The United Nations An Achievement Of Modern

The United Nations: An Achievement Of Modern Times Essay, Research Paper

The United Nations, with its rigid moral and political limitations against force, has become a benchmark of peace and a social achievement of modern times. From war torn Europe, the United Nations developed from five major powers with an initial goal to prevent the spread of warfare through peaceful means and to establish and maintain fundamental human rights. Through the past fifty years, this organization has broadened its horizons with auxiliary organizations from peace keeping missions to humanitarian aid, to economic development. However, in a modern example of ethnic cleansing, the UN faces new a new role as a bystander as its power is bypassed by NATO forces. The UN, however, promises to be an organization of the future with its origins rooted deeply in the histories of nations, both big and small. The United Nations began as a symbol of power and peace. Its goals remain set for peace, and consequently, it will remain to be such a figure.

Its beginnings were anything but humble. In 1947, following the end of the Second World War, five major powers of the time, England, Russia, China, France, and the United States pioneered an institution to safeguard the peace of the world. Based on Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points peace proposal, submitted to congress January 8, 1918 (Patterson, UN, 10) a “general association of nations to guarantee political independence and secure borders for great and small powers alike” (Patterson, UN, 11) was needed to prevent future wars. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, Wilson’s idea of peace was accepted by a ravaged Europe and the last of his Fourteen Points, that an alliance: the League of Nations, must be formed. This last point was added to the Treaty of Versailles (Patterson, UN, 12) and became the first step in forming what is now the United Nations. However, the League, once secure used its representatives’ power and presence as a threat, but did not follow through with such threats when major opposition arose. For example, in the 1930s, the League of Nations “possessed neither the will nor the means to stop them [fascist dictators in Italy, Germany, and Japan]” (Patterson, UN, 14). Although this organization did little to prevent the Second World War in 1939, it did pave the way for humanitarian aid efforts to refugees and helped to resolve a number of border disputes before the war.

Following the second of the World Wars, the League of Nations was replaced by the modern United Nations. This organization’s aims were similar to their predecessor’s, to maintain harmony through settling border disputes and to offer humanitarian aid wherever necessary, but the UN’s charter states further that tolerance and equality is necessary in peace:

The Purposes of the United nations are:

1. To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and internal law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace;

2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self determination of peoples, and to take other appropriate measures to strengthen universal peace;

3. To achieve international cooperation in solving internal problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion (Charter, 1).

On June 25, 1945 the United Nations Charter was signed, setting the framework for economic, social and political reform (Patterson, UN, 20) By October 24, 1945,

the United Nations had become an official organization. Two months later, by December 27, the UN Charter had 51 signatures, making it a new world power with the ultimate aim for peace and humanitarian efforts. The preamble to the Charter of the United Nations states:

We the peoples of the United Nations [are] determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from the treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom, and for these ends to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and to ensure the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save the common interest, and to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples (Charter, 1).

From its noble beginnings, the League of Nations, major world power’s backing and 51 initial signatures endorsing the organization’s goals, the United Nations was on its way to being an institution representing peace, goodwill, and humanity. Simply by its origins, the UN has become an achievement of modern times.

When the United Nations is thought of today, auxiliary organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund [UNICEF], the United Nations Emergency Force [UNEF], the United Nations Transition Assistance Group [UNTAG], and the International Labour Organization [ILO] become the most prominent of all UN peacetime operations. Each of these organizations have played an important part in developing international peace, economic security and in offering humanitarian aid to war struck and developing countries. However, the United Nations’ grasp extends beyond these means. The UN, combined with private organizations such as the International Red Cross and the World Health Organization [WHO] have offered assistance to people worldwide. WHO and the UN provide an estimated one million vaccinations worldwide each year (Woog, UN, 70). UNICEF touches the lives of over one billion children under the age of 15 in 199 countries each year with school, medical, day-care, and life sustaining supplies and services. Since its creation, the UN has launched and contributed to a network of support organizations with the goal of international harmony. Former U.S. ambassador to the UN, Adlai Stevenson once said: “It is necessary assistance, not charity. It is help we owe each other and we owe ourselves” (Woog, UN, 71).

Yet, despite peaceful aims, peace is not always an option. In 1992, The United Nations Operation in Somalia [UNOSOM I and II] was introduced. Somalia, at the time, lacked an official host government, and was run by various warring factions, all claiming to possess power over the country (Johnson, UN – Peacekeepers, 50). As a result, a task force was developed to end the civil war in Somalia. The initial force, UNOSOM I, was attacked by warring factions and declared it impossible to either protect the cease-fire, a condition of UN involvement, or to distribute relief supplies (Johnson, UN – Peacekeepers, 50). In 1993, UNOSOM II was developed with a UNITAF force of 28 000 troops to stabilize the Somalian country. Such numbers for a task force were uncommon at the time and UNOSOM required the use of force to disarm conflicting powers before relief work could begin.

However, many other areas worldwide have been influenced by the United Nations Transition Assistance Group, [UNTAG] and other specialized peacekeeping forces have been assigned to areas throughout the world. Within the past decade, active peacekeeping patrols have been assigned to Haiti, [UN Mission in Haiti, since 1993], Iraq and Iran [UN Iran-Iraq Military Observer Group, 1988-1991], various Middle East countries [UN Interim Force in Lebanon, since 1978, UN Disengagement Observer Force, since 1974], and Yugoslavia [United Nations Protection Force, since 1992].

