I would like to see a UN that gets things done. I would like to see a UN that gives a damn about the genocide in Sudan. I would like to see a UN that isn't as corrupt as the Oil for Food scandal showed it is. We need a body like the UN, but it needs reform.
All you said is quite true. Nevertheless, the U.N. is not to blame. This institution has 3 major structural weaknesses (which are not its fault but that of its founding and presently enforcing members):
1- The U.N. at its creation and in its original structural blue print was supposed to have a standing military force that would have had the capability to act in order to maintain peace. However, when it came to decide on the size of the army, the super powers of the time did not like the fact that the U.N. army would have been quite large and even large than the army of most powers of the time. Thus, they did not endorse the idea and it was never revived. Even today the Security council ( I am talking about the 5 permanent members) have no intention in creating a "Standing military force".
2- The second weakness is the Security Council itself.
For those who do not know, the General Assembly of the United Nations works on the basis of 1 vote one country. However, the Security council does not. The permanent members of the council have veto power (each one). These 5 permanent members ( Russia, China, France, UK, and US) have the final word when it comes to authorizing the use of sanctions and most importantly the use of force (military intervention). These countries will act only when their interest are not harmed.
Lets say for example that something is going on in Romania and the security council wants to intervene; however, France refuses because it has companies exploiting the oil fields, an intervention in Romania might stop them from continuing the exploitation of the fields ( THIS IS A SIMPLE INVENTED SCENARIO, not fact only an example).
** Contrary to the first structural weakness this one can be fixed. If by some miracle (i.e: massive protest from the Global community and the citizens in every Democratic Nation) the security council gets dissolved and the entire power regarding security goes to the General Assembly. Or, the other possibility would be to just remove the veto and keep the Security Council; however the use of force would only be authorized if X % (51% or 70% etc) of the Security Council votes in favour.
3- Respect for Non-Intervention:
This structural problem is slowing getting fixed. The weakening of the principle of non-intervention has begone since the first gulf war. Normally, the U.N. had no right to intervene in the internal affairs of a Sovereign State. It could not impose any authority on the domestic behaviour or action within a country. When the first gulf war took place there was the implementation of the famous " NO-FLY ZONES" (North and South of Iraq) which were a clear violation of the principle of non-intervention. Other examples can be found in Rwanda and Bosnia regarding the " War Crime Tribunals" and the arrest of Augusto Pinochet.
Now for the Intervention in Sudan. The problem is that in order to act, they would have to totally go beyond the Non-intervention (in the internal affairs of a Independent state) principle. Even though the U.N. is not present the African league is. They have sent a miserable 500 ( more or less) troops; however, the president of Sudan does not accept more. Thus, the Security Council needs to find out if they really want to act. Considering the present situation in Iraq, I doubt there will be an intervention any time soon.
For the corruption part. Well I am quite sad to admit that yes the U.N. is corrupt. It would need reformation ( regarding the 3 structural weaknesses and the corruption) but reformation needs will power and a budget. The U.N. is terribly under funded. People ask of the U.N. and the U.N. itself has the pretension of working for world peace. But the budget it has is simply a drop in the bucket.
Last time I visited the U.N. web site and the U.N. itself I have been informed that the U.N. needs 250 billions in order to fix most of the world problems (i.e. hunger, basic vaccination for all, Child soldiers, tribal conflict, education, partial disarmament, water problems, and so on; this statistic can be found on the U.N. web site and if you do not find it tell me I surely still have it on my PC).
Now does 250 billions sound like a large sum? It is a joke. The world expenditure for weapons is at 950 billions (for 2004). The US, spends more or less 500 billions when it comes to the military and the arms trade.
If the rich/ powerful countries would have the will there would find a way. The U.N. if reformed would be able to achieve something very close to world peace. But only IF.