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United Nations — An instrument of International understanding And World Peace.
(1) Opening — Purposes of the United Nations.
(2) Body — Maintenance of world peace and security.
— Korean war and Gulf crisis.
— Critical disputes in the post-1945 era.
— The question of disarmament.
— Self-determination of people.
— The problem of decolonisation.
— The Agencies.
— Sovereign equality.
(3) Closing — All big events and achievements have small beginnings.
The United Nation was established to "save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.... and to affirm faith in fundamental human rights, and to establish conditions under which justice can be maintained". To this end, the Charter laid down the pursuit of the following "purposes" by the United Nations :
(a) To maintain international peace and security through collective measures;
(b) to promote the process of self-determination of peoples or decolonisation;
(c) to bring about the peaceful settlement of international disputes;
(d) and to help achieve international cooperation in social, economic, cultural, educational, Scientific and humanitarian fields. Arising from these "purposes" and from the common concern of mankind, the UN has set itself two other important goals or objectives, namely, disarmament and the establishment of a New International Economic Order (NIEO).
Manifestly, the foremost UN goal is the maintenance of world peace and security, the primarily responsibility for which is centred in the Security Council, In this context, it may be noted that generally speaking, only an act of aggression committed or backed by one of the Great Powers (Britain, China, France, Russia and the USA) can seriously threaten the peace of the world. But when such is the case, the Security Council in which each Great Power has a 'Veto' would be structurally and operationally unable the aggressor. To this day, the UN Security Council has been able to vote for enforcement action only in two major conflict situations i.e. Korean War (forty years ago) and the Gulf crisis arising from Iraqi invasion and occupation of Kuwait. In the Korean War, North Korea was adjudged as the aggressor, which enjoyed the support of the USSR. However, at the time when the Koran case came before the Security Council, the Soviet Union had been boycotting the Council. Hence the enforcement action plan proposed by the US - escaped the Soviet veto. Thus it was just an exception, which confirms the rule of the Security Council's inability in any aggression committed or supported by a veto-wielding Great Power. In the Gulf crisis, the Security Council was able to ask Iraq to evacuate Kuwaiti territory. It also voted for the blockade of Iraq. This had been possible because of the prevailing East-West detente arising chiefly due to the extraordinary domestic and global initiatives of the then Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev., Surely, a third world war has not occurred since 1945. But this has been due, chiefly, to the "balance of terror" between the superpowers (the USA and the former USSR) and their perception that a major direct clash between them would, among other probable damage, lead to near-total destruction of both of them.
As regards the UN record in the matter of the peaceful settlement of disputes or conflicts, it may be noted that in the post-1945 era, there have been over 150 critical international disputes or conflict situations, notably, the India-China conflict, India-Pakistan conflicts, Ethiopia-Somalia conflict, the Afghanistan crisis, the Cuban missile crisis, the crises in Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Poland, the Vietnam war and the Iran-Iraq war. In all these cases, the dispute has either lingered on or has been settled through bilateral diplomacy. In South Asia alone, three major landmarks in conflict resolution or the pacific, settlement of disputes - the Shastri-Sirimavo Agreement (1965), the Simla Agreement (1972) and the Farakka Accord (1977), were bilaterally negotiated. Likewise, India's boundary disputes with China which have lingered for over three decades is being bilaterally pursued through successive rounds of India-China talks at various levels. Thus the UN has had very little to do with the settlement of major international disputes. However, the UN has done a lot in the field of 'peace-keeping from the time of the Suez crisis in 1956 through Cyprus, Lebanon and Congo and other areas to its current involvement in Cambodia, Somalia and Bosnia Herzegovina. But the future of these operations is rather uncertain. First, there is the problem of funding, for already member nations owe more than 500 million dollars to the United Nations on account of these peace-keeping operations. Secondly, there is the problem of having to raise a sufficiently strong and trained peace-keeping force to be used as and when an emergency arises.
Aside from conflict resolution and the pacific settlement of disputes, the question of disarmament is also significantly linked to the problem of world peace and security. Enormous stockpiles of nuclear and conventional armaments and the annual global armament expenditure of over one thousand billion dollars threaten the very survival of mankind. But the progress in this direction has been very limited, and the UN involvement in it has been rather minimal. Even such partial or limited measures as the Non-proliferation Treaty, the SALT-I & II, the I.N.F. Treaty and the START treaty were negotiated outside the UN framework. However, the United Nations General Assembly has had three special exclusively to arms control and disarmament. Among these three special disarmament sessions, SSOD-I had some limited success in as much as it adopted a consensual resolution pointing to the grave danger arising from escalating arms race and urging immediable steps towards global disarmament. But, in practice, its impact was almost nil. As for SSOD-II & III, they failed even to adopt a consensual declaration for all their diplomatic noises and fanfare.
In the field of self-determination of peoples and decolonisation (which the charter declared as a prime concern of the world organization) the UN record has also been rather peripheral or nugatory. Thus, Rupert Emerson a leading American expert on colonial affairs says, "The United Nations did not in fact establish working jurisdiction over decolonisation; and the great bulk of the politics of decolonisation did not pass, as it were through the UN funnel, but has been directly worked out (whether peacefully or belligerently) by the colonial powers and the peoples whom they ruled".
Closely related to the problem of decolonisation is the issue of fundamental freedom or human rights. Surely, in this field, the UN has issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and several Covenants on Civil, political and economic rights. But it has no authority whatsoever to implement or enforce these solemn declarations in various member countries. In South Africa and Israel *areas, occupied *of Palestine, fundamental human rights are denied to a vast number of people. And before the recent upsurge in the former USSR and East Europe, these rights were generally nonexistent in these areas.
The social, economic and cultural activities of the United Nations have been operationalized through various "specialized agencies" as these agencies function knowledgeably on the periphery of the United Nations system. As an American expert, John Maclaurin, has pointed out, these organisations have always operated, so to say, on petty, shoe promote the cultural and socio-economic upliftment of entire human multinationals spend on the publicity or advertisement of their consumer products. Even so, several member countries to the budgets of these agencies for political or diplomatic reasons.
The UN Charter solemnly declares the principles of the "Sovereign equality" of all member nations. But, in fact, thanks to structural provisions like the 'veto' and vast economic and resource inequalities among the member States, some countries (to use George Orwell's phrase) are "more equal than the others" in the UN's structures and operations. Flowing from this realisation a forward a demand for the restructuring of the United Nations, and specifically, for the establishment of a "New International Economic Order". In May 1974 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to this effect. But on account of the intransigence of the affluent nations - over whom the UN has no control - there has been no progress in the proposed North-South dialogue to usher in the cherished New International Economic Order.
Apparently, the United Nations has failed to live up to the principles and purposes of the Charter or fulfil its obligations in the vital field of world peace and security and related fields like disarmament, decolonisation, human rights and the establishment of a new world economic order. Yet, in many ways, it has helped to cool tensions and promote dialogue and international contracts. In its committees, cafes, bars, lounges and galleries, various diplomats often meet and happen to chat informally and socially. In such a relaxed atmosphere, occasionally new ideas and approaches emerge, which sometimes lead to a fuller appreciation of opposite viewpoints and their eventual reconciliation. On the face of it, it is a small contribution. But, let us remember, that all big events or achievements have small beginnings. May be, in course of time, these informal approaches will tend to affect the formal structures and operations of the United Nations and make it a more viable instrument of international understanding and world peace.