Courtesy Reuters


Twenty-FIVE years after the League of Nations was born a successor organization was being formed at San Francisco. This fate, at least, has been spared the United Nations. The United Nations is not dead. But it certainly is ill. It is suffering, even supporters admit, from "a crisis of confidence," a "decline in credibility," and "creeping irrelevance." However we define it, the fact is that the world organization is being increasingly bypassed by its members as they confront the central problems of the time.

To be sure, a negative diagnosis of the patient's condition requires some qualification. One can argue that the important thing to say about the United Nations is not that it has fulfilled so few of its ambitious mandates, but that it has accomplished so much in the face of all the difficulties inherent in the international situation. The achievements of the organization are real and are worth recalling even though we may tire of hearing them recited at U.N. Day celebrations. The United Nations has helped prevent or contain violence in Cyprus, the Middle East, the Congo, Kashmir and other trouble spots through peacekeeping and peacemaking missions. It has launched an unprecedented effort to raise living standards in the less developed countries through its network of Specialized Agencies and special programs. It has speeded the process of decolonization and eased the transition to independence for over a billion people. It has done an impressive amount of lawmaking, not only in the field of human rights, but in such areas as outer space and the oceans. Before we yield to the temptation to write the United Nations off as wholly ineffective, we might ask ourselves what the world would have been like during the last 25 years without it.

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the United Nations, however, is an opportunity not just to celebrate past achievements, but to launch a continuing process of renewal and reform. If this process is to begin, we must pull no punches in

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