the Secretary-General, and give that to a President of the UN. (Other presidents within the UN can be renamed as Chairman) 4. Give its resolutions legal footing, so that country's must follow them.
Joe, England

It is very important that the big powers do not act as bully-boys. The United Nations is a world body, a forum where countries big and small come together and try and work out their differences for the sake of international understanding and world peace. The Secretary-General has to be impartial and should not pander after the big powers or the dictates of the only super-power. There comes the rub. Kofi Annan has been doing a deft balancing-act. This has obviously not pleased the Americans who have been extremely luke-warm to his peace initiatives. So as long as America tries to use its long arm to silence criticism, the world body will be lob-sided. We need an impartial organisation with more powers invested in the Secretary-General.
Pancha Chandra, Brussels; Belgium

The United Nations must never be seen as a spent force. It may need revamping as we have moved on since its formation, but it is a precious place and we must all have the will to retain it.
Lynn, Hitchin, UK

Wake me up when the UN does something we can actually be proud of
Wes, California, US
The UN isn't a spent force, but it has degraded itself into much damaged goods which just about everyone agrees needs fixing. Other than the humanitarian issues it handles very well (subtract points for corruption and nepotism), wake me up when the UN does something we can actually be proud of. When was the last time the UN actually did something other than agreed to issue watered down statements and reports that never amount to anything in real life?
Wes, California, US

The UN is useless. If they were to be the organiser for international aid in times of crisis there may be a use for it. When it tries to be political more problems arise from the so-called solutions. Look at Iraq.
Robert Von Isenberg, St. Louis, USA

The UN should be abolished. Why should the US continue to pay better than 30% of the cost for a body that is openly hostile to it? The general assembly is a joke, with so called "non-aligned" countries continually bashing the US, Israel, UK, and other western powers while grabbing all the cash they can lay their hands on. Sorry, but not only should the UN be out of the US, the US should be out of the UN. It is a totally corrupt and morally bankrupt organization. How long can the west put up with the double standards of this "world body"?
William P Zimmer, United States

I'm all for America having less of an influence, as long as we put up less of the cash. And yes, the UN was correct in that there weren't any WMD's in Iraq (with the exception of Saddam himself, of course) but what about Darfur? No genocide, then? Is that why the UN hasn't acted? And Rwanda? Nope, no genocide there, or the UN would have acted, right? You UN defenders must think the rest of us were all born yesterday.

No it's not, in spite of the attempts of some isolationist Americans to kill it through a "death of a thousand cuts". I believe the UN can and must recover from the constant attacks on it because, if some like it or not, the realistic truth is that someday the world will have only one government or perish and the UN is at least the start of a framework for that.
Randal, Los Angeles CA, USA

The UN has done an excellent job saving us from hell, in the most tumultuous century in the history of mankind
P. Bolton, USA
Absolutely not! However, the UN does need reform to adequately address the problems of the 21st Century. In Winston Churchill's words, the United Nations was set up not to get us to heaven, but to save us from hell. I think the UN has done an excellent job saving us from hell, in the most tumultuous century in the history of mankind. There's no reason why, when properly reformed, it shouldn't continue to "save us from hell" in the next century!
P. Bolton, USA

Let's face it. The UN's original aims are now of pensionable age. Obviously they need to be brought up to date, in order to create an organisation that will be both respected and effective for future generations.
Harry Webb, Broadstairs, UK

I just looked at the structure of the UN and truly the wind of change most blow through the organisation. Too many duplicated commissions and specialised agencies.
Ms Gwanvalla Delphine, Bamenda, Cameroon

For me, the UN lost most of its residual credibility by its inability to act throughout the 1990's. During this period, genocide was taking place in Iraq and the Balkans. Pakistan and India, two long standing enemies, were developing nuclear weapons. Who knows what was going on in parts of Africa? While terrible things were happening in the world the UN showed no teeth. More recently, the US and UK launched a war against Iraq, a member of the UN, which regardless of its moral right/wrong, was illegal. The UN could have been made to look even more foolish if Iraq had asked the UN for help in ridding its land from an invading force. I don't know how the structure or voting system to should be changed to redress this toothlessness, but it seems that giving the Secretary General something more than symbolic power is the only way.
N. Rhodes, Leicestershire, UK

