The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental body that promotes international cooperation. It replaced the League of Nations, the organisation that had been in existence before the UN. At the time of its foundation in 1945, the organisation had 51 members. Currently, it has 193 members, with membership across all the continents. The main offices of the organisation are located in Manhattan, New York. Other main offices are found in Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi. The UN is financed through voluntary contributions by member states. Its main objectives involve maintaining international peace, promoting the rights of people, and fostering economic and social development. Regarding economic development, the UN has had many accomplishments.
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From the time it was formed, the organisation has dedicated its efforts to assisting nations and people to attain economic prosperity. A notable achievement was made when it assisted the Japanese people to rebuild their country after the devastation of the Second World War. Many more achievements have been accomplished with the assistance of specialised agencies. Some notably specialised agencies include the UNEP, the UNICEF, the UNESCO, the World Bank, the WHO, and the UNHAS among others. This paper will discuss the various achievements that the UN has accomplished through its many agencies to stand out as the most successful international organisation in the world.
Achievements of the UN
Every year, people come together to celebrate the United Nations day, an effort to appreciate the remarkable journey that the organisation has travelled. On this day, people celebrate the UN for perpetuating democracy, fostering peace, and combating hunger, among other achievements. However, it is important to observe that the organisation has also often come under criticism on certain occasions (Hatcher & Perry, 2012).
Critics accuse the organisation of failing to take decisive actions when occasions demand them. Nevertheless, most people will agree that the UN has made accomplishments that are worth recognising in the seven decades it has been in existence. This part delves into UN’s accomplishments, either independently or with the assistance of its specialised agencies, and other key organisations, including international airlines.
The world health organisation (WHO) is the specialised organs of the UN responsible for promoting world health. One of the most notable achievements of this agency was the eradication of smallpox. After leading a global campaign that spanned thirteen years, the WHO was finally able to eliminate the threat of smallpox from the world. This milestone required colossal funds and huge efforts to achieve. Breman (2016) recounts the efforts of Donald Ainslie Henderson, the scientist who spearheaded the campaign to exterminate smallpox.
To fully appreciate the extent of this success, it is important to understand how much of threat smallpox was at the time. In the mid-1960s, the disease was extremely rampant across 31 nations in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Brazil. The vaccines available at the time were simply ineffective. Globally, 10-15 million cases of infection were being recorded annually, a third of them ending up in death. It was in this air of dire desolation that the WHO made the resolve to eradicate this menace.
Smallpox is one of the many diseases that the WHO has engaged in combat. Long before HIV/AIDS was declared an epidemic by most nations, the agency was already dedicated to fighting its spread. The statistics of AIDS are startling. From when the epidemic was first discovered, over 78 million people have become infected while half of them have died since then (FACTS, 2015). Hence, AIDS is one of the leading causes of death in the world. The WHO has remained at the forefront in attempting to curb the rate of infection of the disease.
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According to the WHO (2005), of the 37 million people believed to be living with the virus, 19 million are unaware of their positive status. The organisation has since launched the Global Fund to support victims with treatment, as well as to minimise the spread of the virus. These efforts have borne fruits. In 2005, the organisation observed that the rate of infection had reduced over the course of several years (WHO, 2005). In the United States alone, the number of people living with the disease has fallen to 19% between 2005 and 2014 (FACTS, 2015).
Fighting diseases has economic benefits for the world. As diseases become less threatening, governments can dedicate national funds to health to other projects. Health costs are responsible for inflating the budget of many countries. For instance, in the US, 18% of the national budget is dedicated to health annually (Sisko et al., 2014).
This move may have the effect of taking away funds from other sectors, such as education. Disease-related research is very costly. Therefore, WHO’s efforts to eradicate diseases help countries to focus on improving the standards of living of their citizens. Additionally, the elimination of diseases leads to healthy lives. For instance, recent research has shown that the life expectancy of people has risen compared to a century ago (Salomon et al., 2013).
The campaigns revolving around environmental protection and sustainability have increased in recent times. This situation is evident in the wake of acute climate change, with catastrophes such as hurricanes, tsunamis, and prolonged droughts plaguing the world. Many people are turning around to appreciate that climate change is not a myth, as suggested in certain quarters (Jacobson, 2016).
The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) is the UN agency responsible for protecting the environment through measures aimed at promoting sustainability. In 1987, the UNEP sponsored a conference that would deliberate on ways to minimise the depletion of the ozone layer. Five years later, the group of 24 nations came up with the Montreal Treaty. The Montreal Treaty was an agreement among the concerned nations to take measures to reduce the emission of gasses (CFCs) that posed a threat to the ozone layer. This accord is lauded as one of the most successful outcomes of UNEP’s endeavours to protect the environment.
UNEP’s mandate extends over a wide scope to cover issues of the atmosphere, land ecosystems, green economy, and environmental governance. Additionally, this body has funded research that is geared toward identifying new ways of fostering sustainability. Through the UNEP, many governments are gradually adopting green laws.
The trickle-down effect has also seen large business organisations adopt similar policies, partly to conform to the law, and partly to attract customers who take climate change seriously. For, instance, Whirlpool Corporation (WC) launched a green supply network to conform to the changing legal framework in the US (Elrod, Murray, & Bande, 2013). The UNEP assists WC in formulating guidelines and agreements on aspects of the environment in the field of international trade.
In 2015, the organisation spearheaded successful efforts to adopt the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aimed at making sustainability more achievable within the reasonable future (UNEP, 2016). Together with the Paris Agreement, these frameworks are expected to encourage the cooperation of stakeholders [nations] in renewed efforts to redeem the environment. Additionally, the UNEP has dedicated its efforts to assisting nations to create their climatic pledges while availing funds to back the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative (UNEP, 2016). Africa has often been viewed as the ideal stage for launching the renewable energy platform on a large scale.
