Why is the United Nations now working the way it should, when for years it seemed unable to act effectively?
Created during the Second World War, the U.N. was launched amid a burst of post-war idealism that soon faded as the Cold War developed.
The contentious atmosphere rendered the Security Council largely impotent. New alliances and rivalries appeared, poisoning the General Assembly's proceedings. Another world war again became conceivable. An unprecedented arms race dominated the international scene. Public confidence in the U.N. reached a nadir.
In the last few years, however, a remarkable reformation has occurred. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar responded brilliantly to the U.N.'s financial crisis by implementing an ongoing reform process that has helped greatly to restore the U.N.'s viability. As the Cold War started to fade, the Security Council began maintaining international peace and security in an effective manner.
Historic events have restored credibility to the U.N. Heads of state now address the General Assembly to enhance their prestige, realizing that the world's greatest problems can only be solved through rational multilateral cooperation. The Persian Gulf crisis has made this international fact of life crystal clear.
The dreams and idealism of the U.N.'s founders have not been misplaced.
Better great power relations and a new global consciousness were needed to set them into motion. That is not to say that the U.N. is an unblemished institution. It can never be better than its member governments and its international civil service.
The important thing is that the U.N. is working, that the world has been spared perhaps the last world war, and that all of us should encourage the U.N. to do a still better job in the future.