United Nations: Hope and hopeless

Posted: 23 Oct 2013 05:58 PM PDT

October 24 marks the United Nations' Day, the anniversary of the entry into force in 1945 of the UN Charter.

With the ratification of this founding document by the majority of its signatories, including the five permanent members of the Security Council, the United Nations officially came into being. Oct 24 has been celebrated since 1948.

In 1971, the United Nations General Assembly recommended that the day be observed by Member States as a public holiday. However, almost 80 per cent of member nations do not celebrate it.

It is an undeniable fact that the world body and its agencies have achieved successes in putting wars and conflict to an end, helping poor nations elevate their economy, fighting famine and poverty and improve their livelihood.

The many programs introduced are also bringing human beings closer, thus fostering mutual understanding and respect.

However, the UN is plagued with series of problem. To many countries, the UN belongs to the group of 'rich & famous' like the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and others as their massive annual financial contribution is a ticket to control the world body.

The veto power for the permanent members of Security Council is also seen as a barrier to find an amicable solution to the Middle East conflict, especially when a single US veto is enough to level any resolution that may open doors to peace talks.

The main purpose for the UN is to resolve issues between countries through diplomacy before countries resort to military force and before conflicts escalate. Unfortunately, the UN has consistently failed this goal and will continue being useless for these several reasons.

First, the UN is primarily a forum for debate. As a result, the UN is an international organisation where countries send representatives to argue for or against issues. These representatives are typically just spokesmen for their country's agendas and are relatively powerless in their own country.

Furthermore, countries governed by non-peaceful dictators and regimes typically use these debates to delay and obfuscate issues in their favor.

Over the fifty years that the United Nations has existed, these debates alone have not resolved a single issue. Direct military actions, back room negotiations, and threats, that were not sponsored by the United Nations, have had the only real positive affects for change. 

For instance, Iraq was under UN-backed economic trade sanctions for over a decade. As a result, the Iraqi people suffered greatly while Saddam Hussein continued playing games with the UN by only periodically allowing inspections for weapons of mass destruction, inconsistent disarmament of known weapons, and illegally finding ways around the oil for food agreements that the UN imposed.

As a result, economic sanctions were an abyssal failure. Only the United States had the courage of breaking this stalemate that had the Iraqi people caught in the middle.

Yet again, the UN is considering this same solution that has never worked to be used against North Korea because of its nuclear weapons program and testing. And Iran is keeping a close eye on what the world does to North Korea, since Iran has similar nuclear ambitions for their non-peaceful agenda too.

Second, the UN is unable to take direct and independent actions without support from its members. In other words, the UN is completely powerless and pacifistic.

In a world filled with war-mongering dictators and suppressing regimes who know the UN lacks any real power, regimes are almost completely free to do whatever they want. For example, North Korea has tested nuclear weapons and threatens to do so again, with the United Nations only considering sanctions.

Third, the UN has five nations that can veto any resolution that the majority of the members agreed upon. The countries with this veto power are China, France, Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.

These countries have this power because they were the founding countries of the UN that wrote the rules for its Charter after World War 2. Unfortunately, this non-democracy fails for several reasons.

 First, only a true democracy among nations is unbiased and fair. Thus, the complete structure of the UN needs a major overhaul. This too is not likely to happen, since the countries with vetoing power are unlikely to unanimously agree to give up this right for fairness sake.

The world body has also failed in five major areas which are the thrust of its foundation. Its main purpose - to prevent war - has clearly not been achieved; it ignores or enables human rights abuses; its decision-making procedures are not efficient; many UN bodies are corrupt of compromised; and most international co-operation can take place outside its framework.

With major world conflicts still unresolved, especially the prolonged Arab-Israel and Arab-Palestine war, the civil war in Syria and the threat to stability in many parts of Africa, the Middle East, the Korean Peninsula and Asia, the UN is additionally-tasked with hefty burden to find the correct diplomatic mechanism to end it.

But will there ever be success if bipartisan politics flows in the UN system?


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