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The United Nations

The United Nations

Toothless, but still humanity’s last hope

United Nations (UN), established on 24 October 1945 after the Second World War, was the modified form of the dysfunctional League of Nations that was founded on 10 January 1920 to prevent wars through collective security and disarmament, settle international disputes through negotiation and arbitration, resolve the territorial, political and trade-related disputes through negotiation, dialogue and multilateral treaties and conventions. But, geostrategic compulsions, the Great Depression, reparations of brutal war unjustly inflicted upon Germany, meteoric rise of Adolf Hitler, militant nationalism and waves upon waves of political instability that swept across the world due to loosening noose of colonial powers over the vast swathes of Asia and Africa caused the collapse of the League of Nations. The repercussions of the failure of this mechanism of conflict resolution through peaceful means were terrifying, dreadful and devastating. With the loss of over 50 million people, utter destruction of infrastructure of the social amenities and threatening demographic imbalance, the world leaders moved ahead to forge a global political alliance rather than regional or bilateral ones and to devise multilateral diplomatic frameworks through which legal, political and financial and trade-related issues could be sorted out amicably.

In many ways, the United Nations has proved more effective in preventing another armed conflict reminiscent of the previous global wars. The inclusive and participatory decision-making; coercive powers in the form of international law, Security Council-backed economic and military sanctions and peacekeeping military missions helped the UN emerge as a somewhat reliable third party that can be approached in case the bilateral engagements between the countries failed to secure intended objectives. The achievements of the UN in the realms of human rights, disarmament, institutionalization of international law, nonproliferation, decolonization and collapse of apartheid regimes are remarkable and have earned laurels from both opponents and ardent supporters of the organization. Different UN agencies like UNICEF, UNDP, UNESCO, WHO and many others are playing critical role in the enactment of new social order. Since 1945, the UN has helped successfully signing of 172 settlements that ended regional conflicts. Although the Bretton Woods Institutions – the IMF and the World Bank – crippled the ability of the UN to play a leading role in global financial matters, it did help countries to achieve socioeconomic advancement by promoting peaceful coexistence and enhanced connectivity. Although the UN was established with the exclusive aim of defusing political tensions, it gradually increased its area of jurisdiction and helped the world community forge consensus on health, education, climate change, law and other nonpolitical issues.

Despite relative success in reducing instances of war as an instrument of conflict-resolution, the UN failed on many occasions in preventing the flagrant breach of international law, the UN Charter and principle of peaceful coexistence that have resulted into loss of millions of innocent lives. The Srebrenica massacre of 1995 (Bosnian War), the recognition of Khmer Rouge regime out of political considerations, the criminal indifference during the Darfur crisis that caused the death of 300,000 Sudanese civilians, the Rwandan genocide that caused the extermination of more than one million people, the inability to implement its resolutions regarding the right of self-determination promised to the people of Palestine and Kashmir, particularly the recent worst abuse of state power amounting to the level of Crimes against Humanity committed by Indian and Israeli governments to suppress the legitimate demonstrations speak volumes about the failure of the UN to act decisively even in the areas under its jurisdiction: the resolution of disputes through peaceful means and enforcement of UN Declaration of Human Rights.

The dawn of the twenty-first century witnessed catastrophic failure of the UN which expedited the downfall of rules-based economic and political world order. It is extremely pertinent to unearth the underlying causes and factors that are undermining the ability of the United Nations to act decisively.

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About Aftab H. Wahla

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