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Citizen Voices

Is A Practically Defunct UN Really Necessary To The World

Pervasive armed conflicts around the globe pose severe challenges to peace and security. One of the chief driving forces behind most conflicts is the economic interests of a few actors. For instance, the crisis in Yemen has pulled numerous countries in the region into the conflict, while the resulting humanitarian crisis has been escalated by the external financial support to the indigenous conflicting parties.  Apart from armed conflicts, climate change, economic inequality, water scarcity, food insecurity and gender inequality are other issues that have emerged as a growing threat to global peace and security.

The most important purposes behind the establishment of the United Nations were the maintenance of peace, contemplation over state to state affairs, protecting future generations from the ills of war, and deterrence. But it is increasingly clear in light of all the present-day conflicts – be it the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the Nagorona-Karabakh war, Boko Haram’s atrocities, or the plight of Palestinians, Kashmiris or the Rohingya – that the UN has completely failed as an effective organisation to influence the global status quo. This is a cause of great alarm for everyone.

The UN has failed in the key purposes for which it initially came into existence. It portrays more of a monopoly structure, that is run by the five permanent member countries in the UNSC. These countries hold ultimate power by exercising their right to veto when deciding the fate of the rest of the world. It seems that the world may even have run much better without the formal existence of the UN, seeing as the UN only intervenes in conflicts in which one of the Big Five (the countries with the veto power) has vested interests. So for the rest of the world and its on-going conflicts, the picture is pretty much the same, with or without the United Nations. For instance, in the case of the Syrian conflict, the UN could have exercised its power of discretion and easily demanded a ceasefire in Syria by imposing strict sanctions on anyone breaching it but the lack of will overshadowed the main objective of the UN which is to administer global peace.

Today’s armed conflicts and other various situations involving violence, especially the humanitarian crisis of Syria, Yemen, Azerbaijan and Armenia, have somehow redefined the idea of peace and security in the twenty-first century. In the present status quo, we do not only come across the quantitative but also the qualitative aspect of threats to international peace and security. The quantitative aspect of peace portrays no killings, no use of conventional means of war, and the absence of armed conflict and crime, while the qualitative aspect incorporates the perceptions and values of leading a peaceful and contented life. The qualitative aspect of peace is related to the idea of ensuring human security while the quantitative aspect only includes the maintenance of state security.

Similarly, when it comes to administer and reaffirm fundamental human rights, the UN has not been able to live up to its guiding principles. We see the infringement of human rights on daily basis in Kashmir, in the US with specific reference to the Black population, in the case of Syrian refugees, in the Rohingya crisis and in Yemen, but no major steps have been taken by the UN, the major custodian of human rights. So that leads us to believe that the UN is biased when it comes to taking action against the violation of human rights. Again, the failure in the proper functioning of the UN lies in its structure, making it more of a hegemony than an institution to maintain peace and order in the world. Often, when important decisions regarding a country’s fate are to be decided, the stakeholders aren’t included in the decision panel. This is indefensible. It is their basic right to be included in the decision-making procedure so that they could raise their apprehensions and bring their solutions to the problem on the table.

This implies that it is high time for the international humanitarian system to undergo a policy shift for combating the changing dynamics of conflicts and humanitarian crisis that has posed a threatening challenge to peace and security. The new policy has to adapt to the changing realities of warfare. The changing nature of conflict means rethinking our approaches – which need to be coherent, coordinated and context-specific. The absence of the UN would not make a major difference with reference to the administration of peace and conflict since its presence is also not making any difference in the world. The decision-makers are the five big powers, while the rest of the member countries sitting in the UN and debating on various issues are nothing but dummy representatives to cover the hegemony of decisions taken. Is the UN just a talk shop?

Finally, one of the chief purposes of weaker countries joining the UN was to make sure that if a comparatively stronger country threatened a weaker country, the rest of the international community would not be indifferent and would take some effective action. However, what we have observed in the past is completely opposite to this expectation – the US invasion of Iraq and the war in Afghanistan being just two examples. Even the states being the members of the UN couldn’t stop the foreign invasion and couldn’t gather support from other member states, so what is the point of having UN when the issues can’t be resolved peacefully through dialogues? In fact, in the absence of the UN, the world could have come up with an alternative to the UN with a better structure having power equally distributed across all the countries. One wonders: Is the UN really necessary or could the world have gone on without it?

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  1. Annie November 19, 2020

    Finally a very good piece of writing on UN. Goodluck!

  2. Mahroosa November 21, 2020



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