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The United Nations And The International Order

The United Nations And The International Order

By Syed Atiq ul Hassan, Sydney, Australia
8 March 2007

The unbearable loss caused by World War II compelled the international community to dissolve the ineffective League of Nations and create another international platform to prevent global conflicts, maintain peace and security and uphold the justice and respect of international treaties and laws.

Hence, the United Nations (UN) was established. Yet, the supremacy of the superpowers still continues with their Veto power in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). A resolution on any global issue cannot be passed in the UNSC if it doesn’t suit one of the big five countries (China, France, Russia, UK and USA).

Undoubtedly, since its creation the United Nations and its affiliated bodies have delivered many benefits in humanitarian, economical and social development areas and it has also acted adequately in times of natural or man-made disasters.

The UN has helped in bringing peace and democracy to some parts of the world. For example, it has played a vital role in delivering peace to Guatemala and Mozambique and has promoted democracy in Nicaragua and Cambodia. However, the UN has failed to resolve many long standing geo-political disputes between nations, like Palestine and Israel dispute and the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir.

The UN has been found incapable of committing all nations, strong or weak, to treating other nations equally and fairly. Technologically, militarily or economically strong nations enjoy dominance both within the jurisdiction of the UN and without, while weak nations consider superpowers as threat.

The superpowers have created a fear of suppression among weak nations which has encouraged them to build dangerous weapons of mass destruction. As long as the threat of wars and terrorism continues peace and stability around the world is unlikely. The imbalance of power between nations creates conflicts of interest. These conflicts provoke wars. The torment of wars in turn creates terrorists.

The United Nations Charter says: “All the members of United Nations shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means and war can be used but only as a last resort and only under the direction of the UN Security Council”.

Russian President Mr Vladimir Putin, addressed the participants of a security conference held last month in Munich, and said that the use of force could never be more than a last resort in politics and needed to be legitimised by UN resolutions. But, history tells us that Russia violated international boundaries and invaded its neighbours.

Similarly, the unilateral actions of United States in recent times have sabotaged the respect and value of the UN.

Militarily weak countries are found disregarding international rules and regulations and equip themselves with modern day technological power and weapons of mass destruction - Pakistan, Iran, North Korea are the perfect examples.

Addressing a closed-door meeting of the General Assembly last month the newly elected Secretary General of United Nations, Mr Kim-moon Ban, stressed the need for restructuring to enhance UN efforts aimed at overcoming many global issues. He especially highlighted vital areas such as increasing terrorism, violence, poverty and climate change.

According to Mr Ban, the new plans are to split the current Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) into a Department of Peace Operations and a Department of Field Support, both of which will be headed by an Under-Secretary-General. The new Department of Peace Operations would consolidate all factors dealing with strategy, planning and deployment while the Department of Field Support would take on the responsibility of the current “impossibly overstretched” management.

One should appreciate the constructive and logical approach of 62-year-old Mr Ban who is well known in Korea as a man of commitment and vision. However, the restructuring of existing departments and operational sectors is not enough and may not help to make the UN an influential organisation for every member nation.

The world has changed a lot in the last few decades. The needs, demands and issues have changed. Terrorism and climate change are two vital issues the world is currently facing. Another important global issue is the disarmament of dangerous weapons. Mr Ban should also work closely with the UNSC permanent members to formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments with a view to achieving UN-controlled “general and complete disarmament”.

The support, help and contribution of every nation is needed to deal with these issues. The superpowers must treat every other nation equally in order to grapple with global issues.

In this changing world, when we are facing problems of global dimension like terrorism and climate change, the world community needs to deal with the interests of the whole world rather than the interests of individual powers and their allies.

Therefore, the structure of the UN, especially the Security Council, needs to be changed so that it treats all nations equally and provides every nation - strong or weak - with the same kind of value, respect and confidence and draws the member states together.

If Mr Ban wants to make the UN an organisation that represents every member state, and that global issues will be resolved only through this global platform, then he will need to fight for major reform including the restructuring.

At present, there is gap between the General Assembly and the Security Council. Many member countries of the UN General Assembly feel they have no voice in the UN. Therefore, the reform package could be a bid for establishing a Second Assembly - a new principal organ under Article 7 of the UN Charter that would be directly accountable to the electorate states.

Prior to issues being submitted to Security Council they must be addressed in this lower house. The lower house would have major representation for all the regions. The Security Council should then only deal with the matters which are approved in the lower house. This will provide confidence and faith to the countries of all the regions.

The present composition of the five permanent members of the Security Council is not in accordance with the conditions stipulated in the United Nations Charter, i.e. the principles of equal rights (Article 1, No 2), sovereign equality (Article 2, No 1) and equitable geographical representation (Article 23, No 1). In the present set-up of the Security Council, the big powers holding the veto look first to their own interests followed by the interests of the rest.

The composition of the permanent members of the UNSC was not considered to be long-term at the time of the foundation of the UN.

At present, the two important regions of the world, Africa and Latin America have no representation in the UNSC as permanent members. Similarly, a strong Muslim participation is also needed especially to assist with growing terrorists activities originating from the Islamic world. Representation of the European Union would also be very productive to deal with issues like climate change.

Africa, the Group of Arab States, Japan as the most advanced Asian country and a top-financial contributor to the UN budget, India with the world’s 2nd largest population and the fastest growing nation in South Asia should also be considered for permanent representation in Security Council.

New permanent or semi-permanent members could forego the veto right, not with a view to eventually abolishing the veto altogether, but to keep the number small. The UNSC must now represent all the regions of the world.


(The writer is a Sydney-based Journalist, Media Analyst and Foreign Correspondent).

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