Time to Amend or Bend the UN

In 1919, the League of Nations was established. The need to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security in the world after World War I (1914-1918) fought between the Allied Powers – led by Britain, France Russia, Italy and then Serbian Kingdom – and the Central Powers – led by Germany, Austria, Hungary and Ottoman Empire, where according to reports, among the millions of civilian casualties, ten million soldiers died, adding to the mammoth losses of miltary and civil powers in different parts of the world. The League of Nations failed when it could not control the hostility of Italy’s Benito Mussolini and Germany’s Adolf Hitler.

Though the then US President Woodrow Wilson was the main advocator for the need of the League of Nations as being an international organization and major European and other countries acknowledged the importance and became the member, United States crucially never joined the League of Nations. After the silence of twenty or so odd years the political crises and conflicts began happening again in Europe. The World War I had left a mordant experience on many American politicians and they desired towards isolationism, which led them to introduce Neutrality Acts, passed in 1935. According to these acts, US imposed embargo on the shipment of warheads and banned the travel on belligerent ships.

However, in American politics, there have always been some elements in the ruling power who want to see the global supremacy of United States even on the cost of deadly military conflicts.

In 1930s, events were occurring in Europe and Asia that were causing growing tension across the regions. For example; Germany took over Austria and Sudtenland (1938); Hitler and Mussolini created the Rome-Berlin Axis military alliance to last 10 years (1939); Japan entered an alliance with Germany and Italy (1939); Moscow-Berlin Pact (1939); Hitler invaded Poland (1939); England and France declared war on Germany (1939). Eventually, these developments led to World War II (WWII). According to the reports, 60 million people died in more than 50 countries and many cities were totally annihilated in World War II. United States dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, which wiped out entire cities.

As the world was observing the most disastrous conflicts, the League of Nations was found to be futile to prevent them. Eventually, in 1946, the League of Nation dissolved itself and its services & mandates. Despite the concern on the reason of failure of the League of Nations, the international community were ambitious for a fresh international body that could maintain international peace & security and uphold justice & respect of international treaties & laws.

The post-war follow-up brought world leaders on the common assessment that there should be a more effective international forum that could prevent global conflicts, take care of global peace & security and protect smaller nations from big powers.

In 1945, the representatives of 50 countries gathered in San Francisco at the United Nations Conference on International Organization to draw up the United Nations Charter. The Charter was signed on 26 June 1945 by the representatives of the 50 countries and officially came into effect on 24th of October 1945. Yet the trend did not change. Still the game of power remained under the control of top powers – China, France, Soviet Uninion (Russia), UK and United States. On the name of maintaining the global peace and security, United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was created (an organ of United Nations). The said top powers who were the then nuclear states became the permanent members of the UNSC and kept the veto power. To be the nuclear state was not the criteria to become the permanent member of UNSC but these countries justified themselves as being the military might and victorious power of World War II.

These five nations enjoyed ultimate authority of veto power though the word "veto" is actually never used in the United Nations charter. The veto power has been intensely controversial since the drafting of the UN Charter in 1945. The United States and Russia would probably not have accepted the creation of the United Nations without the veto privilege. In this so-called world’s largest democratic body, a resolution on peace, security or any other international issue cannot be passed if it doesn’t suit one of these members.

Since the creation of the United Nations (in 1945) Russia (including former Soviet Union) have used their veto at the Security Council 120 times, the United States 76 times, Britain 32, France 18 and China only five times. The heavy exercise of veto power by Russia and the United States has actually discredited the UNSC. The threat to exercise veto power often turns down the draft of the resolution. For example; in the run-up to the Iraq war in March 2003, France and Russia indicated that they would not support a new resolution sanctioning war. As a result the US, UK and Spain withdrew their draft and United States with its allies went to war without specific UN support. United States exercise its veto power regularly to shield the Israeli Government from international criticism or attempt to restrain the behaviour of its military.

There is no dispute that the United Nations and its affiliated bodies have done significant and fructiferous work in humanitarian, economical and social development areas and also acted adequately on natural or human-made disasters. However, if the nations’ security and basic rights are humiliated, peace and stability cannot be maintained. Unfortunately, as for as peace and security are concerned, since the creation on United Nations, it has only served the interest of superpowers.

According to Principles of International Law recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and in the Judgment of the Tribunal, adopted by the International Law Commission of the United Nations, 1950, through General Assembly Resolution 177 (II), paragraph (a); planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances is a war crime and person must be punished under the war crime international law. Furthermore, according to United Nations charter, ‘all the members of United Nations shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means…War can be used but only as a last resort and only under the direction of the UN Security Council’.

