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The United Nations is well known as an organization which functions primarily for the promotion of peace and cooperation on an international level. Originating in 1919 as a group known as the League of Nations, the UN has evolved into what it is today, a proactive coalition of one hundred and ninety-three nations existing to make the enforcement of international law, security, economic development, social progress, and human rights easier for countries world-wide. Since its first days, the UN has proven its abilities to be effectual many times over, but it has also showcased the depravity of human nature and the flaws of its system. The principles of our present-day United Nation began post-WWI when President Woodrow Wilson first proposed a forum that would manifest his Fourteen Points in attaining a stable peace corps, preventing further global wars and strife (“The League”).
Wilson said that the times called for for a “general association of nations…formed on the basis of covenants designed to create mutual guarantees of the political independence and territorial integrity of States, large and small equally” (“The League”). His ideas were very appealing to both his own fellow Americans and the war-torn citizens of Europe and the League was established under the Treaty of Versailles. However, the difficulties in forming a strong organization for global equity were more prominent than the zealous attitude of those who desired it; in the end, the League was never able to reach any substantial international standing or execute Wilson’s humanitarian dream for a truly effective peace corps. Later, the League of Nations was reborn as the United Nations when President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill coined the term in the Declaration of the United Nations which was signed by 26 countries on the first day of 1942, signifying that the signing nations covenanted together to fight the Axis Powers in Europe (Briney). From that era to today, the United Nations has become an important role in world politics and an effective force for the good of hundreds of countries over the globe.
Today, the UN is divided into five branches in which every nation is represented and involved, making the benefits of a symbiotic environment more easily attainable. These five branches are the UN General Assembly, the UN Security Council, the International Court of justice, the Economic and Social Council, and the Secretariat. The General Assembly is the representative, decision-making branch, lead by an elected president. While the General Assembly has no real power, the congregation is primarily commissioned to uphold UN principles by their policies and proposals when the nations meet together once a year in New York City from September to December. The Security Council is the main body of the UN, as well as the most active and authoritative branch. Its fifteen members (five of which are permanent and ten of which rotate every two years) meet nearly every day and formulates orders which every UN member country must obey. The Security Council holds the power to veto, deploy member nations’ militaries, order a cease-fire during times of international strife, send out peacekeepers to settle disputes in countries during trouble.
The UN’s judicial and dispute-settling branch is the International Court of Justice, located in The Hague, Netherlands. True to its name, the Economic and Social Council actively work with the General Assembly to create socially developed and economically balanced status and cooperative relationships for every UN nations. Lastly, the Secretariat of the UN is the branch headed by the Secretary General, responsible for making informative data available to the other UN branches and their commissions. Every part of the United Nations has one common and important duty: to utilize its role in the building and maintaining peace and prosperity in the world by improving judicial structure, drafting equitable documents for its nations, training officials to fight for human rights, provide disaster-response relief, promote clean and healthy means of living, helping over 50 million refugees escaping from their devastated mother lands, actively involving its peace corps in over 50 global peace-keeping enterprises and the like (Briney, Rosmanitz).
In several instances, the UN has proven itself credible to its peace-keeping and philanthropic mandate, settling international strife and promoting socioeconomic good, even to the extent of winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988 for its effective peacekeeping force (NobelPrize.org). The UN generally does this by their work in keeping good relations between nations on a day by day basis, building up a sort of “war immunity”. Various treaties, negotiations, and organizations have been promoted and supported by the UN for the purpose of finding and regulating atomic and nuclear weapons owned by UN member nations , such as the Partial Test Ban Treaty, Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, all of which have purposes to do as much as possible to prevent the threat of war (Chandra). The UN has also been in the forefront of creating organizations that focus on transforming the face of social and medical health world-wide, forming groups like the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (Ibid).
During the first outbreak between Israel and it neighboring countries in the late 1940’s, UN peacekeepers labored from the beginning to make peaceful negotiations and keep control. Ever since, peacekeepers have patrolled borders of Israel and Syria. The UN has also helped foster cooperative relationships and reconciliation in Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mozambique, Namibia, Tajikistan, and several other nations since the late 1940’s. UN peace corps has played a key role in maintaining peaceful agreements between the Croats, Serbs, and Muslims in the former Yugoslavia during the 1980’s and 1990’s. Overall, the activity of the UN has been credited with more than 170 successful peace settlements in both national and regional scale discord (Ibid). The UN is currently involved in operations in the world’s youngest country, South Sudan, successfully helping it build a good infrastructure through solidifying its overall security and political peace between its bordering nations.
