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The United Nations is an international organization that unites more than 150 states that was formed immediately after the world witnessed the 2nd world war which was too horrific presenting a need for a body that could unite the whole world and another war and correct the past mistakes that led to the war (Henckaerts 305). According to Williamson the existence of the United Nations is based on a 111 article charter commonly known as the U.N. charter that was signed in San Francisco on 26th June 1945 (Williamson 100).
The charter laid out the most important functions of the UN to be maintenance of international peace, elimination of threats to peace and prevention of threats to international peace (Williamson 100). Today 65 years after the historic signing of the UN charter it is quite evident that the UN has not lived to the aspirations of its founders. Many conflicts that have occurred in the post world war could have been prevented or contained by the U.N. this paper aims to evaluate the failures of the U.N in conflict management. This would be done by re- examining some of the international conflicts and also propose what the UN could have done in order to manage and prevent them.
The charter of the United Nations
The charter which came into effect on 24 October 1945 spells the functions of the United Nations as maintenance of international peace and security, development of good diplomatic ties among nations and achievement of International Corporation in finding solutions to international problems (UN charter). Consequently its founder members committed themselves to prevention of war which had brought untold human suffering, upholding of human rights, promotion of international justice and bettering the economic and social standards of living for all mankind.
Kille summarizes the charter into what he calls the principles and purposes of the UN (Kille 49). According to him the purposes of the United Nations are to ensure sovereignty and political independence of all states, promotion of equal rights and peaceful settlement disputes without use of force.
In order to achieve these aspirations the United Nations founders laid set the framework for the operations of the United Nations as laid out in the rest of the charter. One would ask if all these aspirations have been achieved by the international body several years later. Although it has been successful so far in preventing another r world war several conflicts between nations have occurred right under its watch and the general feeling is that it could have done more.
Schnabel, A. (2003), states that in order for conflict prevention to be successful one must learn from past successes as well as failures (Schnabel, A., p. 16). They further add the three main reasons for failure of the conflict prevention as stated by the former United Nations secretary Kofi Annan. He cited the lack of will by both or one of the parties in conflict to accept interventions by a 3rd party as the greatest stumbling block. Others include the abcence of political will by the international community and the absence of visible conflict prevention strategies within the United Nations and internationally.
From this it is quite clear that the United Nations has failed in prevention of several conflicts that it could have handled very well considering the tools it has. Take for instance the Rwandan conflict where the UN failed greatly. According to Kille, the Rwandan genocide and the Bosnian massacre of 1995 occurred because of lack of ethics in the UN leadership (Kille 291). He further adds that the genesis of the genocide in Rwanda was tensions between the main communities there, Hutu and Tutsi. The Hutu claimed superiority over the Tutsi although originally it was the Tutsi who were crowned political heads by the colonial administrators.
Kille further adds that these tensions escalated as each side had political extremists who wanted to further their own interests leading to an agreement in 1993 that was facilitated by the United Nations and as part of the agreement a small number of peace keepers were sent to the country. This was a good move by the UN but as events that follow show how the UN lost the opportunity to prevent the genocide.
Apparently when the leader of the peace keeping mission sent a telegram to the UN in January 1994 showing his fear of an approaching genocide, the message never reached the Security Council courtesy of the bureaucratic processes in the UN although this was an urgent call that deserved attention from the body. shortly afterwards a plane carrying the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi was shot down leading to a100 day long massacre of innocent civilians by the extremists in which more than half a million people lost their lives.
This is a clear example of how the UN failed to act when it should have. For instance if the Security Council had gotten notified of the impending genocide, several lives could have been saved. More so preventive measures like sending in of more troops to prevent the genocide could have been sent to the area. Even after the killing started, the UN could not effectively lobby for additional troop s from its members and the major powers took a back seat and watched the unfolding drama only concentrating on evacuating their citizens while leaving the Rwandese in the hands of killers. Kofi Annan himself accepted that the U.N. failed the world in the genocide when they could have done more (Thakur 335).
Being that the UN was established to stabilize international relations and to promote peace especially after the adversaries that were experienced after wars, much have been achieved with regard to human rights, global security and economic development. Now with concentration on the three areas, it is evident that the aspirations which were the main basis for the pioneering of the international organization.