We must strive to apply workable solutions to the humanitarian and economic challenges of today and tomorrow
John Yates, Herndon, Virginia
The UN has, unfortunately, succumbed to the malignant ravages of politics and bureaucracy. The world's only true forum for the exchange of thoughts, ideas, and visions is a mere shadow of all that it could and truly must be. We must strive to apply workable solutions to the humanitarian and economic challenges of today and tomorrow. Reform will not be enough. This edifice of national relations needs to be thoroughly gutted and restructured to bring a real sense of equity and purpose to the international forum.
John Yates, Herndon, Virginia

The credibility of the UN is seriously at stake after the US and UK attacked Iraq disregarding world opinion. The veto power given to some countries is undemocratic and undermines the world body, especially after the events in Iraq. Definitely, there is a need for a forum where all world leaders can meet and talk. The UN has been effective in dealing with natural disasters and political problems in small and weak nations.
Ramaswamy Iyer, Mumbai, India

The UN has been ineffective for a number of years. Get rid of the veto, so nobody can unilaterally defeat any motion, and bring in more stringent economic sanctions against member states who fail to comply. Don't let it die, for heaven's sake though, because the alternative is really scary.
Martin, Farnborough, UK

It is funny to see a Brit or two here raising the possibility of a UN without the US, China, or Russia. That would be an effective world body? Maybe the Brits think this is 1905 and not 2005.
Rob, Raleigh, NC

The UN is not spent, but it is in crisis. As long as the US is bent upon unilateralism and ignores its international obligations and duties as the world's only superpower, the security apparatus UN is in trouble. Let us not forget, however, that the UN is a multifaceted organization that does lots of good work that doesn't require Security Council action. The umbrella agencies of the UN should be hailed as great successes.
Stephen, London

The UN is relevant in today's world and should always exist for world unity and a forum for discussions and plans and aid for all the world's problems. The few countries who have their own agenda, which seems more political than in the best interests of their particular country, should not be allowed to have a say in the UN. The Secretary General should definitely have more power to override such demonic displays of world power plays.
Nancy Brismeur, USA

I strongly feel that it should not interfere in the politics of the world
Dr Prashant Vashistha, New Delhi, India
I feel in the current scenario UN needs to redefine its role in the ever-changing world. I strongly feel that it should not interfere in the politics of the world and maintain its sanctity as an independent body working for the greater cause of humanity.
Dr Prashant Vashistha, New Delhi, India

The problem with the UN is not the UN - rather its members. The whole point of the organisation was to be exactly what it says on the tin - nations united in creating a peaceful, prosperous world. Unfortunately, certain nations and powerful individuals have seen it more as a tool to further their own goals. I don't think Annan should have taken the fall for the recent scandals of which he played no part, willingly or not. His integrity and honesty put most of our world governments to shame.
Darryl LeCount, Paderborn, Germany

The UN should be transformed into a World Federation with a directly elected President and Parliament. The General Assembly should become a bi-camel Parliament directly elected and every country represented. The Security Council should be restructured to ensure that all regions like Africa, Middle East, Europe, North and South America, Asia and Australasia are equally represented.
Ahmed Kateregga Musaazi, Kampala, Uganda

No reform is possible in the UN as there has been too much publicity about the adverse side of the organisation.
Firozali A. Mulla, Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania

The UN has to be freed from the shackles of powerful countries like the US and the UK, which often try to call the shots and even ignore the organisation as happened with regard to going ahead without the UN'S sanction in the war against Iraq.
Melanie Kumar, Bangalore, India

Its members are afraid to effect change
Teneng Lucas Chefor, Bamenda, Cameroon
The UN as an organisation needs serious reforms, but its members are afraid to effect change. This is simply because people are often afraid of change since change itself is unpredictable. But how could nations still comfortably subscribe to conservative ideas in a changing world? Most articles in the UN charter have outlived their usefulness.
Teneng Lucas Chefor, Bamenda, Cameroon

Reform is always possible but members have to agree there is a problem first, which is evident. America is good at adopting a stand back and wait to see what happens attitude. They have used this head-in-sand approach as early as 1919 when they refused to ratify the treaty of Versailles. If you don't want to play with the rules don't join the game.
Tim McMahon, Pennar, Wales

