It’s time the UN got revamped
The main idea of setting up the United Nations was to ensure world peace, but events over the years have shown that it has failed that mandate, bullied and manipulated as it has been by bigger and stronger nations. The recent Russia-Ukraine war is a case in point. It is time the UN got revamped.
"There appears to be nobody to extinguish this fire of destruction of humanity. The world is looking at the United Nations, which was especially created for such a situation but it is helpless. It only indulges in discussion and debates but has no biting teeth to extinguish the flame of destruction."
On 24th February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Even after nine months, the war is still going on. Things are turning from bad to worse and even the use of nuclear weapons is being talked about. Not only people in Ukraine are being killed but people all over the world are getting affected. This war has disturbed the global supply-chain. Gas and oil supply has been deeply cut for Europe. They have virtually been weaponised to teach Europe a lesson as they have been supporting Ukraine. Sanctions are floating in the global market and as a result there is high inflation, and the world is even at the brink of recession. Many countries are also fuelling the fire of war by supplying weapons to both sides. There appears to be nobody to extinguish this fire of destruction of humanity. The world is looking at the United Nations, which was especially created for such a situation but it is helpless. It only indulges in discussion and debates but has no biting teeth to extinguish the flame of destruction.
Many a failure
The Russia-Ukraine war is not an isolated case where the UN appears to have failed. There are many examples of its failures and hardly any successes in situations of major flare ups. The world has not forgotten the attack by the United States of America (USA) on Iraq alleging the presence of weapons of mass destruction. Iraq was almost finished and its President Saddam Hussain was neutralised. The UN did not do anything to stop it. The terrorist attack of 9/11 when almost 5000 people were killed in the US will always remain too big to be forgotten. The UN remained a mute spectator. In retaliatory action, the US forces entered Afghanistan and remained there for many years. The UN remained silent.
Going back many years, China attacked our country in 1962 and captured 43,000 sq km of our area. The UN remained inactive. China captured Tibet and the UN did not break its silence. Today the world is suffering from terrorism and the UN is yet to give a definition of the word ‘terrorism’. It is a respectable body created by the global family of countries to maintain global peace. These facts, however, compel me to have a look at the UN. This column is a modest effort in that direction.
For peace and security
The UN is a highly respected governmental organisation, headquartered in New York, USA. It became operational on 24th October, 1945. Among its many activities, its main objective was to maintain peace and security. As per its Charter, the UN can achieve this by developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international co-operation and harmonising the operations of nations. As of today, it has 193 member countries, which amounts to almost the entire world.
A large canvas
The UN has an extensive network of institutions and entities. Central to the organisation are five principal organs: the General Assembly (UNGA), the Security Council (UNSC), the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the International Court of Justice (ICJ); and the UN Secretariat. The sixth organ, The Trusteeship Counsel, suspended its operations on 1st November 1994 upon the independence of Palau, the last remaining trustee territory. The ICJ is seated in Hague. Other principal organs are based in specialised agencies, which come under its broader system, and they are : Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), International Labour Organisation (ILO), International Maritime Organisation (IMO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), International Telecommunication Union (ITU), United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), World Trade Organisation (WTO), Universal Postal Union (UPO), World Bank Group (WBG) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). The UN also includes a myriad of autonomous, separately administered funds, programmes, research and training institutes and some subsidiary bodies.
"Among its many activities, UN’s main objective was to maintain peace and security. As per its Charter, the UN can achieve this by developing friendly relations among nations, achieving international co-operation and harmonising the operations of nations."
Mandated for peace
The UN today has a multi-dimensional role to play and its canvas is very big but it was historically created for maintaining peace in the world. During World War I, several leaders advocated the creation of a world body to guarantee peace. The winners of the war, the Allies, had the Paris Peace Conference and a global body was created which was named ‘The League of Nations’. It began its operation on 10th January, 1920, with the ratification of 42 countries which included four permanent members, the United Kingdom, France, Italy and Japan. The United States of America did not join it. However, it proved ineffective when Japan invaded Manchuria in 1933. Japan withdrew from it thereafter and it finally ended in 1939.
The next stage of efforts to have a sustainable world body continued from 1941 to 1945, when various conferences and meetings took place. The five big countries, the winners of the Second World War joined hands as permanent members. They were the US, UK, France, Soviet Union and the Republic of China. The UN was born on 24th October 1945 with 51 member nations to begin with. Permanent members had an all-powerful veto power. Memberships rapidly increased with more countries getting independence.
The UN does not have an army of its own. It depends upon member countries for voluntary deployments of security forces. These forces known as ‘Peace Keeping Forces’ have limited success in smaller altercations. There have been many occasions when peace-keeping forces were sent to the troubled spots. But the big trouble spots have been creations of powerful countries and the UN becomes a mute spectator except for various delegates in UNSC and UNGA. The veto power of the big five nullifies any resolution as all of them are never on the same side.
Despite its failure to prevent big flare ups in the world and guarantee global peace, it has worked well on various economic and social fronts. It has worked as a facilitator to resolve many such issues. The WHO has been working to curb epidemics and pandemics. Though there was criticism over the way it handled the Corona pandemic, as it was seen taking sides with China, yet it cannot be denied that it did make effort. Organisations like the UNESCO, World Bank, IMF have been seen to be very active in providing help. The environment is a very big issue today, and the UNEP is very active. The problem however, is not getting solved as rich countries have so far failed to give the required funds to poor countries for the necessary infrastructure.
The UN works on funding by member countries. Its budget for 2020 was $3.1 billion. Contributions only cover the running of the UN system, but for other identified purposes, separate funding is required.
Need to rejig
Overall, the UN is a good organisation, but its performance in the domain of establishing peace is not to our expectation, as it has no cutting teeth. The most powerful country usurps its role and becomes the ring leader of the world. What is needed is to reorganise the UN and strengthen it. The world today is not the same as the world of 1945. The permanent memberships of UNSC have to be revised or enlarged. India as a country has one fifth of the world population and it is not in the elite club. Barring US and China, India has higher GDP than the remaining permanent members. The immediate need is for India and other big and powerful countries to be incorporated as permanent members with veto power. India is one country which never in the history of the world has attacked any other country.
If reorganisation of permanent membership is not possible then the veto power of existing permanent members should be stopped. The big creators of the problems in the world have veto power which they use and make the UN helpless. The UN should have more teeth and for this purpose even the creation of some standing army with modern weapons should be considered.
It should further be ensured that countries like the US or such other big blocs do not declare orders like economic sanctions, applying the brakes on international trade. In the case of such a need, only the UN should have the powers do so. It should also be ensured that the UN remains neutral always and only then will its credibility increase.
The running costs of the UN should be reviewed so as to put a plug on unnecessary expenses. Rich countries control UN as they are the big donors to the UN. If running expenses of the UN are reduced, then the contributions from 193 members will suffice.
But the biggest problem is that the big countries which have veto power will not cooperate in the efforts to bring about change in the UN.