The image of UN peace-keepers have been common as part of the most viable role of the global organization regarding its efforts to ascertain congruency in human rights issues. The organization has been effective in addressing a vast array of issues associated with the wellbeing of humans and their lives all over the world. Taylor, P. & Groom, A. J.R. (2000), notes that there have been initiated programs to help in supporting child survival and development, environmental protection, management and conservation, health and medical concerns and poverty alleviation, all of which touch on the pertinent aspects circulating around human rights issues, with many other areas. Since its establishment, the United Nations has attained accomplishments regarding human rights, some of which are discussed below.
Peace and security have been maintained and enhanced by deployment of peace-keeping troops and observation teams to a number of conflict stricken nations. Following this, the UN has been able to restore peace and saved lives of many people who would have otherwise been rendered permanent casualties of violence. Mehta, V. (2005), observed that UN has received credit following its successful efforts to initiate peaceful settlements in varied regions all over the globe that had been in dire conflicts for example “the end on Iran-Iraq war, the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, and an end to the civil war in El Salvador. The United Nations has used quiet diplomacy to avert imminent wars,” (Mehta, V. 2005, p. 4).
On a similar note, UN has been in the forefront in promotion of democracy thereby enabling many people enjoy freely and fairly conducted elections like for the ones which had been carried out in Namibia, Eritrea, El Salvador, Cambodia, Mozambique, Kosovo, South Africa and East Timor, (Mehta, V. 2005, p. 5), while at the same time given assistance, electoral advice along with monitoring electoral results and assessing the electoral processes.
Still on human rights issues, the United Nations have been in the forefront in promotion of human rights through embracing in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Through this, UN has ensured that endorsement of a number of comprehensive accords, especially related to political, economic, socio-cultural and civil rights, (Karns, M. & Mingst, K. 2004). This has been achieved through consideration of individual concerns of human rights such as abuses and torture cases along with human trafficking and unjustified detentions as consented on by a number of governments around the globe so as to enhance human rights. Besides, the UN has promoted independence and self determination by facilitating attainment of independence in a number of nations which are currently its members.
UN has helped strengthen and empower international enforcement of laws by facilitating formulation of different treaties and conventions that address pertinent issues on human rights, (Roberts, A. & Kingsbury, B. (1993). In addition to this, it has monitored and ascertained that international disputes are justified upon settling the matters surrounding them by giving directions on transparent judgment procedures to assist end these disputes and to calm down interferences on international affairs.
Another area on human rights issues in which the UN has made a greater achievement is in concern of the ending of apartheid in South Africa whereby it imposed measures, UN being a major influence in finishing the system of apartheid as the apartheid system was totally against humanity. This led to the participation of the Africans to start taking full role in the election processes without segregation from the whites and furthermore yielding into the formation of a government in which the majority belonged. To a number of refugees fleeing from conflicts, persecution as well as food insecurity, the UN has always made sure that humanitarian aid is provided to them through the coordination of its agency, the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), (Archer, C. 2001, p. 89). Through this agency, the UN has been able to give provide food, medical attention, education, food and even repatriation aids to millions of refugees, most of whom are children and women.
Mehta, V. (2005), confirms that since 1950, that “the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) has sustained four generations of Palestinians with free schooling, essential health care, relief assistance and key social services virtually without interruption. There are 2.9 million refugees in the Middle East served by UNRWA.” Along with that, the UN through International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has been giving credit to the poor and marginalized communities, thereby assisting millions of beneficiaries in hundreds of developing nations across the entire globe.
During its existence for now 65 years, the United Nations has been satisfactory to the aspirations of its pioneers on the case of global security through its operations in peacekeeping in different regions all over the world. Many countries have been rebuilt following the efforts of the United Nations, especially after being adversely stricken by wars. The UN has been in the forefront maintaining orderliness along with peace, security and calm.
Although the international organization has been in occasions failing like for the cases where it has given resolutions which it never had any viable intent to fulfill, Mehta clarifies that “the UN at its best is only mirror of the world. It reflects divisions and disagreements as well hopes and convictions. Some times it only muddles through. (Mehta, V. 2005, p. 23).
The UN has promoted and maintained peace all over the world which has been alienated to increased challenges and threats. Many operations have been accomplished by the organization in disarmament for arsenal destructions and controls, as well as carrying out peace keeping initiatives and preventing of conflicts all of which are encompassed within its charter as part of its mandate. Malone, D. (2004), observes that these initiatives have been accomplished through the UN’s agencies for instance, The International Atomic Agency (IAEA), UN peace keeping operations, General Assembly, University of Peace and the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), Office of Disarmament affairs (First Committee and Commission) and Security Council.
