We the peoples of the United Nations determined

Historical documents tend to communicate a lot about the social climate at the time, and landmark documents are often charged with feeling. The preamble to the United Nations Charter tells us that the world was tired of war, and incensed by the degradation of humanity:


  • to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
  • to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and
  • to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
  • to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,


  • to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
  • to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
  • to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
  • to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,


In the current state of the world, it reads like an overly optimistic but well-intentioned new years resolution. That said, I find it difficult to read without feeling the sincere will behind it; this strengthens my resolve to stand by my own convictions.

4 thoughts on “We the peoples of the United Nations determined”

  1. While I have no doubt it was a well intentioned concept, it simply does not fit modern times. France is the 20th most populous nation and holds a permanent seat on the security council. India is the 2nd most populous nation, yet holds no such position. This is a very undemcratic design which makes absolutely no sense in modern terms.

    It also makes no sense to allow dictators to sit side by side with legitimate democracies, pretending to represent their citizens. The man behind the ‘CHINA’ nameplate simply does not represent the Chinese people, period.

    The UN needs to fully embrace the concept of democracy, specifically…

    Until it does, situations like Darfur will never end, nuclear proliferation will continue to worsen, and the ‘peace dividend’ will continue to elude us.


  2. Firstly, I haven’t made any comment on the UN itself; just the preamble to the UN Charter.

    As the preamble suggests, the UN was formed in response to war and injustice; not as a vehicle for the expansion and assertion of democracy.

    I don’t think that the lack of democracy in various member nations is the primary reason that the UN fails in what it set out to achieve. Lack of resources, commitment, and resolve from member nations is probably a bigger issue (that wouldn’t be intrinsically solved by enforcing democracy).

    With resources, commitment, and resolve to observe and enforce such assertions as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, atrocities (like those in Dafur) and wars (like that in Iraq), would not be permitted.

    While a very worthwhile goal, I don’t think that democracy itself offers a solution.

  3. On more thing (moderately unrelated):

    Would the UDN strive for greater democracy within itself (compared to the UN)? That is, would there be one vote per nation or would nations have weighted votes that reflect the size of their population?

    It seems odd that a small pacific island nation would have the same representation as a large nation (like China… assuming they become democratic). In the UN, don’t larger nations often “buy out” smaller nations’ votes?

  4. Hi Nick,

    If the goal of the UN is to further the cause of human rights, then you cannot ignore the relationship between democracy and human rights. People in North Korea don’t vote. They starve under a dictator. People in China don’t protest without being run over by tanks. There really is a connection. So striving to spread democracy very much furthers the goals of the preamble.

    And just to be clear, no one should confuse the spread of democracy with the misguided attempts the US in Iraq. You actually can spread democracy without blowing people up.

    > I don’t think that the lack of democracy in various member nations is the primary reason that the UN fails in what it set out to achieve.

    Really? You don’t think that dictatorships making policy on human rights for example is the fox guarding the henhouse? And do you think lack of resources is really the reason Darfur has continued? Or is it a lack of will by key players in the Security Council?

    To answer your other questions, the UN should always strive for greater democracy within itself. Eventually population should be a factor, although that may not come at first since we certainly don’t want to reward countries for overpopulation. But I fully agree with you…a small pacific island nation having equal weight as, say, India (China is a bad example being a dictatorship) would seem out of balance. But the wealth a country could bring to bear in solving problems would somewhat counter that situation. The reality is that the system is already out of balance in even worse ways. Giving France a seat on the SC, but not India is an even worse unbalance. In your example at least all small pacific island nations would be equal.

    Large nations will still be able to buy out smaller nations. That problem exists in either scenario. Democracy is not an easy journey.


Comments are closed.