Mainly because of the work in the UN, Haiti’s levels cholera have significantly declined and it’s rise in development has improved (United Nations). From 2001-2011, the United Nations’ Department of Political Affairs has been helping Nepal recover from its decade of internal conflict, holding a Constituent Assembly election in April of 2008, a significant chapter in the history of Nepali peace (Ibid). These and dozens of other stories illustrate the powerful, practical, and potent effects of our UN forces upon global conflicts. As encouraging and well-ordered the successes of the United Nations’ peace efforts have been, the flaws and dysfunctions of the organization has been clearly revealed to the world as well, sometimes in catastrophic national and international failure. In the 1968 El Al Israel Flight 426, Palestinian terrorists hijacked the plane while the United Nations stood by without any action besides a voiced condemnation.
Similar terrorist acts have taken place through the rest of the 20th century with the same response from the UN; condemnation and voiced opinions, but nothing else to actively try stopping the terrorism until the New York City terrorist acts in September of 2001, when the UN finally set international laws banning terrorism and punishing responsible parties. However, only two groups, Al Qaeda and the Taliban, were affected by this ban; several other terrorist groups were and still are largely untouched by the UN’s peace corps. Many view the UN-promoted “war on terrorism” to be more of an oxymoronic threat to American freedom and less of an effective patrol on terrorist activity. One of the most shameful failures of UN positive intervention would be the multi-nation sex scandal during the 1990’s.
Bosnia, Kosovo, Cambodia, Haiti, and Mozambique reports stated that the UN peacekeepers, otherwise identified as a force which gives connotations of order, morality, and security, responsible for the shocking rise in child exploitation, noting that the soldiers would abuse children and give them small tokens in order to avoid the reputation of being a predator. Citizens feared reporting the activity because it may have lead to the peacekeeping forces to completely withdrawal from their country. The UN was also responsible for a tragic failure in Sri Lanka’s civil war during 1983-2009. In the last few months of the war, the fighting grew heavily in what was designated as a “safe zone”, forcing over 196,000 people to run from their homes and entrapping another 50,000 citizens. While many cried out for UN intervention, the UN Secretary-General merely voiced being appalled by the situation, but no action was taken and 6,500 Sri Lankan people were killed in effect.
The conflict during the Cold War also manifested the weakness in the United Nations Charter. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention Against Genocide, which was binding to all nations, was brazenly disregarded by USSR and it’s citizens were robbed of almost every civic right as Stalin continued his rule of the “Iron Fist”. With the United Nations failure to penalize USSR and protect its people, the words of the UN charters were rendered practically null and void. One of the most horrifying instances of the United Nations’ insufficiency was during the Rwandan genocide of 1994. As the tensions between the two opposing ethnic groups, the Hutu and the Tutsis, grew to a peak and the Tutsis minority was under the lethal threat of the Hutu, messages were sent to the UN Security Council via Canadian Force Commander headquarters.
However, the message was neither received nor given much thought. Meanwhile, the violence in Rwandan began and the peacekeepers fled their station just as the threatened Rwandans fled to their station for protection. This neglect and abandonment on part of the UN resulted in the slaughter of nearly a million citizens, twenty percent of the national population utterly wiped-out (Fitzgerald). While some of the mishaps on the UN’s part has been merely disappointing, the above examples and several others have proven to be global tragedies.
Though many humanitarian organizations such as the United Nations has made positive impact on our global economy and peace efforts, the UN also has major flaws, including their somewhat utopian conceptions and ideals and vulnerability to failure and inequitable episodes. Many question the genuine need or effectual results of the United Nations and doubt its value of being worthwhile against the balance of negative history. Perhaps the UN still has need to prove itself in its peace loving claims. History has spoken, but it still has much to tell of the successes and failures of the United Nations; hopefully, the world has more of the former in our future.
-Fitzgerald, Andrew. “Top 10 Failures of the United Nations”. Listverse. 28 Jan 2013. Listverse Ltd. Web. 19 July 2014. -Chandra, Dilip. “Successes and Failures of the United Nations.” HubPages. 17 Mar 2014. HubPages Ltd. Web. 19 July 2014. -Rosmanitz, Klaus. “United Nations.” English Online: Articles in Easy Understandable English for Learners. Web. 19 July 2014. -United Nations: Peacekeeping. UN.org. Web. 17 July 2014.
-United Nations: Department of Political Affairs. UN.org. Web. 17 July 2014. -Briney, Amanda. “The United Nations: History, Organization, and Functions of the United Nations.” About.com: Geography. 5 June 2014. Web. 17 July 2014. -“The League of Nations. Milestones: 1914-1920.” Office of the Historian, Bureau of Public Affairs, United States Department of State. Web. 2014. 17 July 2014. -Trueman, Chris. “League of Nations Background.” HistoryLearningSite. 2014. Web. 17 July 2014. NobelPrize.org