The UN’s inherent paradox - is it time to start anew?
© Getty Images

At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, the world today is in shambles. Need proof? Just look at the ostensibly escalating chaos in vast parts of the world; the entire Middle East is overcome with civil wars, genocide, brutality and hatred as are great parts of Africa and a portion of Asia, while the rest of the world suffers from horrific terror attacks on what seems to become a regular basis.

And what is the UN doing about that? Well, unfortunately not much.

The United Nations was founded with the intent and hope that its establishment, with lessons learned from its predecessor, the "League of Nations", and its dedication to the sanctity of human rights, equality and the pursuit of freedom, justice and peace in the world, would prevent the recurrence of the horrors committed during World War II.

The UN’s chances of accomplishing its undoubtedly noble and just goals may have been plausible, if not for several fundamental misconceptions, hindering it from implementing even its most basic values.

But in order to fully understand the systemic failure of the UN, we must first fully grasp its organizational structure.

The UN’s fundamental principles, as are clearly stated in its charter, sanctify the value of human rights. Unfortunately though, of its current 193 members, most do not share these values, nor implement them in their domestic laws, and often outright ridicule the concept entirely.

This unfortunate state of affairs has led to a number of unfathomable paradoxes over the years. Take most terror organizations for example, which are known and acknowledged as such by the United States, Europe and other Western nations, yet are conspicuously absent from the UN's list of terror organizations, or some of the biggest sponsors of global terrorism, like Qatar, which serve as signatories to the international treaty against the sponsors of terrorism. And what about countries that execute civilians without trial, treat women as the property and persecute homosexuals and religious minorities, yet sit in the General Assembly or on the Human Rights Committee, where they shamelessly condemn other countries for far lesser infractions?

Every guild, club, organization and country are built on the same fundamental principle – every one of its members must abide by their core values. In order to be accepted as a member of the World Trade Organization for example, a country must essentially jump through hoops to ensure that it complies with each and every principle of international trade.

At the heart of the UN paradox lies the fact that although the West has always believed itself to be the center of the world, Western society actually constitutes a minority of the world's population. The majority of global societies simply don’t share the West’s world views nor its interests. Furthermore, many resent the West for its practices and beliefs.

Despite this, the West insisted on promoting the notion of equality in the UN, securing equal voting rights to each of its member state. The idea that we, i.e. the entire world, are all after the same thing, and thus should be able to sit together and peacefully resolve our differences, has given birth to this absurdity of a democratic system led by a majority of nations who don’t actually believe in democracy.

​Many still view the UN as a valuable tool, a global democracy of such. Others are quietly blasé about it; in their eyes, other than the Security Council, the rest of the UN’s entities are essentially powerless and therefore meaningless. But this perception misses two major points: first, even if one could argue that this predicament isn’t doing much harm, it clearly hinders the UN from fulfilling its fundamental objectives and secondly, the reality is that damage is, in fact, being caused.

​The General Assembly's resolutions may not be legally binding in international law, but they do influence international discourse and create precedents. Furthermore, the UN has clearly become a political entity, drifting further and further away from the principles of its charter; an entity cynically controlled by those uninterested in steering it back to its founding values.    

​​​With the understanding that it is virtually impossible to make fundamental changes to the UN’s structure, those who truly share liberal values must lead a dramatic change, starting with the allocation of the resources, even partially, towards the creation of a new organization. One with strict admission guidelines and an efficient enforcement mechanism for those who fail to comply with its founding principles. This will hopefully lead to a new legal framework in which we can influence foreign policy, engage in trade, and offer support to nations in need, with the hope that other countries will be encouraged to implement drastic internal changes in order to join.   

Yifa Segal is a practicing attorney specializing in the field of international law and the Director of the International Legal Forum, a non-governmental organization (NGO) which focuses on the protection of human rights​ in the Middle East​.

The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.