Experts discuss relevance of United Nations at Glendon Global Debates

Cropped globe on a table

Five experts will discuss the relevance of the United Nations (UN) during the upcoming Glendon Global Debates event on Nov. 15, from 6:45 to 9 p.m. in Room A100, Centre of Excellence, at York University’s Glendon Campus.

As the UN approaches its 75th year in 2021, the year Canada wants to join the UN Security Council, it seems like a good time to assess the effectiveness of the multilateral body to address the issues of the 21st century.

Desk globe on table. Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash
Globe on table. Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

The UN Security Council’s lack of achievement has been well documented. The past secretary general of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon, called the war in Syria “our collective failure,” which would “remain a heavy burden on the standing of the United Nations.” There are other failures, but also accomplishments.

In October 1945, the victors of the Second World War – China, the U.S.S.R., France, the U.K. and the U.S. – ratified the UN charter, creating the Security Council and establishing themselves as its five permanent members, with the unique ability to veto resolutions. Originally, there were six temporary members (rotating members), but in 1965 the number increased to 10 (five from Africa, one from Eastern Europe, two from Latin America and the Caribbean, and two from Western Europe).

The charter also established the purpose of the council, to “investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute, in order to determine whether the continuance of the dispute or situation is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security” and to act accordingly, by:

  • investigating any situation threatening international peace;
  • recommending procedures for peaceful resolution of a dispute;
  • calling upon other member nations to completely or partially interrupt economic relations as well as sea, air, postal and radio communications, or to sever diplomatic relations; and
  • enforcing its decisions militarily, if necessary.

Canada has been a strong supporter of the UN and played a key role in setting up the UN peacekeeping mission, and continues to support peacekeeping operations. Canada has also supported the UN’s humanitarian assistance programs, economic development efforts, human rights and gender rights programs, and overall peace and security initiatives.

But with all its diverse programs and political activities, is the UN still relevant and are the institutions established some 70 years ago still serving humanity today? How should we frame the past achievements and failures of the UN in today’s complex world? And how can we reform the UN, its Security Council and decision-making process?

At the upcoming Glendon Global Debates event, “Is the UN still relevant?,” experts will discuss the following:

  • What have the UN Security Council’s failures been in recent history?
  • Are the UN organizations obsolete and how can we reform them?
  • How can we ensure that emerging powers fully participate in the UN’s decision-making process?
  • What are Canada’s chances to be elected to the Security Council in 2021?

The event will be moderated by Diana Swain, host of CBC’s “The Investigators” and senior investigative correspondent for CBC News. Ontario’s 29th Lieutenant-Governor, Elizabeth Dowdeswell, will be the event’s guest of honour. The expert panellists will include:

  • Ferry de Kerckhove, senior Fellow at the University of Ottawa and former Canadian ambassador to the Arab Republic of Egypt;
  • Adam Chapnick, deputy director of education at the Canadian Forces College and professor of Defence Studies at the Royal Military College of Canada;
  • Alistair D. Edgar, associate dean, School of International Policy and Governance at the Balsillie School of International Affairs; and
  • Annie Demirjian, director of the Glendon School of Public and International Affairs and former UN executive.

Register for this event online (more tickets will be released in November).