The central institutions of the United Nations have substantially lost moral authority since the Millennium Summit of 2000. The inability to act on issues involving the use of force, the failure at the 2005 World Summit to agree on a definition of terrorism, the Oil-for-Food scandal, and the perceived cronyism of so many delegations have undermined the moral authority of the General Assembly and the Security Council. Principled responses to international problems are always desirable for ethical reasons. At a time when the legitimacy of international institutions is challenged, they become important also for political reasons. If an international organization loses legitimacy, its effectiveness suffers. Without legitimacy, the best the United Nations could do with respect to threats by nonstate actors, the topic of this roundtable, would be to serve as a channel for concerted state action.
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