By Izaaz Ahmed
It would be wrong to say that the efforts to promote and maintain the virtue of peaceful co-existence among the community of tions are a modern phenomenon. Buddhist sources and the pillar edicts from the Mauryan period clearly indicate that Emperor Ashoka had sent political ambassadors to places as far as Syria in the 3rd century BCE. During his reign, the then prevailing principle of ‘Bherighosh’ was replaced by ‘Dhammaghosh’, i.e. maintaining peaceful ties with the other kingdoms. Kautilya’s Arthashastra, considered as the Bible of statecraft, also advises a ‘Vijigisu’ (ruler) to carry out a series of peaceful and level-headed negotiations before declaring war on the other ruler.
In the modern times, it was to uphold this peace that the United tions Organisation (UNO) came into being in 1945. In the backdrop of the futile and utterly devastating Second World War, the leading members of the global community founded this body to stave off such a tragedy in the future. The organisation came across as a beacon of hope for the peace-lovers all across the world, for it seemed to be a bulwark against all the elements trying to ruffle the global order and harmony. But, has the peace-keeping organisation been able to live up to its reputation? Is it authoritative enough to make any warmongering country, whether super power or underdeveloped, toe the line? Well, a few recent incidents can answer these questions.
The Trump administration, known for taking impulsive decisions, recently recognised the highly disputed city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The POTUS, by doing this, not only flouted the UN Security Council Resolution 478 that dismisses Israel’s claim over Jerusalem as its capital, but has also jeopardized the entire peace process between Israel and Palestine. The US officials, trying to justify the move, are saying that the country is still committed to finding a permanent solution to the longstanding conflict. Don’t they know that Jerusalem holds the key to that? Is the present US government legitimizing Israel’s illegal occupation of East Jerusalem since the Six-Day War of 1967? Although the UNO has disregarded the decision of the US, a lot more is expected of the organisation. But, as it happens with superpowers, the USA will get away with its shenigan.
In fact, the UNO has achieved more failures than successes when it came to acting firm against the powerful tions or their allies. Israel made a mockery of the intertiol body, when despite UN’s order, it didn’t return the occupied territories of Gaza Strip, West Bank, Golan Heights and Sii. The Jewish tion, as a matter of fact, holds considerable sway over these regions till this day, except for Sii from where it withdrew its troops following the Camp David Agreement of 1979 between Egypt and Israel. Again, it’s noteworthy that this peace treaty – a welcome advancement – wasn’t an outcome of UNO’s intervention, but that of the then US President, Jimmy Carter. While there’s no denying that certain wings of the UNO including the United tions Human Rights Council (UHHRC) have done their bit in terms of tending to the displaced Palestinian refugees, the UN Security Council (UNSC), the most powerful wing of the UNO, has failed to usher long-lasting peace in the region.
The declining effectiveness of the UNO has become all the more apparent in the wake of the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Rohingyas in Myanmar. While many human rights organisations have termed it to be one of the most atrocious incidents against humanity in the recent times, an end to this persecution seems surreal, as reports of the hapless Rohingyas fleeing their homeland keep coming in regularly. The Burmese Junta has even blocked the humanitarian aid of UNO in the region, thereby further pushing the victims into the throes of hunger and death. Endless appeals and requests have been made to the UNSC to put an arms embargo and other related economic sanctions on Myanmar, but to no avail.
The organization has also failed to handle the ever-increasing nuclear proliferation programme of North Korea. With a range of lethal weapons like Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) and miniaturised Hydrogen bombs at its disposal, the eccentric Kim Jong-un regime is undoubtedly one of the biggest threats to world peace right now. Although the UN has put a series of economic sanctions on the tion situated in the Korean Peninsula, its efforts to force the country to stop enriching its uranium level are falling flat. On the contrary, the sanctions are expected to aggravate the despicable conditions of the normal citizens, for about 13 million people have been depending on the UN humanitarian assistance, which has now stopped in the wake of the sanctions.
The Republic of Yemen case has put another stain on the UNO’s image. The country that once attracted traders from the distant Gangetic plains because of its incense sticks has been laid waste by a war led by Saudi Arabia. There also have been recent reports of a cholera outbreak in the war-torn tion. Despite all these disturbing events, UNO’s hands are tied, as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a major arms importer for the USA, and also owns the most number of hydro carbon reserves. Every time a resolution comes up against the country at the UNSC meet, America vetoes it. This veto power has, in fact, been grossly misused by all permanent members – be it Russia using it to crush Hungary’s revolt for Independence in 1956, or the USA very recently vetoing the UNSC resolution against the former’s announcement to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
We also find instances of superpowers invading into another country without the authorization of UNO. The best example would be the unwarranted invasion of Iraq by the USA and Britain in March, 2003. This outrageous behaviour of two of the first world countries, which often make a big thing of their civilisations, shocked the entire world, and also showed the UNO at its most ineffective. That UNO was fast losing its might became even more clear when the then Secretary General of the body, Kofi Ann, admitted UN’s helplessness over the invasion of Iraq.
Perhaps, the time is right to talk of the League of tions, the predecessor of UNO. The League, as the me suggests, was a grouping of tions aimed at fostering peace in the world. Formed in 1920, on the same day that the Versailles Treaty came into force, the organisation shot into prominence because of its unprecedented ture. South African statesman, Jan Smuts, echoed the excitement revolving around the organisation when he remarked, “We are witnessing one of the great miracles of history.” However, none of League’s decisions went against a powerful tion that could challenge its verdict. Two of its biggest embarrassments came when Japan invaded the Chinese territory of Manchuria in 1931 and Italy invaded Abyssinia (modern day Ethiopia) in 1935. The League’s reputation was damaged beyond repair, and the smaller tions lost all faith in the peace-making body. The body was not even consulted by its member tions before launching the Second World War. A complete failure as it was, it was eventually dissolved in 1946.
Considering the way things have unfolded in the last many years, one can safely assume that the UNO is going the League’s way. Though it has been able to make far-reaching contributions through the likes of WHO and UNHRC, the body has failed to preserve global peace – the fundamental objective. In such circumstances, the UNO must find a way to circumvent the trap often laid down by the superpowers. Taking cues from the League’s debacle, it must pull out all the stops to assert its influence over the rapacity of the domineering powers. And, most importantly, it has to win back the trust of the less developed countries, to avoid being a dead letter. Reforming the UNSC by giving much-needed representation to regions like Africa, Latin America and Caribbean Islands could be an epoch-making development in this direction. The organization should keep in mind the Constitution of the UNESCO that observes, “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.”
(The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)