Possibilities of United Nations

Last October, the United Nations celebrated its 75th anniversary. While the hero of the day was remembered, the celebration was also marked by the disappointment that the world organization, founded on fine principles, has not achieved lasting and unarmed world peace. Disappointment is understood as a beloved child is faced with exaggerated expectations.

It is worth remembering, however, that the UN has been standing longer and has made a more positive impact on world spending than any previous attempt to organize cooperation between nations and states. Immanuel Kant has registered the first idea of ​​world government in the late 18th century. It’s kind of first realized incarnation, albeit in a very different form than Kant had thought, can be considered the Holy Alliance, founded in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars of Russia, Austria, and Prussia, and then covering most of Europe.[1]

There was no “League of Nations” Holy Alliance, but rather an alliance of rulers to discipline peoples and prevent the spread of nationalist or socially revolutionary ideas. In its own way, it succeeded in maintaining peace in Europe and avoiding major wars for almost a hundred years.

After the First World War, the League of Nations, established at the Versailles Peace Conference of the victorious nations, remained a torso when the U.S. Senate prevented the country from joining the World Organization. A major weakness of the League of Nations was also its identification with the Versailles Peace Treaty dictated by the victorious states. Initially, Germany and the Soviet Union, which later joined, were excluded, both of which remained short-term members. For the latter, membership ended when it was expelled as an attacker who started the Winter War in 1940.

The Charter of the League of Nations did not prohibit warfare, as long as all mediation attempts were first exhausted. It was not until the Kellogg-Briand Treaty of 1928 that an absolute ban on the commencement of war was incorporated into international law. [2]

When the victorious states, after World War II, gathered in San Francisco to form the United Nations, they wanted to avoid the many leaks of the League of Nations. While avoiding the casting defects of the League of Nations, one may ask whether the founders of the UN also made new casting defects at the same time.

If you ask today how successful the UN is, the answer depends on whether you see the glass half-empty or half full. The UN Charter is sublime to read, and its principles have not remained dead letters alone. World War III has so far been avoided and the international multilateral legal system has been gradually supplemented. I am therefore one of those whose views on the success of the UN tend to give at least a satisfactory rating.

It is easy and sometimes even right to criticize the UN for inefficiency. However, it has improved in recent years, because of many administrative reforms. The capacity of its specialized organizations is commendable, good or at least satisfactory for most, even if there are enough problems.

While not all Nobel Peace Prize winners have undeniably earned them, when the recipient was the UN itself - as in 2001 when the UN shared it with its then Secretary-General, Kofi Anna - it has not aroused wider criticism. The UNHCR, the UN's refugee agency, has received it twice in 1954 and 1981, and in 2020 World Food Program.[3] All UN organizations, depending on the contributions of member countries, are always underfunded, but in general, they use their scarce resources commendably. Of course, scandals have sometimes occurred, but they have improved their administrative culture in recent years.

The role of the UN as the only legitimization figure of the use of military force in the world is enshrined in its charter. The original idea was for the UN to have its own army under the Security Council to stop wars and attack to help the country. This was even used once when, when the Soviet Union boycotted its sessions, American-led forces fighting under the auspices of the United Nations authorized to help South Korea in a fight the North Korean invasion in 1950.[4]

Since then, peacekeeping forces approved by the parties have been assembled on behalf of the UN, for the first time in 1956 in Suez. Nowadays, their consent may no longer be required. Thus, The UN can now also launch more demanding crisis management operations, where the rights of use of forces are no longer limited to self-defence.

The potential for crisis management has since been further strengthened by the principle of responsibility to protect (R2P), adopted by the UN in 2005, which obliges the UN to intervene 

in a humanitarian manner if a state is unable to prevent genocide, war crimes or crimes against humanity.[5] The consensus on accepting the responsibility to protect eventually arose in response to the fact that under-resourced UN peacekeepers, as powerless bystanders, had to watch side-by-side, while horrific genocides took place in Rwanda and Srebrenica. Ultimately, the mandate for the actions required by the responsibility to protect remains in the hands of the Security Council. Even if the members of the Security Council are prepared to authorize the operation, they are not always prepared to make sufficient portion of their own forces available to the operation. This was bitterly experienced by the UN in the crises in Rwanda and Bosnia. In both situations, in terms of quantity and insufficient powers, UN forces had to monitor the execution of the genocides from the side-lines.

The UN's greatest need for reform is precisely the Security Council, whose composition reflects the state of the world and the balance of power at the end of World War II. Although the need for reform is being identified, the enlargement of the Security Council to increase its representativeness is not progressing anywhere in the near future. The permanent members do not openly oppose it - as long as no attempt is made to touch on their veto - but they see no compelling need for reform. Extending the Security Council to around 25 members, as well as new permanent members (without a veto) and alternates, would also allow it to replace itself as a kind of informal world government in the G-20. Permanent membership of the Security Council culminates in India, Brazil, Germany and Japan, as well as a couple of countries from Africa whose under-representation is widely recognized. For none of these, support is undeniable.

However, the cause of the UN's problems lies in its member states. Without the support and commitment of the Member States, the world organization has neither the capacity nor the competence. For crisis management operations, the UN does not have to deploy its own forces, but has to turn to the Member States and, by appealing and agreeing to scratch enough troops.

Member countries will remain a weak link in UN for a long time to come, and we must live with this system. It is easy to present idealistic ideal solutions for how international cooperation and the management of globalization should be organized. Unfortunately, there is no prospect of moving to a world led by a world parliament and a world government, or that such a thing would ever be possible at all. The world will still be formally based on independent states for the next crucial decades, when we will have at most the time to make the transition to sustainable development.

[1] Perpetual Peace: A Philosophical Sketch (German: Zum ewigen Frieden. Ein philosophischer Entwurf) is a 1795 book authored by German philosopher Immanuel Kant.

[2] Kellogg-Briand pact 1928: https://history.state.gov/milestones/1921-1936/kellogg

[3] Nobel prize award 2020: https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/2020/press-release/

[4] UN charter: https://treaties.un.org/doc/publication/ctc/uncharter.pdf

[5] UN R2P https://www.un.org/en/genocideprevention/about-responsibility-to-protect.shtml