By Sana Ullah
The UN, formed in 1945 after the League of Nations faltered post-World War II, aimed to secure global peace and act against threats. Despite this, repeated failures stain its history. The ongoing Israel-Palestine conflict showcases the UN’s inability to address atrocities, marked by Israel’s occupation termed by a UN investigator as ethnic cleansing, with thousands dead and displaced. Similarly, the Kashmir dispute further questions the UN’s efficacy. The Cambodia violence (1975-79) saw the UN-recognized Khmer Rouge committing genocide, killing two million, exposing the UN’s impotence. Civil wars in Somalia, Rwanda, and Syria underscore persistent UN failures in establishing peace.
Understanding the structure of an organization plays important role in understanding why the it faces failures in certain events. The Security Council is the principal organ of the UN structure, which is the key decision-making body. This body comprises of 15 members, with five member states holding permanent positions and exercising veto powers.
These states include Russia, China, the United Kingdom, France, and the United States. The ability of these veto-exercising states to employ their veto power has been a source of contention. On several occasions, they have used their veto authority to serve their own national interest. Such practices, at times, disrupted UN diplomatic missions and peace talks. Resultantly, the structure of the Security Council, characterized by the influence of veto powers, has been a crucial factor contributing to the challenges and failures of the UN in addressing various global issues.
Furthermore, the United States of America has used its veto power several times to counter the UN Security Council resolutions that condemn the illegal occupations of Israel and the use of force against the civilian Palestinian population. Likewise, being an old ally of India, Russia repeatedly counters the UN resolutions on Kashmir disputes that have condemned the Indian brutality in the Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir. For example, Russia’s 99th and 100th veto both favored India. The 99th veto was on a resolution in 1961 that called for a ceasefire, when India blitzed Portuguese-held Goa, and the 100th vetoes of Russia smashed the “Irish resolution” which urged both Pakistan and India for direct negotiations on the Kashmir issue in 1962.
Moreover, the Rohingya Crisis of 2017 is another example of brutality and genocide in which Myanmar launched a military crackdown on the Muslim ethnic-minority that led to the persecution of thousands of Muslims. In this event, Myanmar was backed by China as it blocked all the efforts of the UN Security Council.
The U.S. intervention in Iraq in 2003 and subsequently in Syria in 2014 serve as significant examples highlighting the UN’s limitations in preventing and managing conflicts. At the time of the Iraq War, the U.S. carried out invasion without explicit authorization from the UN Security Council, portraying the challenges of the UN in enforcing international law and maintaining collective security. Correspondingly, the invasion of Libya by a NATO-led coalition in 2011 saw noteworthy UN efforts, but the deep divisions at the Security Council prevented the adoption of a coherent strategy. These case studies emphasize the UN’s impotence in situations where great power interests clash, leading to a lack of consensus and an inability to effectively address and prevent crises, ultimately raising questions about the institution’s effectiveness in maintaining global peace and security.
In the recent Hamas-Israel conflict, the United Nations seems to have failed once more. The efforts of the United Nations are once again blocked by the United States of America. Recently, a Brazilian drafted resolution was blocked by the US that would have condemned the Hamas attack on Israel while calling for a pause in fighting to allow humanitarian assistance to Gaza. Keeping these incidents in view, it seems that the United Nations which was mandated to maintain peace and security is failing to play its role.
Therefore, there is a wide need for reforms in the United Nations’ structure, particularly in the Security Council. Also, by limiting the role of veto power in dealing with international issues or by increasing veto states that would curtail the role of contemporary permanent members of the Security Council and give mandates to more states in world politics. In this way, the UN can perform effectively to overcome various crisis around the world.