The United Nations and the Maintenance of International Peace and Security:
The United Nations is an international organization composed of 192 member states. The latest member of the UN is the Republic of Montenegro admitted in June 2006.
The UN is not the world government and the UN’s Secretary-General is not the president of the world. The organization was founded in 1945. The founding treaty is the UN Charter. The organization derives its legitimacy from universal membership. The United Nations was founded as a result of World War II. US President Franklin Roosevelt, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and the leaders of several other nations wanted to prevent another world war under all circumstances and tried to ensure a lasting peace by establishing the UN.
The ideas of the founding fathers are enshrined in the preamble of the UN Charter:
“We the peoples of the United Nations 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 treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”
The United Nations System is the whole network of international organizations, treaties and conventions that were created by the United Nations. In general, there is imprecision in the phrase ‘the United Nations’: Sometimes, it means the United (or often not so united) Nations which are the members of the UN organization. It can also mean the entire UN system, or only the Secretary General and his staff, or only the SC.
The UN System
The United Nations System is based on six main organs
- UN General Assembly
- UN Security Council
- UN Economic and Social Council
- UN Secretariat
- International Court of Justice
- the UN Trusteeship Council suspended operations in 1994
Programs and Funds
- UNCTAD - United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
- ITC - International Trade Centre (UNCTAD/WTO)
- UNDCP - United Nations Drug Control Programme
- UNDP - United Nations Development Programme
- UNIFEM - United Nations Development Fund for Women
- UNV - United Nations Volunteers
- UNEP - United Nations Environment Programme
- UNFPA - United Nations Fund for Population Activities
- UNHCR - Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
- UN-HABITAT - United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-HABITAT)
- UNICEF - United Nations Children's Fund
- WFP - World Food Programme
- UNRWA - United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (Reports only to the General Assembly)
Research and Training Institutes
- INSTRAW - International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women
- UNICRI - United Nations Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute
- UNITAR - United Nations Institute for Training and Research
- UNRISD - United Nations Research Institute for Social Development
- UNIDIR - United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research
- COPUOS - United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space
- OHCHR - Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
- UNOPS - United Nations Office for Project Services
- UNU - United Nations University
- UNOOSA - United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs
- UNSSC - United Nations System Staff College
- UNAIDS - Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS
- UNRRA - United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (ceased to exist in 1949)
- UPEACE - United Nations Mandated University for Peace
The United Nations: A Success Story?
Whether the UN is a success, a failure or something in between lies in the eyes of the beholder. For some, the UN is simply a dangerous place and the former UN ambassador of the United States John Bolton once said, it would not make a bit of difference if the UN Secretariat building in New York lost ten stories. Strong critics regard the UN as anti-Israel and anti-US, even as a place, which assists international terrorism. They accuse the UN of being inefficient, corrupt and incapable to address the threats to the global order. Most people share the view that the United Nations failed to stop many armed conflicts and end gross violations of human rights by simply taking no action or by doing, too little, too late. Most people will also agree, that the well-being of the majority of the world’s population has not improved significantly. There is also common agreement, that the UN was not very successful in regard to disarmament and bridging the gap between the rich industrialized and the developing countries. However, most commentators see the important functions and achievements of the United Nations. They will point out that the UN provides an important forum for discussions of world affairs among states. The organization sets important legal standards and values. One should also mention that the UN provides indispensable services. The UN has been also an important incubator and disseminator of ideas and concepts in regard to social and economic issues (gender equality, sustainable development, human security, etc.). The United Nations played an important role in regard to the development of international law. Important conventions and declarations have been adopted in the last sixty years.
âÂÂ Important Treaties and Declarations
- The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948
- The Genocide Convention of 1948
- Refugees Convention of 1951
- International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights of 1966
- International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights of 1966
All of you will be familiar to some extent with the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refuegess (United Nations (UNHCR), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). Many of these programmes, institutes and agencies have successfully helped to make our planet a better place, by feeding the poor, eradicating diseases like riverblindness and polio around the world, and giving shelter to refugees and displaced persons, etc.. Proponents of the United Nations will also add, that the United Nations have successfully managed the process of decolonization.
