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What power does the United Nations really have?

It seems like the United Nations serves only to promote the agenda of the Western world. It really seems as though the UN has no real power as any of the nations who have "larger voices" can just leave at any time they want with little significant punishment.

What government is really going to attack the United States of America? What government is going to attack Russia, China, and Great Britain?

I understand that it helps mediate disputes between countries but what kind of power does it possess if say, the United States decided it was going to invade say....Indonesia just for the hell of it?

I know they could impose trade sanctions, but couldn't countries do that without the UN?

9 Answers

  • 9 years ago
    Favorite Answer

    The United Nations does not technically have any administrative power as determined by the United Nations Charter and the principles of State Sovereignty, which defines that each nation has the authority to do as it pleases within its own borders. However, that definition leaves a significant amount open. For example, what defines a nation? A government? What if a government is considered illegitimate? Or another example, what happens when an issue occurs across borders? Is it still subjective to state sovereignty? People may have their own opinions on the matter but my personal opinion is in an international instance, state sovereignty does not apply because then it would be a nation able to do what it pleases across borders (i.e. pollution).

    There are many misconceptions as to the United Nation's power, however. Many critics of the UN are quick to assume that the UN cannot infringe on state sovereignty and therefore has no power. These critics, however, seem to forget that states agree to be part of the UN and the UN agrees to have them as members. My argument about state sovereignty aside, member states are bound to the UN Charter by being members, risking expulsion from the organization if they do not comply.

    So the UN has six main branches. When it comes to power, four are particularly important. The first is the Secretariat, which does a lot of press releases, provides information (such as global climate information or updates on an issue at hand) to member states, and otherwise helps to aid organizations like UNICEF and the UNDP that do more of the groundwork, by fostering programs that help people in the world. The second is the International Court of Justice, which admittedly is almost never used. This branch tends to settle border disputes and similar conflicts using a legal system but it should be noted that only member-states of the UN can appeal to the ICJ and all involved states must agree to participate, by so doing they agree to adhere to the decision.

    Third is the Security Council, which has 15 members, five of which have the permanent seat and the "veto" power. They are the only UN body that can use the word "commands" in their resolutions. They can take actions such as economic sanctions (economic sanctions from a group of nations is always more effective), send in peacekeepers to protect refugees, and if necessary expel a nation from the UN. However, given the "veto" power, many of these resolutions are difficult to achieve and again the council reverts to passive voice that a nation does not need to adhere to.

    Finally, the (arguably) most important branch is the General Assembly, which consists of every member state of the UN. This in many ways represents the UN and its powers because while the resolutions are not binding (Iraq has ignored a good amount of them), they do carry the weight of the world. Its a platform for nations to express their concerns and for nations to better communicate with each other. For example, if a resolution is passed with 190 votes out of 193 about Syria, Syria will not look very good for refusing to acknowledge it (which it does not seem to care about these days…). Most nations, however, want to maintain diplomatic relations and otherwise look appealing to the international community.

    No, the United Nations cannot infringe on state sovereignty without a vote from the Security Council which yes, is rare. However, the UN serves primarily as a philanthropic organization as well as a platform for global discussion (i.e. a very important role that the UN serves is organizing conferences between NGO's - this often leads to resource sharing to help bring about more effective programs). It's about communication and diplomacy. One can argue that the UN is not important (I disagree, personally), but before doing so they should know more about what the UN does and how it does it.

  • Anonymous
    5 years ago

    Absolutely not. Honestly, we (the United States) are the UN. We hold the meetings in NYC. We donate 22% to the UN budget (mind you, the rest of the members outside of the top 10 donors contribute a measly 23.908% to the budget). No joke of an organization deserves that kind of power, especially if they would use it to spit in our face. Furthermore, we need to avoid a global government. We did well when we isolated ourselves as much as possible, but when we decided to police the world and compete with the USSR following WWII, we started down the path to financial strain in which we currently suffer. Libs look at societies in Europe and comment on how well their liberal governments operate, citing our debt as evidence against capitalism. However, we have the unfair burden of policing the world (including Europe), which takes the financial burden off of these guys. The faster we limit excessive international interactions and become more self-sufficient (which would involve leaving the UN, not granting it this power), the better off we will be.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    If US decided to invade (say) Indonesia, then UN will be busy with something else. That's enough to tell how powerless UN is.

  • 9 years ago

    The West is the only civilization which has substantial interests in every other, and the UN is its catalyst. But now with greater imposition of the superpowers Russia and China, things change, Beijing and Washington are not on the same page about how to deal with international trouble spots.

    This shows how the UN is unstable without clear objectives.


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  • 9 years ago

    TYLER: I hate to say it, but what wars has the U.N. prevented and or stopped?

    JUSTIN: Who the heck said that the U.S. wanted to invade Indonesia?

  • Justin
    Lv 5
    9 years ago

    The U.S. couldn't invade Indonesia just for the hell of it, we would face too much diplomatic pressure from the UN. We'd lose diplomats, and basically all credibility as a first world nation who is trying to spread democracy.

    Mkendewhatever: Read the damn description of the question you dumbass.

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago


  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    I think the un is to make countries come together for a more peaceful planet. There prolly be a whole lot more wars if the un didnt exist

  • 9 years ago

    Nothing. Africa would be better then it is right now if the U.N. actually did its job

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