It provides the guiding vision, framework, and influence in implementing public policies for the global good.
Every few years, the United Nations is declared dead. The reality, however, is that I cannot remember when the UN has been more in the center of the news and public debate. The need for the UN is felt the most when there is a crisis that goes beyond national boundaries, and you would all agree that we have had no shortage of those in recent times, whether it is 9/11 or Iraq or the tsunami.
The facts are in. The UN has fed more than 100 million hungry people in the past five years. It has saved millions of lives through its response to deadly diseases such as AIDS and malaria. It averted a much bigger humanitarian disaster after the 2005 Pakistani earthquake. It works to ensure that women have contraceptives, healthcare and, most important, dignity. It takes care of millions of refugees. It has improved agriculture and food security. And it has boosted global literacy levels.
Above all, the UN provides the guiding vision, framework, and peer pressure in implementing public policies for the global good. Take the Millennium Development Goals. The world is united around these eight goals – to be achieved by 2015 – to combat poverty, disease, illiteracy, and environmental degradation.
And then there is the much more difficult work the UN does to protect and promote human rights and to improve governance and democracies. UN peacekeeping forces are working in some of the most difficult settings across the world, from Lebanon to Haiti. And don't forget what the UN has done to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.
How much does all this cost? Less than $1.5 billion per year – less than the cost of the New York Police Department.