We Need to Adjust Our Expectations of the UN

TIME

Each September since 1945 has delivered a delightfully awkward few days when world leaders—some of whose armies have bludgeoned each other all year on the battlefields—all converge on the UN General Assembly in New York.

The meeting inevitably provides ammunition for commentators who think the UN is impotent—“all talk and no action.” But this underestimates the impact—both positive and negative—that the UN can have around the globe.

The key to using the UN correctly is to be realistic about where it can, by nature, make a difference, and where it risks being sandwiched between so many competing interests that its leaders are forced bend over backwards to please all sides and end up pleasing none.

It also helps to understand a little bit about the UN’s history – when it was at its most and least effective. The United Nations never truly enjoyed a “golden age,” except, arguably, at the…

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