The Maintenance of International Peace and Security
However, most people will also acknowledge the deficits of the United Nations, in particular in regard to the UN’s role to protect maintain peace and security, which I would like to explain now in greater detail. The primary purpose of the UN is to maintain peace and security (see Art. 1 (1) of the UN Charter). According to preamble of the UN Charter, the UN was founded in 1945 to save succeeding generations from scourge of war. The United Nations uses mainly five tools to manage and resolve international and non-international conflicts:
- Preventive Diplomacy
- Collective Security
In order to prevent aggression, breaches of or threats to the peace, the United Nations established a system of collective security, which refers to a sophisticated system of economic, political and military enforcement measures by the Security Council under Chapter VII. The collective security system of the UN Charter rests on two main pillars: the prohibition against the threat or use force between states according Art. 2(4); and the concept, that the Security Council has the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and that member states have a legal obligation to carry out the Security Council’s decisions. Art. 2(4) of the UN Charter is the central norm of the UN Charter, which states that ‘all Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations.’ The Charter allows the use of force in case of enforcement measures under Chapter VII or in case of self-defense.
Today I will discuss mainly the role of the Security Council, because the Council has the primary authority for maintaining international peace and security. Please keep in mind that the Secretary-General and the UN-General Assembly can also play an important role in the context of peace and security.
What Is the Security Council? What Are the Functions and Powers of the Council?
The SC has the main responsibility for maintaining peace and security. It was originally made up of 11 States and after 1965, of 15 States. The Council includes 5 permanent members (China, France, Russia (formerly the Soviet Union), the United Kingdom and the USA) and ten elected by the General Assembly for two years.
According to Chapter VI which deals with the pacific settlement of disputes, the Security Council “may investigate any dispute, or any situation which might lead to international friction or give rise to a dispute”. Under Chapter VI of the UN Charter, the Security Council can adopt various techniques such as negotiations or mediation in pursuit of peaceful settlement of disputes.
Under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Security Council may take enforcement measures to maintain or restore international peace and security. Decisions under Chapter VII are binding upon all member states. They require nine votes, but no resolution can be adopted if one of the permanent members votes against it. The power of the permanent members to block decisions on substantive matters is called veto power. During the cold war the Security Council was mainly deadlocked because of the use of the veto power by the P5.
With very exceptions in regard to the Korean War, Rhodesia, and South Africa many conflicts occurred and the Council took no action, because at least one of the permanent members was directly or indirectly involved in the conflict.
However, an important development was that the institution of international peacekeeping was invented during the Suez crisis. Despite some earlier observer missions (UNTSO and UNMOGIP), the first mission explicitly labeled as peacekeeping was the UN Emergency Force (UNEF I).
Peeping as an institution was borne out of necessity, because the Security Council was not functioning as envisaged by the founders of the UN Charter and it was the only acceptable practical way for dealing with international and non international conflicts at that time. The UN Charter does not mention peacekeeping but it is commonly agreed that consensual peacekeeping falls between Chapter VI and VII. Consensual peacekeeping operations require the consent of the parties. Two other important requirements are impartiality and the non use of force except in self-defense. Please note that a UN peacekeeping operation can also be established under Chapter VII, if certain requirements are fulfilled under Chapter VII.
Developments since the End of the Cold War
After the end of the Cold War in 1989, the permanent members of the SC became much more co-operative and the number of vetoes significantly decreased, although the hidden veto, the quiet threat of possible veto use remained a problem. The Council expanded its scope of action, authorized the use of force, imposed economic sanctions, established several robust peacekeeping forces and a variety of new mechanisms under Chapter VII of the UN Charter. In the post Cold War, the Council is mainly concerned with threats to peace which originate within states and threaten regional stability. The council spends most of its time with conflicts in Africa. The Council took a number of innovative measures under Chapter VII. For example, it imposed a cease-fire on Iraq after the liberation of Kuwait and established a variety of new mechanisms under Chapter VII. After more than a decade without new peacekeeping operations, UN peace operations started to mushroom around the globe. Until April 2007 more than 60 peacekeeping operations have been conducted by the UN. There are currently 15 peacekeeping operations and 3 political and/or peacebuilding missions).
