Ineffectual UN

The founding fathers of the UN felt that the most effective method of achieving the UN’s tasks was through a system of collective security, which meant empowerment of the UN to use force against any country that pursued an objective amounting to aggression into the domain of another country.

Ineffectual UN

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Regulation of armaments, pacific settlement of disputes, renunciation of “force”, collective security and generation of an atmosphere propitious for peace ~ are the principal peace avenues under the UN Charter. The constitutional scheme of the UN was built upon three political assumptions. First, the Big Powers, acting in unison, would deal with any threat to peace and security regardless of its source. Second, their combined wisdom and strength would be sufficient to meet all such threats without resorting to war. Third, no such threat would emanate from one of the Big Powers themselves. These assumptions have hardly stood the test of experience. 

It has been found that the Big Powers, especially the two superpowers, have not been able to act in unison when their divergent interests are at stake. And the main threat to the peace and security of the world emanates from Big Powers themselves. Thus, the constitutional scheme of the Charter has been defied by the political reality of the post-war world. 

The contrast between constitutional intentions and political reality has transformed the UN into something different from what it was intended to be. It is indeed a sad reflection that this mammoth conglomeration of nations has been a toothless tiger in the face of a predictable outbreak of wars and, worse, has been unable to do justice to its Charter. 


The League of Nations was dissolved because of its singular failure to prevent wars. At the time of its formation, the UN’s prime responsibility was defined as establishing a lasting methodology of peace and security, capable of meeting envisaged stresses and strains that were bound to erupt in the world in the course of clashes between people with diverse interests. 

The founding fathers of the UN felt that the most effective method of achieving the UN’s tasks was through a system of collective security, which meant empowerment of the UN to use force against any country that pursued an objective amounting to aggression into the domain of another country. The drawback was the huge hiatus be- tween the UN’s written directive and its actual implementation emanating mainly from the fact that the will of the UN is nothing more than the collective will of its individual members. 

It has been observed that by the time an UN-mandated force got deployed, the damage done in the interim period had become irreparable. An example in point is the Balkans. First Bosnia, then Kosovo witnessed an organised pogrom against ethnic Albanians akin to a mini holocaust with two superpowers ~ both UN members incidentally ~ pulling in opposite directions over the issue. The UN finally managed to cobble up an international force whose contribution to tackling the conflict was negligible. It could not undo the destruction of life and property that had already taken place. Also, there are examples in Africa, Latin America and Asia where little more than lip service was done to interpret the UN’s defined responsibility. In two instances ~ Russia’s aggression into Afghanistan and the US’s invasion of Iraq ~ the UN was conveniently bypassed by Moscow and Washington respectively. 

Admittedly, in the case of wars, the UN may mobilize the principle of collective security. In this respect, there may be two types of roles which fall on the UN. One is of peacekeeping and the other is of peacemaking. Peacekeeping means the maintenance of a ceasefire agreed upon by the two sides in an armed conflict. 

The former Secretary-General, Dag Hammarskjold, realized that the UN is a world organization and not a World Government. The UN cannot enforce peace by itself but by placing the UN force of peacekeepers between the warring parties, it can maintain a ceasefire. 

This type of action was first tried in 1956 between Israel and Egypt. By the end of the cold war, a good number of such peacekeeping actions were under the care of the UN. However, peacemaking is a more difficult exercise ~ meaning the restoration of peace which has been violated. The UN was, of course, successful in the Korean War in 1950-53, but it miserably failed to halt fighting in the former Belgian Congo in 1960-64. The UN’s performance in Somalia and in Bosnia, however, showed it up in lurid light. The UN never realised that the Somalis had always exhibited a tradition of anarchy or a lack of central political rule. The UN’s failure to achieve peace in Somalia by political diktat or by deploying the UN blue helmets had badly shaken the UN authority’s confidence and capability. Similarly, in Bosnia, the UN peacemaking efforts were infructuous. Neither the UN blockade resolutions nor the intervention of NATO forces as the UN’s executive military 

agent met with any success. For peacekeeping and peacemaking, certain distinct lessons have emerged for the UN to take note of. It is clear that the use of force, whether to enforce a blockade or damage the military power of an aggressor or occupy territory requires coherent action. The UN cannot exercise command of UN forces in a situation of war on the ground. The UN forces consist of contributory military units of various countries and are, thus, a miscellaneous contingent where each entertains its own concepts for enforcing peace In its task of peacekeeping and peacemaking, the UN should elicit the help of regional countries which have a clear grasp of the problems around them. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in the early nineteen nineties, proved that a regional force can be more successful than a UN force. The same applied to Somalia where after the forced retreat of UN forces, regional countries performed better to resolve the problem. 

The UN should focus more intensely on the provisions in Chapter VI of the Charter which demand that a conflict should be resolved peacefully by the rapid development of all possible formulas. Instead, the UN tends to lean on Chapter VII whose emphasis on peace enforcement including the use of force has attenuated the positive forces for securing peace. 

Since 1946, the UN has created several agencies like UNESCO, UNICEF etc. concerned with raising minimum standards of well-being among the millions living in poor countries. These agencies present a labyrinth stretched from New York and Geneva to Paris and Nairobi. Such proliferation of tasks which are not a part of the UN Charter lead to its deviation from its primary aim, that is, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”. 

On 26 June 1945, when President Harry Truman of the US arrived in San Francis- co to sign the UN Charter, he observed jubilantly, “You have created a great instrument for peace. Oh, what a great day this can be in history.” Unfortunately, after nearly 77 years, it has not been able to prove to be an unqualified “great day in his- tory”. The horror that Ukraine is experiencing today reminds one of the horrors that Madrid experienced decades ago. A hapless UN stands by as a spectator as one superpower is going on a destructive spree in Ukraine. 

It is high time the international community enforced an annulment of the prevailing Russia versus Nato game plan that has contributed to major global pockets of destabilization and imbalance. A strong and unwavering UN can become a countercheck to the expanding scourge of destruction. 

This scourge has surfaced due to partisan and derogatory foreign policies of major superpowers. A rejuvenated UN would be able to curtail such policies and oversee the reconciliation of global issues through the civilized techniques of negotiations.