U.N. Increases in Favorability Worldwide, Survey Shows

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The United Nations is viewed in a positive light by majorities in 17 countries surveyed, according to a new study from Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan think tank.

The survey reveals that a median of 67% of people express favorable opinions about the U.N. while 29% hold an unfavorable opinion. Canada, the U.S. and nine of the European countries surveyed reported majorities with views favorable toward the U.N., while views in the Asia-Pacific region -- although mostly favorable -- varied more.

The survey results come as the U.N. General Assembly begins its general debate in New York this week. Some of the main issues of the coming session are how global leaders can end the COVID-19 pandemic and work to create a healthier planet, among other topics like energy, the nuclear test ban treaty, and the Iran Nuclear Deal. U.S. President Joe Biden is scheduled to address the General Assembly on Tuesday, giving the American leader an opportunity, in the wake of the pullout from Afghanistan, to discuss the direction of U.S. foreign policy.

In terms of the pandemic, the Pew analysis shows that favorable views of the U.N. have increased since the outbreak of the virus globally in 2020. Since respondents were asked their opinions about the U.N. in 2020, positive views on the U.N. have risen in half of the 13 countries that were surveyed both years -- with Italy and Japan seeing the largest increases at 12 percentage points each.

Regardless, the discussion of vaccine distribution is one of the most pressing topics for this year's session, especially in light of the World Health Organization announcing on Sept. 17 that more than 73% of the world's COVID-19 vaccine doses have been administered in only 10 countries. Concerns over ending the pandemic also move to the forefront of the session given the controversy this year's General Debate has sparked already -- with the U.N. operating on an "honors system" vaccination policy while bringing together more than 100 heads of state from around the world.

As for the climate crisis -- one of the other main topics on the docket next week, with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres declaring last week that "the war on our planet must end" -- the survey indicates that majorities across the countries surveyed also believe the U.N. is doing a good job tackling climate change. The analysis found that a median of 56% with positive views of its climate response and a median of 39% who believe the organization is doing poorly on this front.

The survey was conducted between March and May of 2021 among 16,254 adults in Canada, Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan and February of 2021 among 2,596 adults in the United States.

Zoya Wazir is a student at George Washington University and a News intern.