A failure of leadership at the highest levels has left the UN "redundant" after a tumultuous year of protest and human rights abuses, Amnesty International said in a blistering report.
Publishing its 50th annual report, Amnesty said that international leaders had squandered the chance for reform offered by the Arab Spring and other pro-democracy protests.
But despite the UN's failure, Amnesty said that it was "no longer business as usual for tyranny and injustice", and that oppressive regimes were increasingly being held to account.
"Failed leadership has gone global in the last year, with politicians responding to protests with brutality or indifference," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International Secretary General.
"Governments must show legitimate leadership and reject injustice by protecting the powerless and restraining the powerful. It is time to put people before corporations and rights before profits," she said.
Amnesty pointed to the huge rise in pro-democracy protest during the Arab Spring, and the subsequent Egyptian elections which are still ongoing, as evidence of a global movement towards freedom.
However the group said those opportunities were being squandered by "opportunistic alliances" and "financial interests".
"The language of human rights is adopted when it serves political or corporate agendas, and shelved when inconvenient or standing in the way of profit," Shetty said.
The 2012 report pointed specifically to a failure to intervene in Sri Lanka, and a failure to intervene in Syria, as cases which have left the UN looking weak and "unfit for purpose".
It also lists restrictions on free speech in 91 countries, and cases of torture or ill treatment in 101 nations.
In China, Amnesty said authorities "threw the full weight of their security apparatus into the suffocation of protest".
The report listed "no improvement" in North Korea's "horrific" human rights problems, and added that this year's Eurovision hosts Azerbaijan "suppressed freedom of expression" and had imprisoned protesters on political grounds.
However the report also praised a "pivotal" decision in Myanmar to free 300 political prisoners and allow campaigner Aung San Suu Kyi to compete in elections.
It also cited progress on the "global trend towards abolition of the death penalty" and the "landmark steps towards justice in Europe with the arrests of General Ratko Mladić and Croatian Serb Goran Hadžić, to face trial for crimes committed in the 1990s wars in former Yugoslavia".