I am sure that, despite its failings, there are many parts of the world which would be worse off now if it wasn't for the intervention of the UN. Its biggest problem, to my eyes, is that the most powerful nations are going to be unhappy with the UN unless it behaves as a compliant instrument of their own foreign policy. As for the cost of it, it runs each year on what the US spends in Iraq every few days. That sounds like good value for money to me.
Jon G, Huddersfield, UK

I think the main reform the UN needs now is to strengthen its ability to act in a proactive rather than reactive manner. When they sense that there are gross violations of the basic human rights of a people in what ever country, they should intervene. They should forget the issue of sovereignty. I know the next question will be at what stage should any intervention take place? Let the world leaders first of all give the UN that proactive edge then we will sort out the other issues later. Reform in the UN is therefore highly sacrosanct.
Israel Ambe Ayongwa, Bamenda, Cameroon

The UN is vital to the cooperation between nations. But I believe that it should have far greater powers to control and punish member nations who abuse their rights and responsibilities under the UN Charter. Let's give the UN the chance to be the power for good it has always intended to be.
Simon Balfre, Surbiton, England

The UN is an attempt to have debate and agreed action over world problems
Eddie, Nottingham, UK
I hope the baby is not thrown out with the bath water here. UN agencies have done a vast amount of good work in the last 50 years. The UN may not always succeed in dealing with problems but the UN is an attempt to have debate and agreed action over world problems. There are occasions where the UN does not act but this is due to the attitude of UN members. The UN cannot act without the vote of member states. The lack of support for the UN by the USA is a major problem and when the single most powerful nation chooses to ignore the UN and go its own way is there any wonder smaller countries do the same. The USA used to be the corner stone of the UN. It now ignores the UN if other members do not agree with US policy.
Eddie, Nottingham, UK

A lot of criticism here - belief that all troop deployments are British and American, nothing could be further from the truth. Troops standing idly by in Rwanda? It was countries like Britain and the US that refused to supply money, troops or logistics to Rwanda that was the massive problem - does anyone expect 250 soldiers with no bullets to stop the killing of 800,000 people? The UN is, fundamentally, only flawed if member states allow it to be - by neglecting to pay their bills, refusing to provide troops, and vetoing anything that does not agree with their political ambitions, regardless if the resolution would be beneficial to those who are in dire need of help. We should be questioning the activities of the member states, and not the body.
Nick, Flensburg

I am currently working for an NGO in New York trying to ensure children's voices are heard at this world summit. The feeling here is a gloomy one and it looks as if it is going to be a summit long on words and the restating of commitments already made and money already promised, but not the break-through many people had been hoping for. It is going to be a summit in the sad and ineffective tradition of the UN. Namely, one in which there has been a race to the bottom and in which no member state and every member state can claim something and nothing.

As for feeding hungry mouths, educating the uneducated children, preventing the sick from dying and bringing peace to the victims of conflict? Yet again the UN has shown that it isn't up to the job. Many of us have such faith in the ideals of the UN, know that all our futures are tied up in making sure that somehow we reform the decision making structures and the management of the UN and bring it into a shape better able to address the challenges of this century and not those of the middle of the last. Yet to do that we have to subdue the dragon of member states self interest and short term agendas and give them the courage of boldness and ambition. Only then could they really speak for the citizens of all the world and turn away from the factionalism and fundamentalism that is such an ever present threat today.
Stuart Singleton-White, Reading, UK (currently in New York)

The United Nations is about everyone: not just the USA
John, Stafford
The United Nations can be reformed to be more productive and hopefully balance the demands of all involved. However, this will require America and Americans to accept that this doesn't mean doing whatever the US wants. The United Nations is about everyone: not just the USA.
John, Stafford

While currently in need of reform, the UN is the only form of international order and (potential) democracy we have. The alternative is one super power making the decisions for the whole world, or two rival poles of power staring at each other over the brink. If set up as a democratic body giving votes based on populations, why should those that preach 'freedom and democracy' be adverse to it? Apart from the fact that it would mean them giving up their current disproportionate power.
Adam, Bristol, UK