Currently, though, the power of the United Nations has been put to the ultimate test. In 1949, the North Atlantic treaty Organization [NATO] was signed with the backing of 12 powers including Canada, the United States, Belgium, France, Iceland, Norway, Italy, Portugal, Denmark, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and the United Kingdom, creating an alliance against the growing threat of Soviet and consequently a communist power. Since the organization’s creation, new members include Greece and Turkey [in 1952], the former West Germany (in 1955), Spain [in 1982], and on March 12, 1999, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary joined. However, since the end of the Cold War, NATO’s role has been reduced to that of a peacekeeper, and of an economic and political alliance (London Free Press, C8,).

In 1995, “The UN gave NATO the mandate to implement the military part of the 1995 peace accord in Bosnia. However, on March 24, 1999, NATO powers have stepped beyond the mandate for military control and initiated an offensive air strike against Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevic. Bypassing the protocol UN security force, NATO countries have attempted to combat allegations of ethnic cleansing in the region of Kosovo. The preamble to the North Atlantic Treaty states that:

The parties to this treaty reaffirm their faith in the purposes and principles of the charter of the United Nations and their desire to live in peace with all peoples and governments.

They are determined to safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilization of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rite of law. They seek to promote stability and well-being in the North Atlantic area.

They are resolved to unite their efforts for collective defence and for the preservation of peace and security (London Free Press, C8, 04-12-99).

Yet, there are discrepancies in both the actions and implied and stated aims to this charter beginning with the vow to follow the charter of the United Nations. The United Nations, though:

Has various means it can use to help resolve conflicts:

Member States may bring a conflict to the attention of the Security Council. The Security Council can then call upon countries in conflict to settle their differences peacefully.

If countries in conflict can’t come to an agreement on their own, they can take the dispute

to the international Court of Justice which will decide who is right and who is wrong.

The Security Council may ask United Nations members to stop trading with the country or countries and to cut all forms of communication including by sea, air, rail, post, telephone, radio, etc. Members may be asked to close Embassies in the country or countries concerned.

If all this fails, or is felt to be impractical, the Security Council may dispatch neutral UN peace-keepers to patrol safety or demilitarise zones, or to enforce or monitor cease-fire agreements until a permanent agreement is reached. However, peace-keepers can only be sent if all countries in conflict agree to their presence.

In some cases, the Security Council may authorize Member States to intervene in a conflict by using a regular military force. Forces are contributed by Member States but are not under UN command….

Article 43 requires all Member States to make an agreed number of armed forces available to the Security Council for use in such cases.

Peace keeping has gained more importance in situations where preventative diplomacy or peace making fail…There are some important differences between UN peace-keeping forces and other armed forces:

• UN peacekeepers cannot take sides in a conflict.

• Countries in conflict must agree to the presence of peace-keepers.

• UN peace-keepers are generally lightly armed and cannot use force unless attacked (Peace-keeping: An Overview, 1-2).

Under ideal circumstances, these methods would maintain peace and at worst, prevent any conflict before it escalated beyond control. However, as demonstrated with the former Yugoslavia, social unrest grew to epic proportions following the death of dictator, General Josip Broz [Tito] in 1980. Under his rule, Albanians gained control over their own affairs for the first time since the Balkans fell to the Ottoman Empire in the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 (Austin, CBC News Online, 2).

Tito’s successor, Slobodan Milosevic, came to power in 1989 and “built his power on an appeal to Serb nationalism” (Austin, CBC News Online, 2). Following a civil war-like clash in 1995 among religious social groups, peace was restored within Yugoslavia. However, Albanians, generally a peaceful people, were excluded from autonomy movements states like the ones Macedonia and Croatia were experiencing. Kosovo, with a 90 per cent Albanian population, pushed for autonomy against the will of the Milosovic government. The result was ethnic cleansing with the hope to “annex Kosovo to neighbouring Albania” (Austin, CBC News Online, 2).

Discrepancies with this NATO course of action and UN plans include: bypassing the United Nations Security Council and thereby overriding any solutions they may have agreed upon. Attacking Yugoslav military forces while NATO forces remain unprovoked is in direct discord of both UN and NATO protocol. The NATO peace-keepers have become a side, their roles in Kosovo have elevated beyond merely taking one [a side]. And should an invasion occur, the numbers of troops will not have been cleared by all governments involved. Finally, the method used in the decision to attack was not democratic [for a subsidiary United Nations organization]; there was no vote to initiate offensive tactics.

As a result of this recent crisis, UN powers have been ultimately tested. Humanitarian efforts to aid refugees are slow and for the most part, inadequate at best. Major powers involved with the NATO alliance have reversed the role for the UN. It now takes orders instead of giving them. And the NATO role as the aggressor looks shaky after three months of consistent air strikes which appear to many to be of no avail.

Yet because the UN did resolve the conflict to the best of their ability in 1995, and relative peace was returned into the states of Montenegro, Croatia, and Macedonia, United Nations’ tactics have been proven to work. Throughout the past 50 years, the United Nations has been establishing itself as a major player in economic, social and political fields. Its roots were modest, to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” (Charter, 1) but developed to include a network of humanitarian aid, political alliances, and economic organizations. And while being tested by an auxiliary organization, the United Nations remains strong. It is just a matter of time before new alliances will aid NATO forces, for “by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest [of all]” (Charter, 1).

The United Nations began as a symbol of peace and will remain to be a figure of peace. By rising up against adversity in war torn Europe, it proved its worth socially, economically, politically, and militarily. Through its intentions and actions in both times of peace and war, the UN has become a major achievement of modern times. Yet, despite its shortcomings which were proven when the UN’s power was put to the ultimate test, it has since began regaining its power and will continue to be a benchmark of peace.


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