ISSN 2330-717X

Myanmar Unrest And Tibetan Crisis: Urgent Need To Reform United Nations – OpEd


It is now around seven decades since the United Nations was founded after the WWII in 1945 with much expectation and declarations of lofty goals to establish and guarantee a peaceful world. Nevertheless, since then, there have been many criticisms about the functioning style of the UN and its counter-productive internal structure, that has disappointed a cross section of discerning thinkers around the world. Many people are of the view that it is necessary to restructure the UN and redefine its powers to make it a powerful and meaningful entity. But, it appears that such changes for the better with regard to structure and powers of the UN to make it a more purposeful and meaningful organization is unlikely in the foreseeable future, considering the ground realities.

Of course, one has to take a holistic view of the overall performance of UN during the last several decades

There are several functioning divisions in UN such as UNICEF, UNIDO, FAO, WHO, UNHRC,  etc., which have all turned out reasonably good performances over the years. However, it should be noted that these divisions essentially have the role of functioning as “administrative bodies” and perhaps as divisions bringing out well researched reports and recommendations from time to time on various issues. These divisions have also been involved in distribution of funds to needy nations and providing them technical and educational  support in implementing social welfare programs. This is good as far as it goes.

Suspected partisan role of WHO

Amongst these divisions, WHO has recently got into avoidable controversies by giving an impression of not dealing with the COVID 19 crisis in an objective manner, but with what some people term as an “political angle showing undue favor, to one nation namely China.” By allowing such a view to prevail, WHO has tarnished its image to some extent. It will take a long time for WHO to redeem its image as a fair and neutral body.

Sadly, the UN as a body has expressed no view on this damaged image of WHO.

Controversial role UNHRC

In the same way, the UNHRC has also been often criticized for commenting about human rights violations in some regions and ignoring human rights violations in other regions and not taking a holistic view of the issues involved.

Again, the UN as a body has not taken any note of such criticism against the UNHRC.

Failure to achieve primary objective

While several divisions have been created in the UN for various proactive purposes, the primary objective of forming the UN is to ensure that the conflicts in the world would be resolved peacefully and by avoiding war between nations, and preventing aggression on weak nations by militarily powerful ones. The judgement on the performance of UN has to be ultimately made on this count of successfully ensuring world peace.

There are many instances when serious unrest and violence has taken place in the world within nations and between nations. In most of such cases, the UN could do nothing other than watch the scene like a distant and detached observer, which has created an impression that the UN is only capable of issuing paper condemnation and lengthy cosmetic statements.

Is the UN Secretary General responsible of the organizations ineffectiveness?

Who is responsible for this situation is the question that needs to be analyzed carefully.

While making such an assessment, the first functionary that comes to one’s mind is the UN Secretary General.

The UN Secretary General could have played an effective role to significant extent, if he had the required stature as a statesman and administrator with international reputation. Unfortunately, this has not happened. The most charitable description of the UN Secretary Generals who occupied the positions in the last several decades is that they have functioned as glorified Chief Executives. The most uncharitable description could be that the UN Secretary Generals have been functioning as impotent functionaries, more comfortable with being an observer rather than acting as a moral force and being heard as a moral voice.

What is conspicuous is the failure of the UN Secretary Generals to act as the conscience keeper of the world by speaking boldly and strongly against the wrong doers and war mongers. On the other hand, UN Secretary Generals have been simply following the routines and  simply allowing the member nations to have their way.

Certainly, the world needs a UN Secretary General who would be a world figure commanding respect as having the voice of wisdom.

What is the responsibility of the ‘powerful nations?’

Apart from the voiceless role of the UN Secretary General, certainly the five “top powerful nations” who are permanent members of the Security Council are responsible for treating the UN Secretary General as a non-entity and then playing their role in the Security council with self interest as a priority and with partisan and narrow objectives, rather than with the world’s “goodness” in view. These five nations have given themselves the powers to do or undo the peace process in the world and they deserve to be condemned for being largely responsible for the failure of the UN to function as a peace-keeping organization. 

Today, the UN has been reduced to the level of a mere discussion forum and as a venue for meeting between the heads of the nations once in a while. 

Unrest in Myanmar

While several instances can be readily pointed with regard to the failure of the UN to ensure world peace, the most recent one is the unrest in Myanmar, where a military junta has overthrown a democratically elected government and have used repressive force to silence the protestors who object to the enforcement of military rule. Hundreds of people have been killed and many people have been injured and many more have been imprisoned.

The military junta in Myanmar cares a hoot about the UN’s condemnation and goes on merrily with its own  militant plans. Perhaps, it has the silent support of one big nation, namely China which is its neighbor.

Currently, it appears that Myanmar can continue to be under military rule for several years to come, which will constantly remind the world about the failure of the UN.

Tibetan crisis

This article would not be complete without mentioning  the plight of  the people of Tibet, which as a nation has been aggressively occupied by China for the last several decades using repressive force and not allowing anyone in the world to visit it to see the conditions for themselves. It is sad that the UN has not even taken note of this issue so far in any meaningful way and has not voiced its concern.

What has the UN done to protect the freedom of people in Tibet? It has done nothing for all practical purposes.  The UN has remained irresponsibly silent about the blatant occupation of Tibet by China, as if it is a matter of no concern.

Obviously, China would care, if the UN would condemn its aggressive acts in Tibet. However, given the silence, there is no greater evidence required to prove the ineffectiveness of UN.

Crisis facing world conscience

On the backdrop of Myanmar and Tibet, and simply watching from the gallery, has created the biggest black marks on the overall image of the UN has led peace-loving people to lose confidence in the organization.

Obviously, acts of violence, terrorism and suppression of freedom remain unchallenged in the world and all members of the UN have to hang their head in shame for reducing the organization to such disturbingly low status. As a result, there is a crisis of conscience amongst a cross section of people in the world.

What is shocking is that not even one member nation of the UN has boldly expressed their misgivings about its rapidly increasing irrelevance.  What is urgently needed now is for a world movement to reform the UN.

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N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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