As the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I was commemorated around the world earlier this week, and as leaders of the Western world gathered in Belgium to pay their tributes to the millions who gave their lives fighting, there is much to reflect upon. British Prime Minister David Cameron remarked that the legacy of those who died in the first World War is the world we inhabit now; one of liberty. But beyond the European nostalgia that will mark this month, remarkably little has been a constructive remnant of that war, or any war since. Arguably, the League of Nations which followed World War I and which evolved to become the United Nations after the Second World War, is in material terms the only “legacy” the world has inherited.

Now, almost 70 years on from the creation of the United Nations, perhaps the time has come once again to accept its ultimate redundancy as a body that can regulate the behaviour of states. Its role has been vastly reduced to that of a relief organisation above all else, and intermittently, that of a sage; a voice that might moralise over the din of massacres and disease. Perhaps it is time to recognise that the United Nations has failed to avert genocides, war, conflicts and humanitarian crises, because it remains the sum total of the permanent members of its Security Council- countries with vast and ever increasing interests in the games of power, which inadvertently involve war in all its forms. Perhaps it is time for the leaders in the West, as they stare out over the rows of gravestones and remember their dead, to contemplate reform for the United Nations, and to re-evaluate its functions, and to realise that the 16 million men, women and children who died 100 years ago in the Great War died in vain. This is no world of liberty that we inhabit; not from where we stand.