The World Bank: Funding Developing Nations
The World Bank is perhaps the face of the UN in promoting economic development across the world. The institution is an entity within the World Bank Group, an agency of the United Nations. The World Bank is an international institution that supports the growth of developing nations by extending funds. The institution’s primary goal is poverty reduction (UNICEF, 2014).
Notwithstanding, this goal is promoted through foreign investment, international trade, and capital investment. By lending struggling countries with the much-needed funds, the World Bank hopes to aid them to attain global standards regarding economic development. In turn, this plan would translate into better standards of living for the citizens of these nations.
The World Bank cites increased membership as one of its major achievements. At the time of its creation, the membership was only 68, although it had grown to 151 member states by 1988. The increased membership means that the institution’s scope is felt within a large geographical region, facilitating effective adoption of poverty reduction policies. Additionally, the bank’s subscribed capital has expanded with the increased membership from the initial $10, 000 million in 1960 to $263 billion as at June 2016 (The World Bank, 2016.). With the increased capital, the bank can expand the scope of its lending in amount and the number of beneficiary nations. Despite challenges such as corruption and embezzlement of funds, the bank’s influence has reached the remotest parts of the world.
The World Bank has assisted many struggling nations to achieve social development. Bangladesh is one of the chief beneficiaries of the World Bank’s funding. The South Asian nation has utilised the funds to improve the country’s infrastructure to impeccable standards. According to Mahmud, Asadullah, and Savoia (2013), Bangladesh’s tarmac density, matches that of the United Kingdom when calculated in length per unit area.
Additionally, poverty eradication programmes launched with the help of the World Bank have succeeded in the country. Child mortality has been reduced through low-cost interventions funded by the global bank. Overall, the county’s economy has grown by 6%, with human development matching economic growth. This transformation witnessed in Bangladesh is evidence that the World Bank has been successful in its core mission of reducing poverty in the world.
Other key agencies of the UN are the World Food Programme (WFP), UNESCO, and the UNICEF. The WFP is dedicated to eliminating hunger and famine throughout the world. It is the largest humanitarian agency that fights hunger. According to WFP (2010), the organisation afforded over 80 million people across 75 countries with food aid. Additionally, the organisation curbed under nutrition for 7.2 million children under the age of 5 years (WFP, 2010).
Importantly, 90 percent of the projects dedicated to reducing acute levels of malnutrition emerged successfully. The UNICEF is dedicated to promoting the development of children and mothers across the world. Women and children are commonly referred to as vulnerable groups that require extra assistance. It originated in the post-world war climate of 1946. Many children and women in war-devastated countries required immediate assistance regarding food and healthcare. WFP was formed to meet the needs of these groups of vulnerable people.
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The United Nations Humanitarian Air Service (UNHAS)
The UNHAS is cited as the largest humanitarian airline globally. It boasts of a fleet of more than 70 chartered aircraft. The World Food Programme (WFP) coordinates the administrative functions. Aid workers use the body when reaching remote locations. Disasters make communities lack the necessities of life. It is for this reason that the UN established the airline services to provide humanitarian aid to people in crisis. About 80% of World Food Programme’s core objectives are the activities of UNHAS (Morrell, 2011).
It has been lauded for its effort of exercising equality when providing humanitarian assistance. Despite the security risks that may accompany a rescue operation, the UNHAS has been steadfast in accessing the most challenging and remote locations. The countries that get assistance from UNHAS include Niger, Kenya, Sudan, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Yemen among others (World Food Programme, 2011). The mission for the UNHAS is to provide access to remote and risky destinations that other airlines do not go.
In times of crisis, road transport is always a risky affair. At such times, the UNHAS organises airlifts whereby life-saving services are availed within 48 hours (Morrell, 2011). Cargo airlifts focus on both food and non-food commodities. In severely remote locations, it drops aid cargoes at designated drop zones. This move is an example of a fast and targeted response to specific locations. The airlines take concern of the passengers’ safety by employing qualified personnel to operate the aircraft. The air operations fulfil the standards set by the United Nations Aviation Safety Standards (UNAVSTADs) and the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
The logistics division at the WFP headquarters provides administrative and managerial support to the airline services. The services range from air safety and contract clearance.
The Aviation Safety Unit (ASU) was established under the recommendations of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO). Its objective was to manage the safety risks that accompany the expansion of operations. The ASU exercises an oversight function, thus reducing the number of risks encountered by the UNHAS. Through collaboration with diplomats and donors, the UNHAS was fast in its response to the Ebola virus disease (EVD) outbreak in West Africa. In 2015, a record of 62,500 metric tons of cargo was airlifted to disaster-stricken areas (World Food Programme, 2011). Most of the places served by the UNHAS are not connected to commercial airlines. For this reason, the UNHAS continues receiving appreciation for its efforts to provide relief to such areas.
The UN was formed in the aftermath of the World War II to prevent the world from degenerating into another world war. The organisation promotes international cooperation via bringing many nations together. Through its many specialised agencies, the UN has made accomplishments in diverse areas. The WHO has succeeded in eradicating diseases such as smallpox.
The UNEP for its part seeks to protect the environment by endorsing guidelines that foster sustainability. The agency was responsible for the formulation of the Montreal Treaty to minimise the exhaustion of the ozone layer. The UNHAS has been declared the ultimate solution to offering humanitarian services in remote locations. Road transport can be unpredictable at times, especially where catastrophes have destroyed infrastructure. Through the services of UNHAS, the UN can airlift aid to remote locations to save lives.
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