The news came a few days ago: “UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned member states that the organization is facing “troubling funding issues as a result of delayed dues payments that will force reductions in non-staff costs.”
But who really cares? Any Trump tweet or football result is more important to our media and politicians. The members of the UN still give the world’s military about 340 times more than the UN for its core budget.
You often hear people raising doubts about the “the United Nations” and most people then think of the skyscraper in New York as “the UN”.
But there is no “UN” independent of what the 193 member states decide to make of it. That was already pointed out by its first Secretary-General, Norwegian Trygve Lie, in the late 1940s: The UN will never be stronger or better than the member states want it to be.
That is the essential – and in some sense also existential – truth about the world’s potentially most important and visionary organisation.
A second truth is that the UN is not, at least not predominantly, the power house in New York (which, in passing, ought to be moved out of the US given the decade-long contempt for the UN Charter shown by that member). The real UN is the family of UN agencies that do good around the world every day and without which the world would be a much worse place.
A third truth is that a few predominantly Western states – the U.S. in particular – have done their utmost at…