General Studies Paper 2 (International Relations)
Question:- 48. ‘UN may face oblivion without reforms to make it relevant.’ Comment. Answer in 250 words.
Aug 25, 2022




The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization whose stated purposes are to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, achieve international cooperation, protect human rights, deliver humanitarian aid, promote sustainable development , uphold international law and be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. Its mission and work are guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter and implemented by its various organs and specialised agencies.

Questions have been raised on the efficacy of UN from time to time. Many solutions lie within the UN system itself and hence, most countries desire strong changes in the functioning and structure of UN especially  due to the following reasons:



  1. 1.The Security Council is not representative of developing countries even after 77 years of its existence:
  • -The five permanent members of the UN Security Council, representing the prime victors of World War II.
  • -Since 1945, nearly80 former colonies gained independence. To avoid acknowledging this fact is to ignore the reality that permanent members no longer represent key global populations as they once did in the colonial eras.
  • -The P5 now only makes up 3 per cent of the UN’s member states, and oversees only 26 percent of the world’s population.
  • -India now represents more than one-sixth of humanity.
  • -The entire African continent does not have a permanent representation in the Security Council, despite a majority of issues being dealt with by the Council belonging to that region.


  1. 2.Lingering differences between the world’s great powers :
  • -They continue to limit the ability of UN to collectively respond.
  • -This is escalated by budgetary constraints on UN.
  • -The US-led invasion in Iraq and the mass killings in Sudan have raised concerns relating to the effectiveness of the United Nations.
  • -In 2020, the United States pulled funds from the World Health Organization (WHO) for unobjective reporting on China’s ‘cover-up’ of the initial coronavirus epidemic in Wuhan, China.


  1. 3.Functional issues:
  • -The Security Council is mired by system of vetoes of the permanent members and has been unable to act on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • -The lack of standards and criteria toward countries with dubious human rights records, such as Sudan and Libya, and their election to membership and leadership positions in the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
  • -Despite improvements in the fight against poverty, the UN and its myriad agencies are in a constant battle for increased funding, all in order to cover the spiralling costs of its missions on public health, peacekeeping, education and a countless amount of other initiatives.



  1. 4.Political and operational limitations as seen in:
  • -Nagorno-Karabakh war
  • -The conflict in Ethiopia to Myanmar’s coup
  • -Upsurge of Israeli-Palestinian violence
  • -Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.
  • -A weak response during the 2008 financial crisis, and during the Covid-19 global pandemic.

In dealing with these situations, the Security Council has appeared risk-averse and often divided and generally avoided taking politically bold positions; and the UN’s main conflict management tools – such as mediation and peacekeeping – have appeared largely irrelevant to the problems at hand. All too often, the best the UN can hope to achieve is to keep lifesaving aid flowing to vulnerable populations, mitigating the effects of violence but doing little to address its causes.


  1. 5.Inability of UN to establish economic equality and fight climate change: After decades of UN development programmes, loans and aid, the developing world’s quality of life and happiness had only increased marginally. Statistics confirm that the UN has seen increasing economic inequality. In 1940, the P5s controlled 47 per cent of global GDP. In spite of the UN’s significant growth since this time, with the addition of 80 new members, the P5 controls 49% of GDP today. By the same token, the P5’s incompetence to counter economic inequality in the UN and world at large also reflects a deeply-rooted structural issue.
  2. 6.New Challenges: Many of the systems established withing UN decades ago are now facing challenges that were unimaginable to our predecessors — cyberwarfare, terrorism and lethal autonomous weapons.




Hence, due to the above and many more reasons, a series of changes is required in the UN system especially around the structure of Security Council. A truly representative Security Council is the most pressing need of the hour. The world body UN could slip into oblivion and be overtaken by more democratic organisations if the UN Security Council is not reformed to make it more relevant to today’s geopolitical realities.

For all its flaws, the UN system retains unique crisis response tools. UN relief agencies remain essential to mitigating conflicts like those in Afghanistan and Ethiopia. The organisation is also the only mediator available in cases ranging from the decades-long division of Cyprus to the Yemen war.