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The current global order — a fraying around many edges | UPSC Law Optional | International Law

At 55th Regular session of the Human Rights Council, Secretary General of UN, Mr. Guterres,remarked that 'lack of unity’ amongst UNSC members had ‘perhaps fatally undermined its authority’

WHAT IS REQUIRED? In light of the prevailing divisions, crucial reforms are reformed. Superficial alterations in UN may prove inadequate.

ABOUT UN : UN came into being in January 1942 when the 26 Allied nations signed the Declaration of the United Nations and endorsed the Atlantic Charter of 1941 and is established by Allied powers

  • to preserve post-World War II order

  • to prevent another global conflict.

WHY CHANGE IS REQUIRED? This international arena established nearly three-quarters of a century ago, has seen fluctuations in power dynamics and economic prosperity among its original signatories, as the global community of states has expanded significantly.


  • Although UN is seen to uphold the sovereign equality of all nations subscribing to the principle of collective security.

  • Said principle is faltered as the 5 Permanent Members of UNSC comprising of all former Allied powers, held significant influence.

  • This could be traced to "Four Policemen" Initiative (1943) which is alternative to United Nations Initiative, whereby only 4 Super-powers would be responsible for keeping world order and allowed to possess any weapons more powerful than a rifle.

INTERNATIONAL ECONOMIC ORDER : The United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in July 1944 established the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (or the World Bank) and, in 1947, the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which was succeeded by the World Trade Organization in 1995. Together, this financial and trade architecture sought to create a shared international economic order that would not repeat the mistakes of the 1920s and 1930s, plan post-War reconstruction and liberalise global trade.

CONTROLLING POWER STRUCTURES : Despite the introduction of new institutions, the traditional power center remained unchanged.

  • The World Bank is always headed by an American citizen;

The IMF maintains global stability by promoting financial stability, offering advice, and providing funds to countries in financial difficulty, as long as they accept conditions set by the leadership of the Fund.

  • ‘Europe’ (Western Europe, in practice) gets to nominate the head of the IMF.

  • The voting rights of member-states of the Fund are virtually frozen in time.

  • Original BRICS members (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are 2.22, 2.59, 2.63, 6.08 and 0.63.

  • The U.S. alone commands 16.5; add to it the votes of the U.K. (4.03), Germany (5.31) and the rest of the G-7 that tends to vote with the U.S., and that percentage approaches 30

  • most reform requires an 85% majority vote, effectively handing the U.S. a powerful veto.

Regardless of how the developing world, including former colonies, organized themselves, they were unable to circumvent the veto power wielded at the Security Council or the voting mechanisms of the Bretton Woods Institutions.


  • The Non-Aligned Movement pursued a strategy of equality and moral persuasion to address political and social issues, but its limitations were evident during the 1962 India-China conflict.

  • The G-77 aimed to enhance bargaining power in trade talks by forming a coalition, yet the diverse needs of its members led to a multitude of demands, hindering successful negotiations.

Over time, a multitude of ad hoc groupings has emerged, reflecting a selective approach to bilateral and multilateral engagements.

  • Some, like the OECD with 38 members, have broad mandates, while others, such as the Indo-Pacific Quad, focus on narrower objectives.

  • The China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) was established as an alternative to the World Bank, yet Beijing's influence over the AIIB has replaced the U.S. veto power, leading to reluctance from some countries to participate.

Despite these challenges, the UN-led system remains the primary choice by default.


The 2020s have witnessed significant challenges to the global system from within.

  1. The COVID-19 pandemic caused widespread border closures, disrupting the flow of people, goods, and vaccines and undermining prospects for shared global prosperity through enhanced cooperation.

  2. Russia's invasion of Ukraine highlighted the hypocrisy of powerful nations disregarding international rules.

  3. Additionally, the conflict in Gaza exposed divisions between the developed and developing worlds, as well as tensions stemming from historical injustices and geopolitical interests.

This conflict also tests the commitment of Permanent Members to core UN principles, such as human rights and genocide prevention. As tensions escalate in West Asia, the UN finds itself marginalized by the very actors that established it.


  • Finding a replacement for the UN system is a complex and challenging task. Many organizations and groupings outside the UN exist but tend to serve limited interests rather than universal values.

  • Some, like ASEAN, the EU, G-7, G-20, and the World Economic Forum, operate as exclusive clubs, while others, such as NATO, focus on regional security. However, without global treaties and legal obligations, these organizations are only as effective as their latest summit.

  • Despite their limitations, the existence of these organizations highlights a growing need for change in the global system. The last major overhaul of the global architecture occurred after a devastating world war, underscoring the seriousness of the current challenges facing the international community. Any evaluation of potential replacements for the UN system must be grounded in this sobering reality.

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UPSC Law Optional Mains course - preferr
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