Time to reform UN?
The United Nations celebrated 75 years last week. In a video conference address to the UN High Level One-Day Conference in celebration of the occasion, President Gotabaya Rajapaksa said, “We expect the United Nations not to interfere in the internal affairs of States.”
The President also said the partnership between the Member States and the United Nations as well as the sustainability of the United Nations can be achieved to the fullest by taking no country hostage for the benefit of a few.
The Organisation is also often criticised for not fulfilling its original mandate of providing a platform for dialogue and therefore preventing wars between nations. Yet, unfortunately, it had failure to handle international crises in the post-Cold War era, even on a small-scale.
From 1945 till today, the world has witnessed a number of devastating wars, between nations as well as internal conflicts. A number of regions across the world are mired in violence and political instability has caused devastating poverty and disease spread in many nations. However, most unfortunately, the UN could not prevent any or those wars or the deaths and devastations that are still being faced by those nations.
Following are some of the key conflicts across the world that the UN simply failed to prevent – particularly due to the fact that some of the powerful nations represented in the UN Security Council having direct interest in them.
1950-1953 Korean War: North Korea, supported by China, invades South Korea. UN Forces, principally made up of U.S. troops, fight alongside South Korea.
1961 Cuba: The U.S. orchestrates the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, an unsuccessful attempt by Cuban exiles to overthrow Fidel Castro’s regime in Cuba.
1961-1973 Vietnam War: In 1955, North Vietnam invades South Vietnam in an attempt to unify the country. The U.S. joins the war on the side of South Vietnam in 1961, but withdraws combat troops in 1973. In 1975, North Vietnam succeeds in taking control of South Vietnam. The Vietnam War is the longest conflict the U.S. ever fought and the first war it lost.
1965 Dominican Republic: U.S. President sends marines and troops to quash a leftist uprising.
1982 Lebanon: U.S. troops form part of a multinational peacekeeping force to help the Lebanese Government maintain power in the politically volatile country.
1983 Grenada: U.S. President Ronald Reagan invades the Caribbean island nation of Grenada to overthrow its Government.
1989 Panama: U.S. President George H.W. Bush invades Panama and overthrows Manuel Noriega.
1991 Gulf War (Kuwait and Iraq): Iraq invades Kuwait. The Gulf War begins and ends swiftly when a U.S.-led multinational force comes to Kuwait’s aid and expels Saddam Hussein’s forces.
1993 Somalia: A U.S.-led multinational force attempts to restore order to war-torn Somalia.
1994 Haiti: After Haiti’s democratically elected president Jean-Bertrand Aristide is ousted in a coup in 1991 a U.S. invasion three years later restores him to power.
1994-1995 Bosnia: During the Bosnian civil war, which begins shortly after the country declares independence in 1992 the U.S. launches air strikes on Bosnia to ‘prevent ethnic cleansing’. It becomes a part of NATO’s peacekeeping force in the region.
1999 Kosovo: Yugoslavia’s province of Kosovo erupts in war in 1999. A U.S.-led NATO force intervenes with air strikes after Slobodan Milosevic’s Serbian Forces embark on a plan of ethnic cleansing of Kosovo’s ethnic Albanian population.
2001-Present Afghanistan: The U.S. and UN coalition forces invade Afghanistan after 11 September 2001 attacks on the U.S. Despite plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, ongoing instability (and continued U.S. interest in the region) has led to the U.S. remaining heavily involved.
2003-2010 Iraq War: The U.S. and Great Britain invade Iraq and topple the Government of Saddam Hussein. The U.S. engagement in Iraq continues for the next several years amid that country’s escalating violence and fragile political stability.
2011 Libya: In early 2011, a coalition of 19 States began intervening in the civil infighting in Libya.
2012-2019 War with ISIL: In 2012, militants in Iraq and Syria declared a new caliphate and rapidly seized a large territory. The U.S. and other NATO allies began a long campaign to contain and reverse the spread of ISIL.
2017-Present Syria: After several years of launching airstrikes in Syria against ISIL, the U.S. pivoted to launching airstrikes against the Assad regime and its regional allies.
Other prominent and dramatic examples that show how much the UN has failed in its original mandate are the Rwandan genocide and the Darfur crisis, where the UN was not able to intervene in time or enforce its resolutions. More recently, the UN resolution to allow NATO to intervene in Libya drew international attention and resulted in mixed opinions. Its ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine is often viewed in the developing world, as a tool of western countries to justify the violation of sovereignty of other countries.
Most Members agree that there is a need to reform the United Nations, given how much the world has changed over the past 75 years and how the balance of power has shifted across the globe. However, the pertinent question is would the current Security Council agree to reforms that would inevitably diminish their power?