UN@70: Achievements, Relevance & Needed Reforms

The article evaluates achievements of the UN in past 70 years and elaborates on its relevance in future.

Created On: Nov 6, 2015 18:28 ISTModified On: Nov 6, 2015 19:07 IST

United Nations celebrated 70 years of its establishment on 24 October 2015. To mark this historic occasion, a special Annual General Assembly was held at its headquarters in New York to give its nod to the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030. The agenda is a logical extension of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that guided the global policy dialogue for the past 15 years.


The UN was formed on 24 October 1945 at an historic juncture when the world was deeply shrouded by destruction of World War II and anxieties about recurring use of nuclear bombs against the backdrop of Hiroshima and Nagasaki incidents.

UN is the successor to the ineffective League of Nations that was formed in the World War interregnum in 1920.

The purpose of its establishment is to achieve twin objectives-To maintain international peace and security and achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character.


Pre-Cold War era

In the initial decades of its formation, it lived up to its expectations by not allowing regional tensions to grow into World War III. The way it handled the situation with such magnanimity during the Suez Canal crisis (1956), process of decolonization in Asia and Africa are no mean achievements for an infant organsiation.

Cold-War era

It was the maturing phase of the UN. During this period, its primary task was dealing with cold-war era politics between the USA and the USSR and not letting them into ‘hot war’.  In peacefully dissipating the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 was the biggest achievement of the period.

Post-Cold War era

In 1990s, at the juncture of UN completing 50 years of its foundation it faced a new reality in the form of disintegration of the USSR and emergence of the USA as the sole global super power.

The primary achievement during this period was not to swept away by the temptation of siding with the USA and making the organisation relevant for the poor and marginalized nations.

In Recent years

• Encouraging major countries of the world to form special groupings to deal with problems and achieve cooperation. Few of them are- G20 (to deal with financial crisis), UNFCC (climate change) and WTO (trade)
• Rehabilitated millions of refugees from Syria in neighbouring countries like Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan
• Deploying peacekeeping and peace building missions to resolve the conflicts in Africa
• Above all, its role in enlargement of the concept of development, promotion of human rights, leveraging the potential of civil society for the cause of development of the society and empowerment of marginalized sections are praise worthy.

Despite the fact that the UN tried hard to live up to its mandate, it attracted criticism from various quarters as it was not able to contain US war in Iraq and growing inequalities in the income levels.

Especially, the failure of the UN in finding solution to decade old Palestine problem has attracted wide criticism.


The UN is still relevant, since,

• The world is still under constant nuclear threat.
• Ever increasing ethnic, religious and regional conflicts in Africa
• Around one third of global population is poor who need concerted development action from the global multilateral agencies
• Persistent inequalities in wealth distribution and the need for achieving balanced and sustainable development of all the regions
• Growing threats of terrorism (ISIS, Al Qaeda, etc) from non-state actors needs coordinated efforts among states
• Finally, no one country can solve all the problems in the interconnected world and the UN is still the right organisation to achieve global security


To effectively equip itself to face modern day challenges, the UN has to undertake organizational reforms such as,

Expansion of the permanent and non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council on a priority basis as the present structure still reflects the realities of 1940s.

Giving more voice to the developed and developing countries in the decision making of the specialized (FAO, UNESCO, WHO, etc) and subsidiary agencies (peacekeeping missions).


In its long journey of 70 years, the United Nations transformed itself into a global institution from a mere organisation. It truly fulfilled its role as a global policy agency and an arbitrator in solving international disputes.

Last but not the least; it could successfully establish faith among international community in the relevance of diplomacy in conflict resolution by replacing coercion and aggression.

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