Anti-Imperialism/Foreign Policy

The irrelevance of the United Nations

By Samuel Goldman The Week

Did you hear that the U.N. General Assembly voted last week to remove Russia from the Human Rights Council? You’d be forgiven if not. President Biden praised the decision as “historic” and a “meaningful step by the international community.” But it barely cracked the algorithms that are the 21st-century replacement for the front page.

This isn’t the only recent U.N. action that’s evaded much notice. Early last month, the body passed a resolution demanding that Russia withdraw its forces from Ukraine. Like the decision regarding the Human Rights Council, it made little impression on either the news or the course of events.

The irrelevance of the U.N. to the war in Ukraine doesn’t just reflect the body’s failure to live up to expectations for worldwide cooperation that surrounded its formation at the end of World War II. It’s the consequence of a dramatic decline in relevance over the last few decades. Not quite 20 years ago, the organization was the main forum for debate about the Iraq War — including the late Colin Powell’s notorious speech asserting Saddam Hussein’s government possessed weapons of mass destruction.


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