United Nations – Essay

After World War I the League of Nations was formed for the sake of security of the world as a whole. But unfortunately it could not prevent. Second World War for want of means, resources and power to punish the aggressor. The victors of world war II viz. The U.S.A., Soviet Union and the United Kingdom (Great Britain) initiated the formation of United Nations. Motive was to stop the outbreak of another war. The United Nations charter was ratified and signed by 51 nations on June 26, 1945. The membership since then has grown to 191 nations with expanded role in international affairs. The United Nations is the only international body for establishing peace in the world although at times it has found itself marginalized on a wide range of international security issues simply for lack of authority and power to get its decisions implemented. Difficulty arises when self-interest of the dominant nations comes in the way. To enumerate the successes of the UN it can be seen that the cold war which continued for decades did not escalate into a full-fledged war because of the regulations incorporated in the UN charter. The veto power given to the permanent founding members of the Security Council ensured that one of the major powers capable of initiating a war would not be cornered as a result of the majority decision of the remaining four. Secondly, the UN provided a forum for continuous contact between the major powers that there was never a communication gap between them even during periods of crisis such as wars in Korea and Vietnam. Thirdly, the UN was instrumental in decolonizing the world as well as in ending apartheid in South Africa. Fourthly, the UN played an important role in adopting the declaration of human rights and assertion of gender equality. Fifthly, wide range of social economic and development issues taken up by the UN agencies like FAO, WHO, UNESCO, UNCTAD, UNDP, UNIDO, ILO etc. Indicate the success of the organization. Finally the UN has been successful in its peace keeping operations in countries like Namibia, Mozambique, Eritrea, Korea etc.

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Although success of the UN far out-weights its failures, yet its failures cannot be overlooked so easily. The UN does not enjoy the same kind of importance and prestige as it had at the time of its formation. When the charter of the UN was framed, the economic, political and social situation was totally different from what it is today. In the present context the main threat to international peace exists in the form of terrorism, organized crime and increase in the availability of weapons and technology of destruction. The UN is not at all equipped to handle these threats. United Nations as a peace keeping organization failed to perform its duty in Somalia, Rwanda and Bosnia. This exposes the limitations of UN as an effective mediator. The UN has been unable to tackle the problem of environment degradation, poverty, growth of population etc. although several of its organs are specifically meant therefore. On the front of disarmament the UN has not been able to do anything. As regards terrorism, the most serious global problem of the day, merely a resolution has been passed but neither it has any organization to handle such a grave menace nor does it have a clear definition and mandate to counter state sponsored terrorism. Above all, as alleged by developing countries most of the decisions of the UN have been guided by the self interest of the powerful countries and decision making lacks transparency.

In the latest case of US led war against Iraq, French president Jacques Chirae said that Iraq war had put the UN through one of the most serious crisis in its history. Speaking after George W. Bush called for world support for the US led occupation and reconstruction of Iraq, Chirae said, “No one can act alone in the name of all and no can accept the anarchy of a society without rules. The war launched without the authorization of the Security Council shook the multilateral system”. The UN has just been through one of the most grave crisis in its history. The UN general secretary Kafi Annan further to warn the US president George W. Bush on 23rd of September, 2003 in the annual general meeting of the UN that his doctrine of pre-emptive military intervention posed a fundamental challenge to the UN and could lead to the law of jungle. In a speech shortly before bush addressed the general assembly Annan made an unusually blunt attack at the world’s only super power delivering his strongest criticism to date on the doctrine of pre-emptive war, “My concern is that if it were to be adopted it could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force with or without credible justification”. He further added, “side-stepping the UN in waging war against Iraq or else-where called into question the entire structure of collective action, forget when the united nations was created out of the ashes of world war second”.


Reasons for mal-functioning or failures of the UN may be summarized as(i)Lack of financial and military resources is the main reason for the failure of UN which is totally dependent upon the member nations and among them specially the advanced and influential countries or the big powers.(ii) Decision making procedure of the UN is extremely complex. It has a bloated bureaucracy which is plagued by inefficiency and corruption. (iii)The increasing burden of debts has severally hampered the efficiency of the organization. The biggest debtors are the US and Russia (iv) Veto power enjoyed by the five permanent members of the security council is responsible for the failure of the UN in resolving conflicts amicably. Vita power was awarded based on the realities of World War II and is no more valid in the present day circumstances. It is believed that the UN can function properly if the composition of the Security Council is based upon the existing realities with proper representation of all regions.

In spite of all the short comings and hindrances in the smooth working of the UN, its relevance in the existences circumstances cannot be ruled out. It has served the great powers of the world and should continue to serve as a common platform for discussions, consultations and compromise. The necessity of such an organization is all the more increased due to increasing interdependence of the world. Although with the end of cold war the danger of super power rivalries has been eliminated yet wars, small and big still continue to break out here and there. Hence the UN still has a role to play in peace keeping and peacemaking. Under developed and poor countries of the world look towards the UN as the parent organization for their survival. Through its various organizations the UN has helped the poor and developing countries in a number of socio-economic problems such as environment human rights, population growth and health care etc.

