The UN – Tower of Babble?

Empire asks if the United Nations is outdated and whether it can stand up to the challenges of the 21st century.

Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, former special adviser to the UN secretary-general
Prof Philip Bobbitt, Columbia Law School
Ambassador Thomas Stelzer, assistant secretary-general, UN

The United Nations has opened its 65th General Assembly in the shadow of mounting questions about its credibility, efficiency, accountability and leadership.

Many would like to see the UN reformed, and a growing minority would like to see it bypassed by effective international organisations like the G8, G20, Nato or similar regional organisations.

And yet, as the only legitimate global body, the UN is uniquely positioned to initiate and manage international humanitarian efforts, peace-keeping missions and global campaigns such as the Millennium Development Goals to eradicate poverty and disease, amongst others.

Thomas G Weiss, author What\’s Wrong With The UN?
David L Bosco, author Five To Rule Them All
Professor Jennifer Welsh, International Relations, Oxford University
James Traub, author Kofi Annan and the UN
Ian Williams, author The UN for Beginners

But like its last conference on Climate Change, and the countless debates on nuclear proliferation, the arms race, international terrorism and other contentious issues, these meetings tend to culminate with no consensus, and when they do, produce modest results.

Last year, much of the focus was on the need to reform the UN Security Council; this year, much of the criticism was directed at the lack of leadership and the absence of a new vision for the organisation.

Empire asks, with all the challenges of the 21st century, is the UN outdated? And if it is merely the sum of its parts, is there a will amongst its member states to make way for serious reform and better global governance? 

This episode of Empire first aired in September 2010.