By Chris Donnelly (Menlo School Chapter)
The Menlo School Real Talk Chapter had an engaging lesson on October 9th regarding the United Nations and its responsibilities. The United Nations is an international organization founded in 1945 to maintain peace and instill civil communication between Nations and their governments. As a global liaison, the UN consists of several sub-organizations including the General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and social council, International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat (the Trusteeship Council is no longer a functioning organization within the UN). The General Assembly is the largest and arguably most widely-recognized branch of the UN. With 193 acknowledged countries, the general assembly discusses and debates several topics revolving around global peace, human rights, and matters of national security. The General Assembly also acts as a mediator between National disputes.
Another significant organization within the United Nations is the Security Council, which is the most powerful branch of the UN. While the Security Council is similar to the General Assembly in its overall foundational actions of peacekeeping, the Security Council is more concerned with handling interrelated conflicts between nations than global challenges such as world hunger and human rights. The security council has 15 representatives, 10 of which are elected every 2 years and 5 with permanent seats within the council. The five permanent members are Russia, France, the US, the UK, and China. The permanent members have veto powers, giving them a strong influence on the council.
After discussing several other organizations and councils within the United Nations, we explored the advantages and disadvantages of the UN. It was founded under a just cause: to create an organized effort to promote peace and public relations between Nations. The UN has made great strides in benefitting nations’ economies and health as well. International organizations such as the IMF are able to provide monetary aid to countries that foster trade partnerships which are used to exchange information for a needed commodity or capital. In terms of Health, the UN has helped to slow the spread of viruses and diseases such as HIV, Ebola, and Malaria throughout many continents such as Africa.
The United Nations also has disadvantages that mainly fall into 2 categories, a lack of funding or resources and structural problems. Only a few select countries provide funding for the UN (such as the U.S. which donates $14 billion per year - the most money provided out of any country). Not only is there a lack of funding, but there is also controversy regarding the power and representation of certain countries within the UN.
During the discussion of representational issues within the UN, we began to shift towards an open dialogue between Real Talk Members regarding the disadvantages of having permanent members. Should Russia and certain other countries be allowed permanent seats on the Security Council? If so, why? Many argued that certain countries like Russia and China are entitled to their permanent status because of their global influence and large population. Those who agreed with the previous notion shared the idea that population size should affect who is entitled to a permanent seat within the security council since more citizens would be impacted by their decisions. Others disagreed with this statement. They argued that Veto power allows countries to make decisions with malicious intent to solely benefit their leaders. They used the metaphor of a large country that is not accepting of the LGBTQ+ community. If such a non-accepting country has a large population, are they entitled to a permanent membership in the Security Council, even if that may mean they veto global LGBTQ protection laws?
As the discussion came to a close, our members reached the agreement that no system within the UN is fully representative of all nations and countries involved. However, the idea of a unifying organizational system that maintains peace and global needs is incredibly important, especially during times of crisis and division.