The most important rather the governing body of the UN is the Security Council which is for maintain global peace and security. All major decisions are taken by this council in the form of resolutions. The council consists of 15 members, five of which viz. The U.S., Russia, China, France and Britain are permanent members having right to veto any decision taken by the council. What an irony and mockery of democracy. If any one of the permanent members does not agree with a resolution supported by the remaining 14, the resolution cannot be adopted. Unanimity among the permanent five members is the prerequisite for any decision to be taken by the Security Council. The ten non-permanent members are elected by the general assembly by two thirties majority for a term of two years. Pakistan, Angola, Chile, Germany and Spain where elected for two year term beginning January 1, 2003.

There has been a move for the expansion of Security Council which should be based upon present day realities. Equitable regional representation should be the criterion for the expansion of the council. In his address to the 58th general assembly on September 23, 2003, Mr. Kofi Annan berated UN members for not being able to agree on an expansion of the Security Council which has remained nearly the same for 58 years. While the membership of the general body has risen from 51 to 191.He said, “I would respectfully suggest to you, excellencies, that in the eyes of your people the difficulty of reaching an agreement does not excuse your failure to do so”.


The industrialized nations have agreed for the induction of Germany and Japan as permanent members keeping in view their economic strength. India also has a legitimate claim for permanent membership. It can be emphasized that developing countries must be given equitable representation as permanent members of the council to enhance its legitimacy as the developing countries constitute a vast majority of the UN members. Permanent representation of developing nations is a necessity specially when the Security Council has started to dress economic, environmental and human rights issues as these are supposed to be related to problems of peace and security. Hence an effective role of developing nations in decision making is required more so because such problems are characteristic in their part of the world. Then, increase in permanent membership should be base on objective instead of subjective selective criteria. Objective idea should consider a country’s standing in international relations, its commitment to the promotion of UN principles and its participation in various activities of the UN. India fulfils all these requisites to become a permanent member of the Security Council. India’s claim for permanent membership is justified on the basis of its population, volume of economy, its contribution to the UN, particularly in its peacemaking operations. India is competent enough to raise a strong additional voice a perspective and an agenda in a politically and economically unbalanced, unequal and iniquitous world.

There are hurdles in India’s way of getting permanent membership of Security Council. India has not signed the CTBT and NTP and some of countries are opposing India’s claim due to its non-commitment to these treaties although India is already committed to the principles of these treaties and is a stronger advocate of these principles provided of course that these bindings are not unilateral and one-sided to favor the stronger and binding the weaker. Pakistan has always opposed India’s claim on some pretext or the other and its opposition is for the sake of opposition. And for US Pakistan is a necessary evil. Through relations with the US have improved yet due to Pakistan factor and India’s growing nuclear missiles, technical and economic development there is an apprehension that India after getting permanent seat in the Security Council may threaten US interest in the region. Most of the African countries, Russia, France and the United Kingdom are supporting India’s claim. But Germany and Japan have opposed it, they themselves being contenders therefore. China has maintained a neutral position and has resisted from making any statement.

The UN too should not remain merely a fighter any more to get involved only when a conflict arises. It has to shift its perspective to creating solutions and knowledge. The central is use of discussion among the member nations is the reform of the reform of the UN, the restructuring of the institutions and internal mechanism in a manner that would lend more credibility to this really global institution. The present imbalance between the general assembly and the Security Council should be reduced. The Security Council is empowered to make mandatory decisions while the decisions of general assembly have only the strength of recommendations. The democratic general assembly cannot discuss an issue concerning international peace and security if that issue is already on the agenda of the Security Council while the undemocratic Security Council can give mandate. Thus its misuse by the west in recent past has given rise to mistrust among developing nations. The security must be made democratic in composition and mandate in order to rectify this flaw in UN structure. The discriminatory veto power of 5 permanent members must be abolished to make the Security Council more accountable. Finally, UN general assembly must be entrusted with more authority to bring about a balance in its structure.

The UN is presently facing a financial crisis and its general secretary Mr. Kofi Annan has called upon member nations to fulfill their obligations for proper functioning of the UN developed nations have suggested to reduced the number of specialized agencies of the UN to lessen the economic burden as to make the organization less unwieldy. But this is not in the interest of the developing countries as the development programmers will be adversely affected. One suggestion is to raise funds by issue of UN bonds which may be a practicable source of finance.


Peacemaking and peace keeping is the primary ogle and function of the UN for which it has to deal with civil war, secession, partitions, ethnic clashes and tribal struggles. It has been successful in monitoring or supervising elections and mediating and political transition where the parties concerned wanted the transition to take place but it has been unsuccessful in restoring government authority undermined by civil unrest or in monitoring borders to detect and check infiltration of people and weaponry. Evidently the reasons for the failure of the UN in peace keeping operations are lack of political and financial support and want of properly armed forces at its command. With terrorism in its worst form, ethnic strikes and internal squabbles on the rise it is felt that the UN must be equipped with a readily available force of professionals and authority to dispatch advance teams of experts to areas where complex military and political situations prevail. In address to the Un in its 58th general conference on September 25, 2003 Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee, emphasized for the need for restructuring the UN in accordance with the changed global situation so that it may effectively perform the functions it is meant for.

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