This past Sunday, the New York Times featured an intriguing article titled “I Love the U.N., but It is Failing” which investigates the various bureaucratic and institutional blunders that the U.N. has endured, and continues to endure in its attempt to enhance peace and security across the globe. The article, written by former Assistant Secretary General of Field Support Anthony Banbury, specifically highlights issues of mismanagement and red tape that place excessive restraints on the ability for U.N. programs to flourish and operative efficiently and effectively. While the article is both interesting and accurate in its identification and consideration of what issues plague the U.N. at present (and certainly worth a read), we at IDEAS for UN thought it necessary to provide an additional perspective on why we love the U.N. and what it is doing incredibly well.
To put it shortly, we love the UN not only for its mission and what it represents, but for its centrality in the world of civil society organizations. One of the United Nations’ most vital roles in the international sphere does not involve its collection of governmental delegations, but rather its role as a hub for an international network of Non-Governmental Organizations, and a conduit for their work. As a United Nations accredited NGO, IDEAS for Us has been able to expand its network exponentially, meeting active and inspired youth around the world to create new chapters, share solutions to pressing climate and environmental issues, and ultimately forge partnerships to implement real, tangible change on the ground. Our ability to engage and empower youth at the global scale is undoubtedly enhanced by the United Nations, and the way this supranational organization creates opportunities for, and expands the reach of the thousands of NGOs that operate under its purview.
In addition to the vital role that the U.N. plays in the work of NGOs, the United Nations also operates as a force of youth empowerment itself. One of the key examples of this youth empowerment is through the United Nations Major Group for Children and Youth. By outlining Children and Youth as a Major Group of stakeholders under Agenda 21, and creating this international working group, the United Nations has introduced a forum specifically designed for improving accessibility of youth to the international system – a feat which might otherwise seem implausibly indirect, or even insurmountable. However, along with the other Major Groups, the U.N. has constructed a system when youth stakeholders are given influence they would otherwise go without. This group, again, has served as an invaluable resource to our work at IDEAS for Us and in our UN initiatives.
Ultimately, as former Assistant SG Banbury pointed out, the U.N. suffers from a host of institutional flaws which hinder its organizational efficacy; but it should not go unmentioned how instrumental the U.N. has been in the productive activation of NGOs, and major stakeholders like children and youth. Aptly, the 17th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) recently adopted by the United Nations calls for forming partnerships in pursuit of the other SDGs – the U.N. itself is perhaps the most integral contributor to this goal, and will continue to facilitate these partnerships for years to come.