Does the United Nations have a future?
Take part in our special series examining the global organisation established to bring us security, but challenged over its accountability, impact and future
The United Nations marks its 70th birthday this autumn. But beyond the balloons, the bunting and the Ban Ki-moon speeches, there will be plenty of soul-searching about the future of the organisation.
Its centrepiece – the security council – appears increasingly incapable of delivering security: its peacekeepers can’t always keep the peace, its health body has been shown up by the Ebola epidemic, while its refugee agency is struggling to deal with record numbers of people fleeing conflict or persecution.
And the UN itself has ballooned: 85,000 bureaucrats, an annual spend of about $40bn (£26bn) – 2,000 times that of the organisation’s budget during its first year in 1946. Spending has quadrupled in the past 20 years – and still several agencies struggle to balance their books.
What can be done? Over a period of three weeks this September, in the run-up to a crucial general assembly at the end of the month, and anticipating the birthday celebrations at the end of October, the Guardian is publishing a special series on the UN that focuses on its successes and failures.
In dispatches, films, interviews and data exercises, we examine how the UN became so big, what it is good at, where it is lacking and why it is so unaccountable. We speak to top officials and ousted whistleblowers, frontline staff and tax-free bureaucrats about reform, and whether the problem is the intransigence of member states or the bureaucracy itself.
There’s a game in which you can explore exactly what the UN has done for you. And we welcome reader insights, either alongside the work that we publish or at one of our live events .