On 75th Anniversary of the U.N., Some Countries Question Its Effectiveness

A survey released on Monday — the 75th anniversary of the United Nations — shows that while advanced countries generally hold favorable opinions of the multilateral organization, some question its effectiveness.

The findings from the nonpartisan Pew Research Center show that among the 14 countries surveyed, people typically give the U.N. high marks “for fulfilling its core mission of promoting peace and human rights” and its work of promoting economic development. Respondents are less certain, however, that the U.N. “cares about the needs of ordinary people” or is effective at solving international problems, Pew found.

“This last pair of findings is in line with past Pew Research Center surveys, which have demonstrated that while people tend to view multilateral organizations like the European Union and NATO favorably, doubts about these institutions persist,” the report reads.

Japan’s citizens stand out as showing the least support for the U.N., according to Pew’s findings. About 55% of Japanese respondents said they have an unfavorable view of the organization — a 20-percentage point increase compared to last year. Only 41% of respondents from Japan said the U.N. was effective at taking action against the spread of the coronavirus, which was the lowest percentage for that characteristic across the 14 countries surveyed.

But the Japanese are not alone in being skeptical of the U.N. While a large majority of German respondents say the organization promotes peace and human rights, only 38% say it cares about the needs of ordinary people. In South Korea, 55% of those surveyed said the U.N. does not promote economic development — the only country to have a majority with that belief. In France and Italy, a majority of respondents say the U.N. is not effective on international issues, and overall, people among the 14 surveyed countries are closely split on its effectiveness.

There have been doubts reported about other multilateral organizations in the past. Pew notes previous surveys which showed that many Europeans believe the European Union does not understand its citizens’ needs and that they are reluctant about fulfilling their country’s NATO Article 5 obligations. Article 5 of NATO’s treaty commits each member state to consider an armed attack against any member state to be an armed attack against all.

Despite a slight recent dip in favorability rating, the United States is still generally supportive of the U.N., with 62% of American respondents having a favorable view. That could be because the U.S. has a more “pragmatic” attitude toward multilateralism compared to many European countries, says Daniel Hamilton, the director of the Wilson Center’s Global Europe Program and the Austrian Marshall Plan Foundation Professor at Johns Hopkins University.

“If you take European countries, the European Union for them is almost existential,” he says. “It’s the way they have dealt with all of their conflicts. And so multilateralism for them is really kind of an existential issue, whereas in the United States, multilateralism is an instrumental issue.”

But Hamilton, an expert on transatlantic relations, also notes the optimistic connotations of the age differences in the Pew survey’s findings, where younger people are more favorable of the U.N., the World Health Organization‘s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic and international cooperation overall compared to people over the age of 50.

“It’s quite remarkable for a generation that right now is being battered by a pandemic and economic recession — depression almost — and all of their education prospects, everything really challenged, that they approach international cooperation out of a position of hope, rather than fear,” he says. “And this would not be the year you would think they would be being hopeful about the United Nations or supportive. You would think it could be the other way around, but it’s not. And I think that’s a hopeful sign. It’s a good sign.”

The Pew Research Center used data from nationally representative phone surveys of 14,276 adults, conducted from June 10 to Aug. 3. The countries surveyed were Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, the U.K. and the U.S.

More from U.S. News

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On 75th Anniversary of the U.N., Some Countries Question Its Effectiveness originally appeared on usnews.com

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