With the agencies, the UN has been able to formulate principles to help govern treaties for disarmament and revision on international peace and security regulations to suit the operations on the same. For instance, Berdal, M. & Economides, S. (2007), has it that one of the treaties for which the UN has achieved success are on “the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons 1968 (NPT), Anti-Personnel Landmine treaty 1997, the chemical weapons convention 1992, Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty 1996 and many multilateral and bilateral agreements including creation of nuclear weapon free zones (Latin America, Caribbean, and Africa,” according to Mehta, V. (2005, p. 25). Apart from these, the UN plays prominence in ensuring that application of atomic energy is serene and that no proliferation in the adoption of nuclear weapons by putting in place verification and inspection measures for the same.
The UN has also enhanced the security status of the world by encouraging an approach that is multilaterally designed thereby seeking collaboration amongst different nations and the involvement of nations in using United Nations’ suggested systems in dispute resolutions instead of sticking to unilateral solutions. Apart from this, the UN has been able to formulate a framework to help realize peace with reflection on injustices, discrimination and refutation on the efforts aimed at making up for universal terrorism threats.
Besides, the UN has been able to handle pertinent issues and challenges that derail the culture of peace and political instability. It has also formed collaborative approaches to help eliminate the global war threats
On economic development, the United Nations has made remarkable contribution to the developing countries with the African nations being the highest in its prioritization, (Taylor, P. & Curtis, D. 1958, p. 328). It has effected support for a number of nations’ economic revitalization as well as development in addition, it has ensured that all the commitments of the entire world are adhered to and the challenges that face it on the basis of economy are counteracted. Furthermore, many investors and entrepreneurs have been aided with funds from the UN to assist them acquire better enterprises. With UN, several projects have been accomplished therefore earning a number of nations millions of foreign exchange.
In the developing countries, the UN has also been involved fully in the promotion of investment by promoting entrepreneurship innovations and developments, economic independence, industrial collaborations, technological transmission as well as cost-effectiveness in the industrial sectors all over the world through United Nations Industrial Organization (UNIDO). Consequently, there have been adjustments in economic regulations to fit into the social requirements, (Claude, I. L. Jr. 1971, 1984). In fact, the UN has accentuated the need to adopt human needs in defining how to restructure the economic policies in a way that can accommodate the needs of the poor thereby safeguarding their needs as well.
Still on the same note, the UN has engaged in the protection of consumers’ health by ascertaining the safety of the foodstuff which they purchase and by putting in place standards to manage safety status of healthcare products. There have also been attained, trade systems for the developing world which enables them export their commodities to the developed countries. Agreements have also been made to make sure pricing is fair for the sake of the developing nations. Dodds, F. (1997), notes that it has also assisted several countries in enhancing their economies, giving training for officials in governments and giving financial aids, with collaboration of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. In addition to these, the UN has achieved much in the promotion of workers’ rights through the International Labor Organization (ILO) by pushing for workers; freedom and liberty as Donnelly, J., observes:
“To association, the right to organize, collective bargaining, the rights of indigenous and tribal peoples, promote employment and equal remuneration and has sought to eliminate discrimination and child labor. And by setting safety standards, ILO has helped reduce the toll of work-related accidents,” (Donnelly, J. 1999. p. 99).
The United Nations has also played a significant role in protecting intellectual rights on property for those with original inventions, while also maintaining a register of millions of trademarks. Moreover, it does protect the efforts of authors, artists as well as composers and writers as this enforces their property rights and offer them more opportunities to have their achievements disseminated in a justified manner.
On to conclusion, the United Nations has been successful in achieving numerous aspirations as per its charter as demonstrated in the discussion. Even though at times it has faced a number of challenges, the powers accorded the UN have been a boost to the international organization in realizing several better outcomes and with the phase of globalization in place, the UN still have with it more powers towards attaining more results being that its operations are transparent, (Dodds, F. 1997). And with its diversified stretch in handling almost all the pertinent issues that affect the international community as a whole, the UN has a great potential to curb the many adversaries that are now vices globally.
Through reforms, the organization is well assured of staying stable and keeping it away from any damage to its reputations as the United Nations has a strong advocacy that shares its vision of development and bettering the human face under all circumstances, (Archer, C. 2001, p. 76). This is assured following its collective responsibility in rolling out its objectives across all its affiliate agencies therefore ascertaining protection of human rights, global security and development of the global economic status. This is strength to the organization as well.