The UN can only be as strong as governments allow it to be. Early in the 21st century, we seem to have forgotten the sickness of global wars that ultimately lead to formation of the UN. We need a tool for peace and development of humanity. Until we can stop focusing on greed and selfishness, we will not be able to support organisations such as the UN.
Su, Vermont, Australia

The UN is an organization that is in need of substantial reform. Looking at examples from the past, such as the League of Nations, or even the Articles of Confederation in post-Colonial America, maybe it's better to just scrap the current organization in favour of one with real relevance to today's complex web of nations.
Cody, New York, USA

Having one organization that includes all countries trying to resolve the worlds problems sounds like a noble idea, but I doubt it can accomplish that. I believe third world courtiers should pull out of the UN and establish their own organization. Leave the UN to the Americans and Europeans, as far as third world people are concerned getting rid of the entire organization is the same.
Fadi, Amman, Jordan

Whether it can be an effective institution depends on the will of the member states
Martyn Taylor, Morpeth, Northumberland, UK
The UN is a vital instruction, even if it is only as a talking shop. As Churchill said, jaw jaw is better than war war. Whether it can be an effective institution depends on the will of the member states. It must be an independent body, not the instrument of any particular state. Telling the truth about it would be a help - after all, the USA suspended its payments to the UN a long time ago - one of the reasons for the current financial problems - yet Americans still think they pay for it. If the USA wants to pursue its isolationist trend, then the UN or its successor must move, and not to Europe. How about South Africa or Brazil?
Martyn Taylor, Morpeth, Northumberland, UK

I have served with the UN on 7 missions in Lebanon and I would hate to see the UN fall apart, it has done such good through the world for people in need.
Tommy Hurley, Tralee, Ireland

No, not until the veto-wielding "super-powers" of the world are willing to make the world body truly democratic. In the meantime, we can only dream of a change at the UN.
Mukundan, Ottawa, Canada

Like it or not, we need the UN, or something like it. The world is growing ever more connected, and problems increasingly require an international response. Infectious disease is but one clear example. The World Health Organization (WHO) is commonly agreed to be useful (if not indispensable) and effective. Perhaps these problems could be dealt with to some extent by ad hoc treaties between nations, but clearly it's more efficient to have one place and one group of people that can make policy for all.
Michael, Sunnyvale, USA

Up until quite recently I thought it was irrelevant but at the end of the day it is necessary to have a place where people can meet and discuss issues that affect the world and its people. And if no UN then what are the options? None that I can see.
John McCash, Moscow, Russia

The UN is only as effective as its members allow it to be. It is, however, a useful forum for smaller countries to air their views, but it could be so much more. Yes it could do with reform, but it needs statesmen from all countries to ensure that any reform works, and it needs the USA to be prepared to accede to its power.
Linda Callcut, Ely, England

Any reform must address the UN's central deficiency. Namely, that it is an organisation which perpetually passes resolutions with neither the will, means nor intention of enforcing them. Until this changes, the UN will remain a toothless guard dog that can only hope to annoy international perpetrators into submission with its yapping.
Shane Watts, USA

It is really time to junk this organisation and start all over again
Phil, St. Louis, USA
Just like the League of Nations, the UN is really past the ability to be effective. Lessons were learned from the League of Nations' failures and lessons should be learned from the many failures of the UN. A new international body with better mandates, more efficient organisations and accountability for corruption needs to be put into place. It is really time to junk this organisation and start all over again, and put it some place less glamorous than NYC, perhaps in the poorer parts of the world where it can see why it needs to exist.
Phil, St. Louis, USA

The UN is as effective as its ability to reach a general consensus. On issues that the world is united on, the UN sometimes plays an effective role. An example of this is the dispersal of medicine and food to areas suffering famine. However, since all nations can join the UN, regardless of the standards and levels of freedoms in their governments, more controversial and important efforts are impossible. It is impossible for the UN to be effective at implementing worthwhile actions that address human rights or environmental failings, when such measures would be against the national interests of its constituent nations, especially if such measures affect nations in the Security Council. To reform the UN, the UN must have higher standards for membership. If only democratic nations were admitted, issues like tyranny and human rights abuses could be tackled. A smaller UN would ironically be far more powerful, but less representative of the world.
James Kelley, Brooklyn, USA

