UNO came into existence when the whole world was facing the horrendous repercussions of World War II. USA’s atomic attack upon Japan was the final warning to all the nations that future wars may lead to human extinction. With this fear in mind the Allies formed the organization of UNO. And therefore, the main objective of the UNO was to save the coming generations from wars. Officially, UNO came into existence on 24th October 1945 and its main office was established in New York, USA. At present, 192 nations out of the total 195 are its members.
To analyze the relevance of UNO in the present world scenario, we have to evaluate its success and failure in realizing its objectives. According to the UN Charter it had four main objectives to fulfill. –
1. To maintain international peace and security with the help of ‘collective-security’ and to keep aggressive tendencies under control; that is, keeping wars at bay.
2. To solve international disputes by peaceful means.
3. Encourage nations to take their own decisions and motivate the process of de-colonization.
4. Promote mutual co-operation in social, economic, cultural and human areas.
Apart from this, UNO has also been making efforts towards the disarmament policy.
Now if we try to analyze UNO’s role in its first objective of stopping wars between nations, we may say that it has not been successful. The reason behind this failure is that whenever wars have had the support of big nations, like USA, UK, Russia, China and France, UNO became ineffective because these nations used their veto powers to continue the wars. Korean War, Vietnamese War and the thrice fought Gulf War are examples of the same. The same is the situation in matters of crises. Ever since it has been formed UNO could not play any influential role during various international imbroglios, such as Berlin, Cuba, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland and Afghanistan Crises or Operation Iraqi Freedom. In all of these, one or the other super power was involved and thus UNO could not play any decisive role.
It is true that there has been no major war in the last 64 yrs. And there has been no direct armed conflict between the US and Russia but its credit goes to the various mutual treaties between them as well as the fear of the pernicious after-effects of an atomic war and not to the UNO. That is why there were many wars but no world war.
The second objective of UNO to resolve political problems through peaceful means could also not succeed much, because the super powers either directly entered into negotiations with the involved parties or through the mediation of a third country without taking the help of UNO, e.g. after the Indo-Pak War in South Asia apart from Tashkent and Shimla Agreements three major disputes were resolved through either direct two-party negotiations as Shastri-Sirimavo Agreement between India and Sri Lanka in 1964, Farakka Agreement between India and Bangladesh in 1977 or with the help of an international tribunal to solve the Kutch dispute with Pakistan.
UNO has not been able to solve the Kashmir and Arab Israel problems. It has only played the role of declaring armistice after all the big wars. It is true therefore, that UNO could not be so successful in resolving political disputes as was expected from it.
But there are other areas in which UNO has done commendable work, mainly in the humanitarian areas. It has been a boon to such internal and foreign problems of nations as civil wars, racial tensions, refugees’ issues, famines, draughts, floods and environment-pollution problems. It has also played a very important role in giving a new lease of life to the old, the handicapped, the homeless, the destitute and the suffering women and children. It has also vigorously campaigned for environment reforms; checks on population explosion and public health improvement.
Simultaneously, it has also fulfilled its responsibility of, to a great extent, reducing mutual tensions and differences within nations, as in the Unctand and Law of the Sea Conference.
But this fact also can not be denied that all the help and assistance given by the UNO in the above matters was possible because the powerful nations of the West and the US allowed the latter to go ahead. And in this also international level politics was played.
Any big or small decision taken by the UNO needs to have the consent of the European bigwigs.
China was not allowed the membership of UNO as long as the US did not like it. But when its bi-lateral relations improved with the latter it was made the permanent member of its Security Council and the separated nationalist part of China – Formosa (Taiwan) was turned out of the simple membership even.
In fact, it is only the US which is the all in all and to get the benefits of UNO one has to be in its good books.
If we take into consideration the nuclear disarmament issue, here also we do not find any relevance of UNO. We can clearly observe its passivity in the following illustrations:
· China’s assistance to Pakistan in manufacturing space armaments.
· Supplying of space missile technology to Pakistan by China.
· China’s assistance to North Korea in developing long range missiles.
· Supplying of space missile technology to Pakistan by North Korea.
· USA’s permissiveness in tolerating all the above developments. (Despite CIA’s evidence it was said that there is lack of “actionable evidence”).
At present, UNO is truly at the cross-roads. On the one side, USA seems to be fed up and tired of UNO’s unending obstructive meetings and wants to bypass its interferences. On the other, many nations are demanding its restructuring in a manner that the super-powers are not allowed to hijack its functioning. In view of the above, the UNO is at a critical juncture of its existence and the leading powers of the world including the emerging ones have to ponder over the following questions:
Will restructuring of the UN organs and making them more representative, especially the Security Council, would make the UN more effective?
Or, would reviewing its existing form and restricting it to its primary role of global security management and prevention of conflicts make the UN more effective?
Future Challenges of UNO:
Future challenges to global security are not going to be global wars but more of asymmetric type of wars, limited wars, insurgencies and terrorism. All of these would possibly be driven more by religious fundamentalism, ethnic strife and ethnic genocide.
In terms of security management, the UNO would be challenged by a variety of happenings, namely,
· Regional instabilities caused by ‘rough states’ specially those with a record of nuclear proliferation.
· ‘Failed States’, where the state apparatus, rule of law and economic break down lead to state disintegration by exorbitant defense expenditure and corruption.
· Conflict over control of energy, resources, strategic materials and water sharing.
What the UNO needs is real power, the power to create binding agreements among member states and the abolition of veto used by the member states of Security Council on important decisions. The UNO must make it clear to all member states that all should respect and follow the resolutions passed by it and the states with veto power should not misuse their privilege to disagree with the unanimously accepted decisions off the UNO. The one who uses veto should be made to face the whole house of the General Assembly and get two third majority to support it or the General Assembly should be allowed to over ride the veto by the same two third majority.
UNO was primarily charged with the responsibility of saving future generations from the ‘scourge of war’. The UN should exclusively concentrate on this role and divest itself from social, cultural, economic and environmental issues. The manner in which security challenges are manifesting themselves in the 21st Century and the desperate destructive forms that are appearing can only be combated by a United Nations exclusively focused on global security management.
UNO could not get the success that was expected from it. It could not stop the blind race for destructive weapons among nations. It could not promote the feeling of universal brotherhood. In so many places the ill-effects of colonialism and caste-based discriminations can still be found. Instead of peaceful co-existence countries continue to struggle to over-power each other. This organization could not stop wars among nations neither could it stop the violation of international laws. It could not do so because of reasons, such as, groupism among nations, cold-war, the theory of national superiority, lack of feeling of internationalism, lack of military power, misuse of veto power and the imperialist tendencies of the super powers.
In fact, while earlier UNO remained the battle-ground between the East and the West, the US and the USSR now it is under complete control of the only super power – the USA. Former General Secretary of the UNO Butros Butros Ghali has rightly said that, “The UNO is in no capacity to say any thing. America is its boss which can stop its aid any time.”
The show in Iraq went on without UN approval and North Korea, Sudan, Iran and Myanmar regularly ignored the UN condemnations. In real world terms the UN is highly irrelevant with Secretaries General speaking to a deaf world and more bureaucratic hurdles occupying their time then concrete programmes.
Reference & Quotes from South Asia Analysis Group. Paper number 1168.
Ms. Arshi Ansari is a master's student in Political Science.