We are fortunate that our prescient Programs Director, Lois Schein-Lewis, has Dr. Waheguru Pal Singh Sidhu lined up for us at this time of great international upheaval and turmoil. Dr W.P.S. Sidhu was the consultant to the first, second and third UN Panel of Governmental Experts on missiles. He was also appointed as a member of the Resource Group set up to assist the UN High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Changes (2004). Dr. Sidhu earned his PhD from the University of Cambridge and is an associate fellow at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy. He is a guest faculty member at the NATO Defense College and UN Specialization at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU.
Some might wonder — what exactly does the UN do and what is the difference between this global organization and another, NATO, that has been so much in the news in recent days and weeks? First, some history.
Born out of the ashes of two destructive world wars in 1945, the nascent United Nations (UN) survived the bitter Cold War era, briefly thrived in the post-Cold War period, and — despite the advent of new challenges, actors and institutions in the post 9/11 age — remains an essential, if not indispensable, organization today.
At 75, while there have been some spectacular failures, the UN has major achievements to its credit. First, The UN is not only the longest functioning multilateral organization, but also the most effective one in preventing great power conflict, especially nuclear war. Second, the UN’s innovation of peacekeeping and peace building has contributed to decolonization and a precipitous drop in armed conflict, especially after the end of the Cold War. Third, the UN has evolved, from its origins as a primarily Western institution, narrowly focused on peace and security, into a truly international organization with a say in every aspect of human endeavor and global affairs, including promoting universal human rights, reducing extreme poverty, eradicating smallpox and other health scourges and reducing maternal and infant mortality.
And the differences between the UN and NATO?
The United Nations (UN) is an intergovernmental organization tasked with maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international co-operation, and being a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations. It was established with the aim of preventing future wars, and succeeded the ineffective League of Nations. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193. The UN is the largest, most familiar, most internationally represented and most powerful intergovernmental organization in the world.
NATO, meanwhile, is an intergovernmental military alliance between 29 North American and European countries. The organization implements the North Atlantic Treaty that was signed on April 4 1949. NATO constitutes a system of collective defense whereby its independent member states agree to mutual defense in response to an attack by any external party.
The United States is one of the founding members of both and a permanent member of the UN.
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