Like it or not, the UN is something that is needed now, possibly more than ever. Reform is needed, especially on the Security Council. The veto absolutely must go, and the UN needs a more effective way of enforcing the decision of its member nations, especially some of the larger nations. Countries need to stop using it for their own personal gains and recognise it as the international forum that it is.
Stuart, Canada

It is going to be a summit long on words
Stuart Singleton-White, Reading/ currently in New York
I am currently working for an NGO in New York trying to ensure children's voices are heard at this world summit. The feeling here is a gloomy one and it looks as if it is going to be a summit long on words and the restating of commitments already made and money already promised, but not the break-through many people had been hoping for. It is going to be a summit in the sad and ineffective tradition of the UN. Namely, one in which there has been a race to the bottom and in which no member state and every member state can claim something and nothing.
Stuart Singleton-White, Reading, UK (currently in New York)

The UN is not a spent force but it does seriously need a spring clean. Too many stories of corruption, nepotism cannot be swept under the carpet. If the Secretary-General is elected more for his diplomatic skills than his administration skills, a very strong administrator needs to be as close to him as possible. Regardless of its faults it is an extremely important forum.
Annie, Switzerland, ex UK

The UN should not be used as scapegoat by its members. All members States must maintain potential respect to the UN's rules and regulations all over the world. The UN has been crippled by a slow response from its members, however, I laughed a lot when some UN members proposed prevention genocide around the world; will that really happen at all? It is almost three years when mass killings started in Sudan's Western Darfur and the UN has not yet done anything to the on going killings in Sudan's Western Darfur. I wonder how the UN will effectively stop genocide the in the world?
Peter Tuach, Minnesota, USA

As it stands, yes - it's a spent force but any replacement must have multi-lateral support from many nations without too much influence from any on nation. My greatest fear is that it will turn into a political wing of the US government and be used to justify military intervention across the world. After all, the UN didn't take action against Iraq because they had no legal evidence of WMD - a position proved to be correct.
Brian, Edinburgh

We do without doubt need a world body - but I think the UN has outlived its original post WW2 mandate. It is essential that there is a forum for world leader to meet and it should have a role in disaster and aid management. Given the changing political map of the world, America should have less of an influence.
Matt Munro, Bristol, UK

It is strange to see how the UN is perceived in different parts of the World. A serious part of the US public sees it as some kind of extension of a "diabolical world government"; a portion of the public in the middle east sees it as an extension of the US; and in Europe a significant portion of the public sees it as something that is far from perfect but still remains the best international peace related body that exists.
Filip Michielsen, Antwerp, Belgium

I believe many New Yorkers are sick and tired of having this bureaucratic whale in their city. It is truly a disgusting site to see some of these foreign diplomats from third world countries strutting around living the high life, while their people back home are starving. I, like most Americans, am sick of dumping money into an organization who has yet to do anything constructive with it. Oh and by the way, pay your parking tickets!!
George Williams, Larchmont, NY USA

The UN has always been perceived as crippled and ineffective
John Muller, Illinois, USA
Is the UN a spent force? Perhaps. Let's hope not. The world needs a forum for arbitration, crisis resolution, communications, standards setting, collective planning, projects and actions - more now than in 1945. Nevertheless, the UN has always been perceived as crippled and ineffective in many areas, events of recent years have further harmed its image and ability to function, and bureaucracy and bungling incompetence have added to its long list of woes. The idea of the UN is sound. The reality is different. Let's hope that it can be reinvigorated, to avoid having it go the way of the old League.
John Muller, DuPage County, Illinois, USA

It is possible to reform the UN.
(1) They must get out of America and go to Switzerland or some such place.
(2) The security council must not be able to take part in the voting about change. Each member country should get one vote exercised individually The reason is quite simple. The security council effectively controls the UN not the membership. This is power beyond their capacity and it is bad.
(3) The Security council must address what the UN want, not control it. At the moment the blatant politicising of the US in particular gives the UN a very bad message.
(4)Membership of the UN should be concomitant to the acceptance of the International courts. If America, China or Russia will not sign up they must be excluded.
Tony, Welling Kent

Any political organisation is destined to failure so we might as well keep the UN - a replacement would be no better. Human greed, power and selfishness are traits we will never in this system of things overcome.
Peter Byrd, Worcester, UK

