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Mains Practice Questions

  • Q.The United Nations (UN) is often criticized for its failure to maintain peace and security in the world, despite its commendable work. Analyze the challenges faced by it and suggest some reforms to enhance the UN’s role and effectiveness in the 21st century. (250 words)

    31 Oct, 2023 GS Paper 2 International Relations


    • Start your answer with a brief introduction of the UN and mention some examples where it has been criticized for its failure.
    • Discuss the challenges and limitations faced by the UN.
    • Suggest some reforms to improve the UN’s performance and credibility.
    • Conclude with a balanced approach.


    The United Nations (UN) is the most prominent and influential multilateral organization in the world, with the primary goal of maintaining international peace and security. However, the UN has also faced many challenges and criticisms for its failure to prevent or resolve some of the most violent and complex conflicts in recent history, such as those in Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, Libya, and South Sudan.


    Some of the the challenges faced by UN:

    • Lack of Political Will and Consensus: The permanent members (P5) who have veto power, often use their veto or threat of veto to protect their own interests or allies, regardless of the humanitarian consequences or the UN Charter principles.
      • For example, Russia and China have repeatedly blocked resolutions on Syria that would impose sanctions or authorize military intervention.
    • Outdated and Unrepresentative: The UNSC has not changed its membership since 1965. Many regions, such as Africa, Latin America, and South Asia, are underrepresented or not represented at all in the UNSC.
      • Moreover, some emerging powers, such as India have been demanding a permanent seat in the UNSC for decades.
    • Issues with Peacekeeping forces: UN peacekeeping operations suffer from inadequate resources, stretched capacity, and numerous challenges, including hostile environments, consent issues, human rights violations, and funding reliance on member state voluntary contributions.
    • Weak Coordination and Coherence: The UN has a complex and fragmented structure that sometimes leads to duplication, overlap, or competition among different entities.
      • For example, there are multiple mediators or envoys for the same conflict, such as in Libya or Yemen.

    To enhance the UN’s role and effectiveness in the 21st century, some possible reforms:

    • Security Council Reform: Consider restructuring the Security Council to make it more representative and reduce the influence of the P5 veto power. This could include expanding its membership to include more regions and emerging powers such as India; limiting or abolishing the veto power; improving its working methods and decision-making processes; and strengthening its oversight and evaluation mechanisms.
    • Strengthening the UN peacekeeping operations: This could include increasing their funding and resources; enhancing their training and equipment; developing clear and realistic mandates; ensuring compliance with international law and human rights standards; and fostering partnerships with regional organizations.
    • Improving the coordination and coherence: This could include streamlining their mandates and structures; enhancing their communication and information-sharing; fostering a culture of collaboration and innovation; and aligning their strategies and actions with the UN Secretary-General’s vision of prevention.
    • Civil Society Engagement: Involve civil society organizations and non-governmental actors in peacebuilding and conflict resolution efforts. They can provide valuable local knowledge and grassroots support.
    • Adapt to Modern Conflicts: Recognize and adapt to the changing nature of conflicts, including cyber warfare, terrorism, and environmental crises, by developing strategies and capabilities to address these challenges effectively.


    The UN has made significant contributions to global peace and security over the past 75 years. However, it also needs to adapt to the new challenges and realities of the 21st century. By implementing these reforms, the UN can become more effective, efficient, credible, and relevant for its member states and people around the world.

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