The world is a complete mess right now. There are conflagrations all across the globe but unfortunately there are no firefighters in sight anywhere. Apparently, there is a universal acceptance that wherever any fire erupts on the planet today, the blaze should simply be allowed to burn itself out. Good luck to whoever is caught in it. Everyone just seems too tired to do anything about anything these days.

Proper organizational structure is essential for effective functioning of any institution. The UN was set up after World War II to deal with the sorts of crises the world is facing today, but it is failing badly at the job. It has become abundantly clear that the body’s makeup is not fit for purpose.

The five permanent members of the Security Council were supposed to be the adults in the room when the UN was set up in 1945. They were given the crucial responsibility of helping to maintain world peace and security. Today, those members rather pose the greatest risk to global safety. They have amassed stockpiles of highly destructive weapons that they brandish recklessly and constantly. On top of that, they arm all kinds of bad actors who roam the planet and cause mayhem wherever they go.

There is almost nothing the permanent members agree on these days. Even when an issue is as clear as daylight and a decision on it should be unanimously supported, there is bound to be at least a vote or two against it. It isn’t worth anyone’s time to take any matter to the Security Council nowadays because that chamber is hopelessly gridlocked.

Indeed, some parts of the UN organization do some extremely useful work. The agencies that provide humanitarian assistance around the world and those that run services in the areas of education and healthcare should be universally applauded. Unfortunately, their good works are being heavily overshadowed by the growing dysfunction in the Security Council and the General Assembly.

When any organization becomes as dysfunctional as the UN is now, strong, competent leadership is required to whip it back into shape. It was therefore quite demoralizing to read a recent Reuters article in which UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres expressed frustration that the Security Council’s impasse over the Israel-Hamas war and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had “perhaps fatally” undermined its authority. He went on to say that “The Council needs serious reform to its composition and working methods.”

Listening to Mr. Guterres’ speeches in the last several months, one can sense the helplessness in his voice. The UN is in shambles not because he is a weak and incompetent leader. He may be the chief executive of the organization, but he is handcuffed and unable to do anything about the dysfunction he complains about because practically, he has no enforcement powers.

Contrast his situation with that of corporate chief executives who wield enormous amounts of power, entrusted to them by shareholders—via the boards that represent those investors. CEOs in the private sector have the freedom to choose the best qualified people when building their teams. They have the authority to craft and implement business strategies. Nonperforming employees are routinely fired. That expectation of excellence, and the discipline it generates, provide the ingredients that allow such private organizations to flourish.

The UN is an amalgam of 193 sovereign member states. Few, if any, are willing to cede much power to the organization. That is a common problem with multi-national organizations. The British exited the EU for that very reason. The EU functions a lot better than the UN does because it has the power of the purse. It is able to use that power to keep its rogue members in line. The UN has no such luck. It has a purse, but the bulk of the money in it comes from the permanent members of the Security Council who, collectively, are the primary source of the dysfunction.

Mr. Guterres is right to call for reform of the UN. But it is difficult to see who is going to lead that effort. The League of Nations failed to do the work it was designed to do and that led to World War II. The chaotic state of the world today should concern everyone. We should hope that it doesn’t take another world war to wake us up to the current dangers we face.