In its forty years of existence, the UN has grown into several roles in the international community, hitherto left undone by the system of states. The UN must rely on soft power for those measures beyond its own capacity and thus is easily undermined. Nevertheless, the ideological underpinnings seem to be slowly strengthening the UN's reach as its standards for political, economical, environmental, and human right issues become more and more adopted throughout the world.
The UN plays several unique roles in the international community; the most important are facilitator, advisor, and actor. If you look at the existence of the UN in terms of political IR theory, it is really significant that it is able to fulfill these roles as much as it does. The international system is anarchic, meaning that there is no over-arching authoritative body. Prior to WWI, all major international conflicts were essentially solved through war. The three important roles of the UN are representative of its place in the international system – more between nation-states than above them.
Firstly, the UN is a forum for discussion. It facilitates dialogue between small countries, powerful countries, and non-state actors in a way that allows for the potential of non-violent settlements. This is something that no other nation-state has ever been able to accomplish, and is a very valuable asset to the international community. One of the four purposes listed on the UN's website is “to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights”. The UN's representative assemblies are a catalyst for creating multilateral agreements for these international problems before those issues come to a head, or within a quick enough time frame to influence the turn of events when human. Even if an economically powerful state acts, it is significantly less effective than if many nations were to do the same, with the same terms, and the same goal. Economic sanctions in particular have a much higher chance of achieving the desired result if they are multilateral instead of stemming from a few, individual countries. Therefore, the facilitation of discussion is one of the most important things that the UN alone is able to do. Even if no specific plan of action is decided upon, the potential for representation and dialogue is unique in our international system, and the efforts of the UN go a long way.
The facilitator role is certainly a reflection of ideological beliefs, because the success of any UN body or resolution rests on the members acting on what needs to be done overall instead of their individual interests. In practice, this is frequently not accomplished, but still the UN continues to hold its members to its standards in whatever way possible. A very common criticism of the UN is that it disproportionately represents the top five global powers, the permanent members of the security council, because each state has the ability to veto...