The United Nations has been a much disputed intergovernmental peace and security organization since its founding date in 1945
A Ryerson debate team beat the University of Toronto in the sixth annual International Council Foreign Affairs Debate, arguing that the United Nations should not be abolished.
The debate, hosted by the Canadian International Council and two U of T groups on Jan. 29, was held at Hart House, U of T’s student activity centre. Ryerson won with 53 votes from the audience and the votes of three expert judges, while U of T’s Hart House Debating Club finished with 45 votes.
Ryerson students argued that the UN improves global co-operation.
Aviva Gomes-Bhatt, a fourth-year history student at Ryerson, said that if the UN were to be abolished, “it is not too far of a stretch to assume that every single country in the world would resort to using force to resolve disputes.”
Since the 1990s, international conflicts around the world have declined by 40 per cent because of the UN’s peacekeeping and conflict prevention activities, according to its website.
The UN has made successful attempts to prevent violence. The 1948 Genocide Convention aims to prevent and punish acts of genocide, according to the UN website. The Chemical Weapons Convention and the Arms Trade Treaty help the UN pursue global disarmament and arms limitation.
Small countries would also have a harder time getting their voices heard if the UN were abolished, said Benn Bland, a fourth-year history student at Ryerson.
Democracies like Sweden, Norway and Finland, which have populations under 11 million, contribute a higher ratio of UN officials than countries with larger populations, according to a study by Harvard professor Eric Werker and Dartmouth assistant professor Paul Novosad.
On the other hand, Gautier Boyrie, the treasurer of the Hart House Debating Club at U of T, suggested that the UN is imperfect.
“The United Nations is settled in bureaucratic red tape, it is plagued with inequality between countries,” Boyrie said.
She added that all of the UN’s power lies in the hands of five countries that can veto any action. As of July 2019, Russia vetoed actions 141 times, United States 83 times, United Kingdom 32 times, France 18 times, and China 14 times, according to the Security Council’s website.
“There is truly no rational reason why many countries would choose to devote their own resources to peace building or any kind of developments on the other side,” said Navin Kariyawasam, president of the Hart House Debating Club at U of T.
As a replacement for the UN, Boyrie proposed an increase in regional organizations, which he said would be more effective in resolving conflicts due to their local presence and invested interest.
“In the last 20 or 30 years, the African Union has recognized the rights of Indigenous Peoples, recently with a case in Kenya, making it such that the African Court of Justice protects those rights moving forward,” Boyrie said.
Bland said that regional organizations, however, would not intervene in world conflicts due to their own self interests..
“Will the EU step into a small issue going on in South Africa? I don’t think so,” he said. “The UN might.”