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These 5 Facts Explain Why We Need the United Nations

Ian Bremmer

 

 

 

 

 

 

Unless you were born before 1945, you aren’t old enough to remember the catastrophes that gave birth to the United Nations and the surge of idealism that defined its mission. The UN charter commits the organization to, among other things, “promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,” to “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small” and to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

Given the scope of that ambition, we shouldn’t be surprised that the UN has produced major successes over its 70 years—and major failures. Though they represent a tiny part of the UN story, these facts help bring both into sharper focus as the organization prepares to celebrate its 70th anniversary.

1. Protecting Global Health

In war zones, public health hotspots, and natural disasters, hundreds of men and women have died in service to the United Nations. Thousands continue to risk their lives every day.

Here’s a very small sample of the work that UN agencies have done to promote and protect health and wellbeing around the world. UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, draws donations from governments and private donors to serve the needs of children and mothers in developing countries. It feeds more than 80 million people each year, has helped more than 2.6 billion people gain access to clean water and has brought new vaccines to more than 400 million of the world’s children. The World Health Organization, the specialized agency of the UN that helps governments manage public health crises and fight both communicable and non-communicable diseases, was the main driver behind the eradication of smallpox, an accomplishment that probably saved 150 million lives. The UN’s work in support of health and wellbeing extends beyond these agencies. For those most cynical about the UN’s value, what other institution could take on the day-to-day responsibilities that generate such success?

2. Aiding Refugees

The UN also helps people survive wars and rebuild their lives after the violence has ended. In 2014, the UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provided food, shelter and security to nearly 12 million refugees around the world. As we’ve been reminded yet again in recent weeks, these are people who desperately need help—and will need it for some time to come. By the end of 2013, more than 50 percent of those cared for by the UNHCR had been in exile for more than five years. The world has a short attention span when it comes to humanitarian crises, making the sustained commitment of the UN all the more critical.

 

The article’s full-text is available on the website of Time

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