United Nations: Peacekeeper or Liability? Written by Erenay Karacan

United Nations: Peacekeeper or Liability?

United Nations: Peacekeeper or Liability?
When you go to MUNs, it is highly likely that you hear the words: “UN is doomed, nobody cares about it anymore! It is dysfunctional and slow, it is all about bureaucracy and it cannot handle any problems of the world!”. It is a very widely spread opinion that UN is useless and has been failing to carry out duties, that it was supposed to. It is time to look inside the real system of the UN and talk about the logical sides of both opinions.

In our modern 21st century, the place of the UN was a subject of dispute. It is largely due to the lack of information of people regarding the general system of the UN and general system of the intergovernmental organizations overall. United Nations consists of five general organs and countless subsidiary committees under them. These general organs are generally known and can be listed as General Assembly, Security Council, Economic and Social Council, Trusteeship Council, Secretariat and the International Court of Justice. Although the Trusteeship Council has been suspended since the year 1994, since its duty was to accomplish full decolonization and taking care of the non-self-governing territories and it was decided that council has accomplished its goals, other organs are working harder than maybe any other institution in the world. But the UN is actually emphasized on two special bodies, General Assembly and Security Council. Before coming to them, we should talk about the work of the ECOSOC. This council has been carrying tremendous accomplishments out, with the help of its specialized agencies. Those agencies are huge institutions themselves like World Health Organization (WHO), World Trade Organization (WTO), International Monetary Fund (IMF), United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) etc. It is not largely doubted if these organizations are doing their job as they should since it is largely proven that they are capable of doing what they can since they are not directly related to the affairs and politics of the member states. Problems, therefore, start with the UNGA and UNSC.

United Nations Security Council is the most authorized and powerful body of the organization and only council, that has the ability to apply sanctions to the members of the nations. And it is definitely not surprising that it is a huge source of doubt and discussion. The critics are mostly about the “composition” of the council. The works and duties of the council and the way it carries out these duties is so variable and large that it can be made another article about it, but in order to summarize, we can say that it is obligated to keep the world in peace. And in order to do so, it has the authority and ability to pass sanctions against a country, impeach and condemn the country’s administration directly, ban the border passing of the related country’ s borders, deploy troops in order to secure the area by means of peacekeeping etc. And it has countless special envoys to help it carry out the decisions of the council and formally these decisions are so powerful, that the nations who are violating the resolutions of the UNSC can be suspended in terms of voting rights and even be expelled from the UN with the discretion of the International Court of Justice. And the problems start just here. Due to the pretty unfair composition of the UNSC of 15 members, and 5 of them being permanent with veto rights, the applicability of such decisions started to be questioned and members started not complying with the resolutions of the UNSC. Such a lack of authority has made the council became useless. But in order to overcome such an obstacle, a couple of amendments have been submitted to the charter of the UN and enabled the states, that are a subject of discussion under the council to join the sessions of the council, however without having a vote on substantive voting procedures. However, many nations of the world still demand a proper reform to the UNSC, in terms of its composition.

WHO Head-Quater in Geneva, Switzerland.
Copyright: WHO/Pierre Virot

Lastly, the work of the General Assembly is very valuable to the UN. In General Assembly all of the 193 nations are represented with six special representatives in six different main committees: Disarmament and International Security Committee; Economic and Financial Affairs Committee; Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee; Special Political and Decolonization Committee; Administrative and Budgetary Committee and Legal Committee. While the UNSC has been being criticized due to its lack of proper composition, these committees are often being referred as slow and inapplicable. Since it contains all of the nations, it is pretty hard to pass some hardened decisions from the assembly and under the charter, the duties and authorities of the UNGA are pretty restricted and many people liken the UNGA as an advisory committee to the UNSC.

On contrary to all of the arguments I have listed above, I would like to state my own opinion. Although some of the arguments are partly true, I believe it is not widely known, what an intergovernmental origination has meant to represent. One of the most important conditions of joining to the UN is that it is ensured, that the inner and outer politics of the nation and most importantly the national sovereignty on the field will be left to the discretion of the member state. Therefore, the authorities of the UN are restricted to only giving advice to the member states and the only body to “urge” members to do anything is UNSC and it is not an “obligation” to the members. Well, this is an often-misunderstood concept, the difference between urging and obligating the members to do something. The urge is strongly requesting the member to carry out the decisions and obligate is to leave no other choice but complying with the decisions. But I also think that the composition of the UNSC is not doing the world any favour to the world right now.

In a nutshell, although it has some severe drawbacks and lacking in terms of “process management” and authority, UN is an important sign of globalization and international cooperation. Today world’s most important decisions are being taken in the offices of the UN, everywhere around the globe and even the strongest nations of the world introduce their actions to the UN and are being accounted for their actions. However, such a huge instruction needs always to stay dynamic and adapt to the different needs of the world and the shifts of the contemporary age.

Erenay Karacan

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