Many peacekeeping operations have been a success. The UN contributed significantly to the resolution of a number of conflicts, for example in Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Cambodia, Namibia and many other places. According to a 2005 study of the Rand Group, two out of three UN peacekeeping operations were successful. UN peacekeeping forces are also far less expensive than funding a US force. The Security Council often co-operates closely together with regional organizations and increasingly authorizes coalition of the willing to conduct enforcement operations. The Council has also imposed sanctions in a number of cases. Unlike many other UN organs the SC works relatively well. There have been relatively few disagreements within the Council in recent years. Notable exceptions were the Kosovo and Iraq crisis.
According to the Human Security Report of 2005, the number of wars, genocides and human rights abuse over the past decade (a 40% drop in violent conflict, an 80% drop in the most deadly conflicts and 80% drop in genocide and politicide. The report argues that the main cause for these changes is the upsurge of international activism, spearheaded by the UN.
Changing Patterns in the Use of the Veto in the Security Council
As the Human Security Report explains, several different efforts have paid off:
- An increase in international support for UN peacemaking (a sevenfold increase in the number of ‘Friends of the Secretary-General’, ‘Contact Groups’ and other mechanisms created by governments to support UN peacemaking activities and peace operations).
- An increase in post-conflict peace operations.
- A much greater willingness to use force. Many UN peace operations are mandated to use force to protect the peace, not just their own personnel.
- An increased resort to use economic coercion.
Current Security Council Sanctions as of Summer 2007
UN Al-Qa'ida and Taliban: Financial restrictions and travel ban against named individuals, arms embargo.
Terrorism: Financial restrictions against and no safe haven for terrorists.
Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY)/International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY): Financial and travel restrictions against named individuals.
Côte d'Ivoire: Financial restrictions and travel ban against named individuals, arms embargo.
Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC): Arms embargo, financial restrictions and travel ban against named individuals who violate the arms embargo.
Iran: Embargo on exports and imports of listed proliferation sensitive items, embargo on related financing and assistance, financial restrictions and travel ban against named individuals and entities involved in proliferation sensitive activities, limits on IAEA assistance to Iran.
Iraq: Arms embargo, financial restrictions against named individuals/entities, ban on the trade of Iraqi cultural property.
Lebanon: Financial restrictions and travel ban against named individuals (note: none yet named).
Liberia: Financial restrictions and travel ban against named individuals, arms embargo, bans on the imports of rough diamonds and all round logs and timber products from Liberia.
Rwanda: Arms embargo.
Rwanda: Arms embargo.
Sierra Leone: Arms embargo, financial restrictions and travel ban against named individuals.
Somalia: Arms embargo.
Sudan: Arms embargo, financial restrictions and travel ban against named individuals.
UN Peacekeeping Operations as of April 2007
United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) since 1948,
United Nations Military Observer Group (UNMOGIP) since 1949,
United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP) since 1964,
United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) since 1974,
United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) since 1978,
United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) since 1991,
United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) since 1993,
United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) since 1999,
United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC) since 1999,
United Nations Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) since 2000,
United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) since 2003,
United Nations Operation in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) since 2004,
United Nations Stabilization Mission in Burundi (MINUSTAH) since 2004,
United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB) since 2004,
United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) since 2004
UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) since 2005
United Nations Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) since 2006,
and the political missions, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) since 2002 and United Nations Mission in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) since 2006 .
