Larger U.N. Weaknesses Revealed in Spread of Cholera

Sean Para, Columnist

On Wednesday, advocates for the victims of the Haitian cholera epidemic filed a formal lawsuit against the United Nations in New York. They blame Nepali U.N. workers for bringing cholera, absent from Haiti for a century, to the country and contaminating the water supply.

The United Nations, in response, will claim diplomatic immunity from the allegations. This episode, along with the multifarious other failures of the U.N., brings the organization’s gross inadequacies to the fore. In the Syrian civil war, in the continued strife in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in Egypt, U.N. principles and humans rights have been continually violated, and it has done practically nothing in response. Faced with these continued crises and conflicts around the world, the United Nations’s total failure to achieve the goals for which it was created is a sad but inescapable truth.

Created in the aftermath of the Second World War, the U.N. sought to promote peace and stability and to prevent the mass slaughter of civilians that the war had seen. However, human rights are continually violated around the world, and the U.N. cannot stop these crimes. The U.N.’s failings as an institution are only a reflection of the lack of support it gets from people around the world to achieve its intended goals.

This is part of a larger issue. The international community sup- ports the United Nations financially, and for its human resources, the U.N. is entirely a creation of the Great Powers. Despite its many resolutions and extensive body of human rights laws, very little has been achieved on the ground by the U.N. in the many regions of conflict and disaster it operates in around the world. This is largely the result of a lack of funding and impetus from the international community to act on these issues.

The U.N. is entirely a creation of the international system as it has developed since the Second World War; its lack of efficacy is a problem that needs to be solved by countries all around the world. Complacency with the world’s many problems by so many people in developed countries is what allows the U.N. to continually fail to reach its objectives. For the U.N. to be truly effective in achieving the alleviation of poverty, disease and armed conflict, it must be given the money it needs. People around the world are too apt to write the U.N. off as a failure without understanding that the lack of capital or attention from the global community is the reason for its many shortcomings.

I am not writing this article to utterly denounce the United Nations as an institution. It does achieve a significant amount of progress against poverty and disease through many of its initiatives. It simply needs to be pointed out that the organization has many inadequacies and often does not achieve its intended goals when responding to various crises such as the earthquake in Haiti or the civil war in Syria. These insufficiencies are falsely attributed to the organization itself, when their real cause is the global community’s apathy toward the many people around the world who live in suffering. Until we all decide to take more action as a whole, nothing will change.