Analysis

Sitrep: Expert Suggests UN Powers Are Dwindling

As another UN resolution is ignored, the head of RUSI says the organisation’s ‘heyday’ may have passed.

This week, SITREP looked at the value and strength of the United Nations. It may have more than 190 member countries, but how much power can it wield?

“Multilateralism is just not of interest to some of the big powers,” says Karin von Hippel.

The Director-General of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) blames a failed arms embargo on weaknesses within the UN. 

“We have a very good Secretary-General for the first time in a very long time and yet he’s unable to do things,” she says.

A “superpower-ish stranglehold, similar to the Cold War” was blamed for what Dr von Hippel believes to be a paralysed UN Security Council.

Her comments follow the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, labelling events in North Africa a "scandal", following the failure of an agreed Libya arms embargo made less than one month ago.

In his speech, he condemned a “wind of madness” sweeping the globe as he says world powers have ignored their promises not to interfere.

Dr von Hippel suggested, despite a “heyday” with “interventions in places like Bosnia and Somalia”, that the UN's record since the Syrian civil war suggests it “may not be ever as powerful again”. 

The power of member states to veto proposed actions has increasingly meant a lack of decisive action in recent conflicts like those in Syria and in Venezuela.

“[Antonio Guterres] needs to build consensus and it’s just impossible in this new geopolitical reality,” says the head of RUSI.

She blames the presence of the Russians and Chinese, pointing to a record of veto use that suggests they’d “pretty much block anything”.

However, despite these failings, Dr von Hippel stressed the importance of not giving up on the UN, saying we need “leaders that are committed to making it work”.

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Cover image: UN Forces (Picture: US Department of Defense).