Examples of Specific Efforts to Protect Human rights
Bosnian No Fly Zones
Several recent Peacekeeping Operations
Establishment of New Mechanisms under Chapter VII
UN Compensations Commission Res. 692
UNSCOM Res. 687
UN Boundary Commission Res. 687
International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia Res. 808 of 1993
International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda Res. 955 of 1994
UNMOVIC Res. 1284 of 1999
Working Group on Sanctions of 2000
Working Group Terrorism of 2001
Working Group Peacekeeping of 2001
Working Group Children and Armed Conflict
Peacebuilding Commission Res. 1645 of 2005
Mandated Multinational Operations/Coalitions of the Willing
Gulf War Coalition Res. 678 of Nov. 1990 (Iraq)
UNITAF Res. 794 of Dec. 1992 (Somalia)
Operation Turquoise Res. 929 of 1994 (Rwanda)
Mulitinational Force Res. 940 of 1994 (Haiti)
IFOR Res 1031 of 1995 (Bosnia Hercegovina)
SFOR Res. 1088 of 1996 (Bosnia Hercegovina)
MISAB Res. 1125 of 1997(Central AfricanRepublic)
Multi Protection Force Albania (MPF) Res. 1101 of 1997 (Albania)
XFOR Res. 1203 of 1998 (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)
KFOR Res. 1244 of 1999 (Kosovo) INTERFET Res. 1264 of 1999 (East Timor)
Task Force FoxRes. 1371 of 1998 (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia)
ISAF Res. 1386 of 2001 (Afghanistan)
Operation UNICORN MICECI Res. 1464 of 2003 (Cote d’Ivoire)
Operation Artemis Res. 1484 of 2003 (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Multinational Force in Liberia Res. 1497 of 2003 (Liberia)
Multinational Force in Iraq Res. 1511 of 2003 (Iraq)
Failures and Moments of Crisis
However, there have been also great failures of the UN Security Council and moments of crisis after 1989:
The failure to prevent the 1994 Rwandan Genocide, which resulted in the killing of almost one million people. The failure to prevent the Srebrenica massacre, which is regarded as the worst war crime committed in Europe since the end of world war. In 1995, the Serbian army killed about 8000 Bosnian Muslims despite the presence of UN peacekeepers.
- Somalia (1993), the War in the Democratic Republic of Congo (six million dead people), Sudan
- Iraq Sanctions Regime (Impact on the Iraqi population/Oil for Food Scandal)
- UN Peacekeeping Sex Scandals
- Kosovo Crisis / Iraq War of 2003
The debate on the interpretation of the prohibition of the use of force:
The Discretionary Powers of the Security Council
You may ask, why the Security Council does not always take action in case of a threat to peace? The Security Council is a political organ. You will find no article in the UN Charter, which imposes a duty upon the SC, regarding when and how to act. According to Chapter VII, the Council may take action in response to a threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or aggression but it does not have to. Even if there is a majority in the Council, one of the permanent members can always block a decision by using their veto. Decisions in the Council are usually not made on the basis of principles of collective security enshrined in the UN Charter but primarily on the basis of national interests.
The UN will face a great number of challenges in the next years:
- How to combat terrorism
- Weapons of Mass Destruction and Small Arms
- Assist to find a peaceful solution to Conflicts in Africa and the Middle East
- How to mitigate poverty and solve environmental issues,
- How to implement human rights
- How to work together with the US
- How to handle the increasing number of peacekeeping operations
- How to implement the rule of law in post-conflict societies and apply it to all activities of the UN.
- Last but not least, the UN has to make choices and set priorities.
The United Nations has a mixed record in maintaining peace and security. Obviously, there is often a gap between the high ideals of the UN Charter and the realities of conflicting interests. Last but not least, let me mention that the UN is not the only important actor, trying to create a more peaceful world. As you will know from the six party talks with North Korea, there are other mechanisms for solving international or internal conflicts.
For example, regional organizations and ad hoc coalitions in places like Iraq and Afghanistan make an important contribution to peacekeeping. Whether for the UN, regional organizations, group of states, or individual states, maintaining peace and security in the world will remain a challenging task.
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