These permanent members of UNSC especially, United States is the top country vocalizing on the control of dangerous weapons and don’t hesitate to take aggression against any nation who are found involved in developing nuclear weapons or the Weapons of the Mass Destruction WMD). On the name of demolishing Saddam Hussain’s WMD, United States with its partners it sidestepped UNSC and attacked Iraq. UN nuclear/weapons inspectors were working in Iraq searching for WMD. The majority in the world was against any hostile action at that time including a military attack on Iraq. The minority in UNSC were also trying to pass resolution against Saddam Hussain to disclose his WMD sites and destroy them. However, as the events unfolded it clearly indicated that this was not what the US and its close partners wanted. As a matter of facts, the agenda was to topple down Saddam Hussain and control Iraq and to achieve this United States could not wait and see the UNSC resolutions, which might have never happened due to other veto-bearers. In March 2003, the rest of the members (states) of the UN were watching helplessly and United States with its allies barraged Iraq. This is not something hidden now as world is watching every day the appalling deaths of the innocent in Iraq. The entire country which was the most advanced state in the Middle East has been transformed into rubbles in the last four years and no one has a clear notion on how they are going to bring the stability in Iraq now.

On the other hand, according to a report, since the creation of UN and as of today, three of the five permanent members – US, UK, France are the world’s top four weapons exporter countries in the world while China comes at 7th place. While Germany, who is strong contender of permanent seat is the 4th largest supplier of weapons in the world.

In December 2004, the UN issued a document "A more secure world: our shared responsibility; Report of the high-level panel on threats, challenges and change". This document was prepared in response to the perception that the UN was no longer effective in meeting its mandate. The document states that the initiatives must be multilateral in nature. It states that unilateralist actions can lead to chaos and current anarchy in Iraq is the perfect example.

The dilemma is that these unilateral actions of superpowers encourage the other states to follow the tradition and do whatever these states feel suit to them. Pakistan and India secretly developed nuclear weapons and became nuclear powers despite of great international pressure to never joined non-proliferation treaty. North Korea and Iran are the next ones following their footsteps.

In the current Israeli-Lebanon conflict, majority of the UN member states are against the disproportionate use of force and aerial bombardment by Israel against Hesbollah militias. The entire Lebanon has been ruined in the last couple of weeks, thousands of innocent people have been died and thousands are left dislocated. Israel air force bombarded UN peacekeeping center killing four UN peacekeeping observers. When other members put-up a resolution to condemn Israeli on Israel’s bloody hostilities, the United States vetoed the move.

Since 1972, United States exercised veto more than 30 times to shield Israel from critical draft resolutions on the settlement of Israel- Palestine conflict. Many of these resolutions pertained to killing and attacking on civilian targets in Palestine by Israeli forces. International Community wants to resolve the Israel-Palestine geo-political conflict but US by blocking every move in the UNSC which goes against Israel demonstrates that US wants to resolve the matter only on US terms not on the voice of majority.

Another reason for UN and its Security Council being ineffective and incapable to prevent the illegal behaviour of the states is that in the last sixty years the world has transformed to a great extent. If China, Russia (USSR), UK, France and US were qualified to be the permanent members of UNSC and to hold Veto power sixty years ago, being the only militarily powers holding nuclear warheads, air and ground powerful forces. At present there are more states that feel they also satisfy the criteria. India, Pakistan, North Korea, Israel have already demonstrated that they are the nuclear powers. Iran has also announced that it has adequate military might and nuclear capabilities.

India is already trying to become the member of UNSC, likewise the growing agenda among other nations is to become permanent member of UNSC and have the benefit of the veto power to save themselves from the foreign threats. An interesting point is that these permanent members are not happily willing to see any new permanent member. In December 2003, during the visit of India, Russian President Vladimir Puttin said that expanding UNSC to include more members with veto power was not a good idea despite of the fact that Russia has very close ties with India. Japan, Germany and Brazil are also aspiring to not only gain permanent seats but also the veto power.

In March this year, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair also admitted by calling UN for radical reform. He said, the organization was created three decades ago to ensure global security but now it is out of touch with the world’s needs. Backing Blair’s comments, the Canadian ambassador to the UN, Mr. Heinbecker also called for a shakeup in the UNSC. He said five permanent veto- bearing members remain the leading victorious allies of the World War II. He said the United Nations could only be effective when its Sectary General must have more effective powers to react to the international crises.

In the last 3 decades or so, many groups of countries have been established based on their historical, religious or regional bonding aiming to corporate in various fields. For example; Organization of Islamic Council (OIC), European Union (EU), ASIAN, G-8, G-20 and son, the creation of these international is the evidence that the countries acknowledged that their needs and objectives couldn’t be achieved from United Nations. Today, the platform like EU and OIC are more effective than the United Nations.

Today, the United Nations is nothing more than an imbalance as well as a meaningless debating platform that could only produce resolutions, which either could serve the interest of the superpowers or be declared impracticable. Hence, the United Nations will only be effective and forceful when all its members especially in UNSC possess equal power. Every decision and resolution must be dealt with absolute democracy.