High School Security Council (Module 01)

Strengths & Weaknesses of the United Nations

The Issue

The UN was created to promote global cooperation and peace. As world power politics has changed and the scope of global problems has increased since its founding in 1945, the UN system has failed to adapt. This has left the UN without the political, financial or structural resources needed to adequately deal with the global issues we now face.

Our present system of global governance … shows little evidence that the principal actors on the global stage have come to grips with the magnitude of the existential threats to a sustainable civilization

 Transforming the United Nations System: Designs for a Workable World
by Joseph E. Schwartzberg (UN University Press, 2013) p.1



  • The UN is an international organization and affects more countries and individuals than do regional organizations.
  • It brings member states together to promote and achieve peace, development and respect for human right.
  • Many (but not all) member states are sensitive to UN opinion about their actions, so UN attention to an issue can lead to a positive outcome.


  • The UN is only as effective as its member states allow.
  • Current decision-making power — especially that given to the five nations with permanent status and veto power in the Security Council — affects fairness and legitimacy.
  • The UN system suffers from democratic deficit.
  • Many UN agencies have failed to live up to expectations.

Effecting major change will require much citizen education, creative political engagement from global civil society, the active involvement of highly respected and imaginative world leaders, political leadership from trusted progressive states…and, above all, the marshalling of human will on an unprecedented scale

  Transforming the United Nations System: Designs for a Workable World by Joseph E. Schwartzberg (UN University Press, 2013) p.xxxii

Guiding Questions

  1. If you could bring about just one change in our present system of global governance, what would that change be? What if you could make two major changes? Or even three?
  2. Do you believe that there are effective ways to transform the current system so that global problems CAN be resolved for the benefit of all? OR, should we scrap the entire system and begin again from the ground up? Why do you believe as you do?
  3. While reform of many aspects of the UN system are needed, in what ways has the UN succeeded during its almost 75-year history? Cite examples to support your view.
  4. What is the meaning of the “sovereign equality of nations?” Why do nations cling so tenaciously to their sovereignty? Should sovereign nations be subject to international jurisdiction and the imposition of sanctions when activities within their borders (e.g., pollution of the atmosphere and groundwater) have serious adverse effects on other countries? How about if human rights are violated on a massive scale (e.g., ethnic cleansing) within their boundaries?

Security Council Modules

Prepared by:
Andrea Klein Bergman and
Nancy J. Dunlavy
for The Workable World Trust