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Nothing To Write Home About The UN

Millennium’s crudest joke came from the Norwegian Nobel Committee in the form of an award. As the US Stealth Bombers pounded Kabul and Kandahar, the Nobel Committee rushed in to award world’s most prestigious prize, the Nobel Peace prize to UN and its Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

The prize was given for working for a better-organized and more peaceful world in tackling challenges from poverty to terrorism. The irony is that the peace prize came at a time when the role of UN as a global peacekeeper has been decimated and the world body has turned into a mute spectator.

The balance of power prevalent after World War II has been radically transformed with the end of the cold war. But the United Nations continues to reflect the immediate post-war political realities. Its Security Council has five permanent members who exercise the veto power. Of the five, US, Russia, France and UK have been the founder members of the council. China was included many years later. The inclusion of the first four is easily explained, as they were the victors in World War 11.

The incorporation of China was recognition of a changing world and of China’s emergence as a major player in global politics. But profound changes have occurred, since then in the global scenario. UK no longer is a world power. It depends everything from foreign policy to economies on US. Russia is nowhere in the scene. Two countries, Germany and Japan, who we’re on the losing side in the war emerged as key players. America becomes the undisputed- super power.

The United Nations fails to mirror this shift in world affairs. The role of the UN seems to have been overshadowed by economic and military might of the US and often the UN portrays itself as a mouthpiece of USA. Today, the UNO has been reduced to a world body engaging only in passing resolutions and holding expensive conferences. When it was formed in 1945, its primary objective was to ensure world peace. The question on the success of the UN needs certain, amount of introspection and retrospection.

A trip down the memory lane reveals a grim picture of UN in peace efforts. The marathon war between Iran and Iraq proved to be an acid test for UN. The then Secretary-General, Javier Perez De Cuellar went on a four day UN peace mission to the two warring nations. Cuellar had undertaken the trip in an attempt to secure compliance by Iraq for July 20 1987 UN Security Council resolution number 598. The UN failed to make any breakthrough to break the deadlock.

In the ongoing decades old Palestine-Israel, conflict, the UN took a tough stand in taking Israel to task for gross violation of human rights in occupied territories. But UN policy suffered a setback when America vetoed on February 2, 1988 a resolution on the occupied territories. The vote was 14 to 1, which showed that while the international community favored, action against Israel, the US did not.

Besides, there have been many significant failures of UN in Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia. The UN was helpless then US, Britain and France supported South Africa Government in the Namibian crisis. In Rwanda and Angola, UN became a silent spectator rather than preventer of brutality. During the Gulf war, it only provided a pinch of legitimacy to the US military actions.

The UN has been conspicuously absent in, the Mideast imbroglio. Even in the ongoing US military operations in Afghanistan, the UN prefers to stay backstage except issuing sore notes on the dead of four of its workers. For an effective solutions to inter-State and intra-State conflicts, the idea of a permanent UN armed forces has been mooted several times. As the UN Secretary-General, has repeatedly pointed out, if the UN is to be an important force for peace in the post cold war years, the member States must be more willing to provide money and armed forces to enable the world body to undertake important new roles in pursuance of peace.

But numerous factors have come as a stumbling block to this idea. In some peacekeeping operations, the moral behavior of the peacekeepers became questionable as it was in the case of Somalia. Peacekeepers themselves became killers. Their experience was rather sad and discouraging. Added to this, was the disapproval of many nations, including India on preventive, deployment of UN peacekeeping forces on request from one State.

But the most important objection against the proposal of a permanent UN force is financial. We may recall that the US which had been the biggest contributor of UN funds (one-fourth of the UN’s then annual budget of 825 million dollars) threatened to cut its share from 210 million dollars to 100 million dollars in 1987.

Another proof of this problem was the exercise of the veto in Security Council on 11 May 1993 by Russia for the first time in the post cold war period. The veto blocked a Minor British resolution aimed at restricting the financing of the UN peacekeeping operations in Cyprus. Russia was in serious economic difficulties and even a contribution of 2 million dollars, which Britain sought from Russia, was described as too much. Likewise financial conditions of other third world countries are in a deplorable state too. This crippled many UN peace operations. Today, the domination of UN by US is somewhat total and a layman will find hard to distinguish between UN and US. This synonymity has provoked many nations.

On November 12, 1996, the US suffered a decisive defeat in the UN when the General Assembly asked it to end the tough unilateral economic sanctions against Cuba. The anger against Washington was visible as 137 members voted in favor of the resolution. Some countries voted for the resolution because they were annoyed over Washington’s attempt to impose its own laws on them. Among them were the remaining four permanent members of Security Council. Apparently, the Helms-Burton Act, which aimed at penalizing foreign firms trading with Cuba, provoked most countries to adopt the anti-US stance.

The United Nations should be the only source of legitimacy a global military action can command. If certain developments, like US operations against Iraq, Taliban or French intervention in Rwanda are allowed to continue unabated, the blue flag of the UN will become recognized as a fig leaf for military activities of any power which can muster a Security Council vote.

In the present, Afghan context, while the UN distances itself from the trouble terrain, President Bush has poignantly exhibited its diplomatic finesse. He has transformed America’s war to global war on terrorism. The United Nations has so far succeeded in averting a third world war but intra-State, conflicts continue to plague the globe.

The UN should wake up to its international responsibilities and restructure itself to become a responsible world body free from the shackles of super power’s hegemony. When Kofi Annan heard the news of Nobel Peace prize being conferred oar him and UN, he admitted that it was a great encouragement. Indeed Annan, the world expects the UN to be the sole body of all nations and work for everlasting peace in a world determined by Bin, Bush and Blair.

*The article is written by Jatra Mairembam.

(Courtesy: The Sangai Express)

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