United Nations: Decades of Failures and Fault Lines

United Nations: Decades of Failures and Fault Lines

The end of the First World War led the emergence of the first international organization of the World known as “League of Nations”, which in its spirit was a milestone of diplomacy and cooperation of world leaders in the promotion of peace and tranquility after a prolonged war. During the 1920s League provided a useful but modest addition to international diplomacy where the round of negotiations and diplomatic relations developed as stress was firmly made on sitting together of nations for the settlement of disputes.



As every cloud has a silver lining, the end of the Second World War also led the establishment of a new world international organization called as United Nations as coined by its founder Roosevelt. Categorically, the emergence of the United Nations was the fruit of the indefatigable efforts of leaders.

The United Nations is the only global international organization that serves multiple functions in international relations. The UN was designed to ensure international peace and security, and its founders realized that peace and security could not be achieved without paying attention to issues such as political, economic, social. The United Nations’ basic mandate was to revive the lost peace and to mediate in restraining conflicts and promote it on all fronts. But, here the question arises, is United Nations successful in attaining such basic notions? The answer is prompt, which is No because again UN like its predecessor fell prey to the diabolical interest of superpowers who controls the strings of UN from its inception. The UN has faced difficulties in achieving its goals because its organizational structure still reflects the power relationships of the immediate post-1945 world. The UN is a reflection of the realities of international politics, and the world’s political and economic divisions are revealed in the voting arrangements of the Security Council.


Decades of Failures and Fault Lines

The UN has been subject to incessant criticism. The critics and even proponents of the United Nations question its effectiveness and relevance because in most high-profile cases UN has failed to comply. Critics of the UN argued that the UN was completely ineffective in preventing conflicts. The history of failures of the UN is long and of which few are mentioned. The fact is that the UN was paralyzed since its creation. After its establishment, the beginning of the cold war in 1950 restricted the UN to be a platform only for annual conferences and meetings disregarding the primary goals. The events of the cold war crystal clearly showed the dereliction of the UN. The USSR invasion of hungry, Cuban Missile Crisis, USSR invasion of Afghanistan were the prominent events of the cold war that indicates the role of the UN during that time. Further, the decade of the 1990s was more excruciating and agonizing, it was a decade full of torture and torment. The first in line was the Somalian civil war 1993-1995, thousands of people were killed but no action was taken by the UN instead of silently watched the menace. Another such case occurred in the Srebrenica massacre, the ethnic cleansing campaign included unlawful confinement, murder, rape, sexual assault, torture, beating, robbery, and inhumane treatment of civilians, where Serbian troops committed genocide against Bosnian Muslims in the largest case of mass murder(8000 Muslims killed) on the European continent since World War II. Srebrenica had been declared a UN “safe area” and was even protected by 400 armed peacekeepers, but the UN forces did nothing to prevent the massacre. The next was the genocide in Rwanda 1994, was worse among all, The genocide against Tutsi was a genocidal mass slaughter of Tutsi in Rwanda by members of the Hutu majority government. An estimated 1,000,000 and over Rwandans were killed during the 100 days from 7 April to mid-July 1994 people killed in three hours.

In the 21st century, there are many prominent and dramatic examples, first among them was the War in Darfur, in which Arab Janjaweed militias, supported by the Sudanese government, committed repeated acts of ethnic cleansing and genocide against the indigenous population. An estimated 300,000 civilians were killed. It was the largest case of mass murder in the history of the region, yet the UN has continuously failed to act against this severe and ongoing human rights issue.


While speaking of the most raw-nerve issues like Kashmir and Palestinian which the UN’s role is bleak and dismal and has continuously remained as a mere silent spectator during all the injustice. The people of these lands continuously butchered. Israel was created on the plea that they suffered the hazards of the holocaust which is quite true. But, Are the sufferings of Palestinians not different from the holocaust? Are they not being bombed, tortured and tormented every day and night? Why the UN is biased on this issue. Similar is the case of Kashmir, a small beautiful valley surrounded by 700,000 Indian troops at every nuke and corner, who are inflicting severe pain upon the natives. To address the issues, several resolutions have been moved but all went futile. Concerning Kashmir’s issue, Kofi Anan, former UN Secretary-General said in his speech “Kashmir resolutions are only advisory recommendations and comparing with those on East Timor and Iraq is like comparing apples and oranges since those resolutions were passed under Chapter 7 which make it enforceable by UN Security Council”. Such careless and mindless was the attitude( and still is) of an international body considered as father-figure at global scenario. One must ask a question that why the UN is submissive, humble and crawling when it comes to Big Powers and arrogant, oppressing and cruel when it is against small minor states. Those are the two ugly traits of the UN.


The most recent case is that of the Syrian civil war, a country being exploited by the hostility of major states. The major powers are engaged in recent bombings and surgical strikes on the pretext to save people and human rights but on the contrary only to show their dominancy and implant puppet government. The results are distorting as thousands have been killed and a mass exodus of people occurred who are seeking refugee but no country is ready to provide asylum due to security concerns.


The UN is an abject failure – a fatally flawed organization that has accelerated and spread global chaos. Dore Gold, a former Ambassador, in his book “Tower of Babble: how UN has Fueled Global Chaos” has stated that instead of maintaining peace, the UN has ignited the crisis with its presence in a global world. There have been controversy and criticism of the UN organization and its activities since at least the 1950s. In the United States, an early opponent of the UN was the John Birch Society, which began with a slogan “get US out of the UN” campaign in 1959, charging that the UN aimed to establish a “One World Government.”


Several fault-lines in the UN structure can be highlighted. Critics argue that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), who are all nuclear powers, have created an exclusive nuclear club whose powers are unchecked. Unlike the General Assembly, the United Nations Security Council does not have true international representation. This has led to accusations that the UNSC only addresses the strategic interests and political motives of the permanent members. As Dieter Heinrich stated the UN has concentrated all the Legislative, Executive and Judicial powers to Security Council.


Another criticism of the Security Council involves the veto power of the five permanent members. As it stands, a veto from any of the permanent members can halt any possible action the Council may take. One country’s objection, rather than the opinions of a majority of countries, may cripple any possible UN armed or diplomatic response to a crisis.

Another significant factor is that the UN does not have any revenue of its own and separate peacekeeping forces. Therefore, it has to rely both financially and militarily on the support of member nations. And the truth is that the largest benefactors are the major powers who contribute largely in both areas. Thus, influencing and manipulating the system at their will.   


There is a need for radical changes to re-institutionalize and re-envisage the structure of the UN to equally provide an opportunity for the countries to participate in global affairs. There is a need to call for action and reform for the entire structure of the United Nations. The veto power should be expunged or new members must be joined in the security council. Well, it is easier said than done, the fact is that veto powers will not surrender their authority or welcome a new member country in the Security Council. Paul Martin, a celebrated Canadian politician suggested that along with nuclear powers in the security council, the non-nuclear member shall also be added to make proportion. Besides, the Muslim bloc also demanding the permanent seat in the security council as the Muslims countries represent the largest voting group which is 57 members in the UN general assembly and a population of 1.6 billion people around the globe. UN, since its inception mainly focused ostensibly on secondary goals while completely ignoring the primary call of peacemaking. There is a famous saying that the past cannot be changed but the future is yet in your power. There is plenty of time to restore the peace of the world. 

Mansoor Mumtaz

The writer is Former Student at Department of Political Science, University of Sindh, Jamshoro.

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