As the world is about to witness the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 in breach of the UN Charter and international law, it is time to ask what has the United Nations been up to during this one year. Wasn’t the United Nations set up to prevent wars, especially wars of aggression? If that is indeed the case, why then, the UN has been unable to exercise its mandate and save millions of lives since its inception?
While it is easy to point the finger at the UN in view of its supposed inability to prevent wars, one must also remember that the UN is a microcosm of the world that it represents. Superpower rivalries get reflected in the UN and in the Security Council, rendering positive action and desirable results a far-fetched dream. The five superpowers possess the power of ‘Veto’ which, if used by even one of the five, immediately kills any progress that may have been made after heated and arduous negotiations.
At the same time, and to be fair, we must acknowledge that The United Nations has had several successes in preventing wars and promoting peace and stability. Some of the most notable include:
Peacekeeping operations: The UN has been successful in deploying peacekeeping operations in various conflict zones around the world, helping to maintain ceasefires, promote reconciliation, and protect civilians. Some of the most successful peacekeeping missions include those in Namibia, El Salvador, and Cambodia.
Mediation and diplomacy: The UN has been successful in mediating conflicts and promoting diplomatic solutions through its various peace initiatives, such as the peace processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Humanitarian aid: The UN has been successful in providing humanitarian aid to millions of people affected by conflicts and natural disasters around the world. This has helped to alleviate the suffering of civilians and prevent the escalation of violence in many conflict-affected areas.
Disarmament and arms control: The UN has been successful in promoting disarmament and arms control efforts, including the negotiation of several international treaties, such as the Chemical Weapons Convention and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
Sustainable development: The UN has been successful in promoting sustainable development through its various programs and initiatives, such as the Millennium Development Goals and the Sustainable Development Goals. This has helped to reduce poverty and inequality, and prevent the escalation of violence in many conflict-affected areas.
These are some of the greatest successes of the United Nations in preventing wars and promoting peace and stability. While the UN has faced challenges and limitations, these successes demonstrate its continued relevance and importance in addressing global peace and security issues.
Improving the United Nations to prevent wars and neutralize the inaction caused by the veto-wielding threats from the five permanent members of the Security Council can be done in several ways:
- Reviewing the veto power: One way to neutralize the effects of the veto is to review the veto power, including the possibility of limiting its use in cases of genocide, mass atrocities or human rights violations.
- Improving the role of regional organizations: The UN should enhance its cooperation with regional organizations to address conflicts at the regional level and reduce the need for Security Council action.
- Strengthening the General Assembly: The General Assembly should play a more active role in promoting international cooperation and addressing global challenges, including conflict resolution.
- Encouraging transparency and accountability: The UN should improve its accountability and transparency mechanisms to ensure that it is held responsible for its actions and decisions.
- Encouraging diplomacy and negotiation: The UN should continue to promote diplomacy and negotiation as the primary means of resolving conflicts and disputes.
- Increasing the involvement of non-permanent members: The UN should work to increase the involvement of non-permanent members of the Security Council in decision-making processes and provide them with greater opportunities to shape the Council’s agenda.
- The composition of the UN Security Council itself is no longer representative of a globalized and multi-polar world. The most populous, the world’s fifth-largest economy, and an exemplary contributor to eighty years of UN peacekeeping efforts must be inducted into the Security Council, along with Brazil and South Africa, to bring balance, equity, and transparency to the United Nations.
By taking these steps, the United Nations can better address the challenges posed by the veto power of the permanent members of the Security Council and more effectively prevent wars and promote peace and stability.