The UN is long overdue for reform. While I do not agree that the UN is a spent force, a total overhaul is imperative at this time. Whether the Secretary General is given more power or not, it doesn't matter. The most important thing at this point in time is a re-birth of the organization. The UN should be cleanse from within. This will help to open a new chapter in the organization.
Omorodion Osula, Boston, USA

Many Americans have lost patience with the UN
John, Washington DC ,USA
I think many Americans have lost patience with the UN because (a) they do not see it protecting us from real threats such as terrorism and WMD proliferation, and (b) it appears, somewhat perversely, intent on eroding our sovereignty to take action to protect ourselves from those threats. I think Americans are wrong, however, when they try to divorce themselves from the UN. It's like any marriage - you get from it only as much as you put into it. By engaging more earnestly with the World Body, the U.S. could make it more effective and resolve not only its security concerns but also many of the deeper problems (e.g., economic disparity, resource degradation, etc.) that the U.S. alone cannot address. Multilateralism is ultimately better than unilateralism, and the best course is further engagement with the UN.
John, Washington DC ,USA

Of course reform is possible. But only if member countries respect the fact that this is an international body not a private lobby organisation to be used as a way to get their own foreign policies implemented and further their own agenda. This is not about the USA, it is about global commitment for the betterment of mankind. A more representative permanent security council and no vetoes would be a step in the right direction.

The UN is failing to reform at its very top - the Security Council. And countries such as the US and China must take the blame for this. In 2005, denying India and Japan a seat on this table of elite nations makes a mockery of the UN. The veto itself is a no starter as well, and undermines democracy within the UN.
Aruni Mukherjee, Kolkata, India

We must be willing to persuade our governments to take the UN seriously
UE, UK/Nigeria
Like others, I'm often tempted to dismiss the UN as a hopeless talking shop - a forum where spoilt despots exhibit their contempt for the basic rights of their peoples. And to be sure, many of its activities have merely reinforced this perception. However, we also need to remind ourselves that an institution of that nature is merely the sum of its parts: It has no resources of its own and depends on all its members (particularly the powerful ones) for its very existence. If we want a better UN, we must be willing to persuade our governments to take the UN seriously. This will necessarily require a fundamental review of its Charter, especially Article 2(7) which prohibits its intervention in a country's internal affairs. We must also be ready to give it a standing army (with adequate muscle to deter warlords wherever they may be). And much, much more...
UE, UK/Nigeria

The UN has been a spent force for a long time. Who can forget the UN forces standing idly by while people were butchered just a few feet away from them in Rwanda? And who can trust Kofi Annan now, after the oil for food scandal?
Jamie Shepherd, UK

The United Nations is, at it's core, a worldwide forum, the most high profile forum there is. The idea that "states which are corrupt or don't respect human rights don't deserve to have a voice in the worldwide forum" is misguided. Like it or not, many states in the world have poor records on human rights. An organization which excludes these sometimes powerful or strategic states could NOT call itself a worldwide forum. What's more, the body in which these states are not represented would have even less authority and leverage than the UN has now.
David, Brno, the Czech Republic

Lots of talk, expensive buildings, conferences & expenses and corruption would seem to be rife. When did a true UN troop deployment mean anything other than troops mainly from the UK and USA?
Tom, Ipswich, UK

Hopefully we have seen the last of it
Todd, Virginia, USA
Hopefully we have seen the last of it. We need a whole new organization and membership should be based on the human rights conditions of the countries applying to get in.
Todd, Virginia, USA

The ideals of the UN have been compromised by corrupt and selfish individuals and sometimes nations. What do you do with a lame dog?
Matt Winslade, Surrey, UK

The impression you get is that everybody is trying to bend the UN to meet their own requirements, and as a consequence it is paralyzed and vulnerable. The UN is a potential last bastion between regulation and the stronger world powers doing whatever they like. Reform will weaken the position of those who need it most even more.
Ed Karten, London, UK

I'm not entirely convinced that the UN is a spent force. However, it is clear for all to see that without the political will from all member states, just how fragile the organisation is. It seems more like to me that the US would prefer to devolve the UN and replace it with a US-led freedom force, capable of bring under-developed oil-rich states round to the western way of thinking.
Ferg, Kivetown, UK

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific