UN: Between hope and history
Though a war of the devilish dimension that prompted the creation of the UN might have thankfully eluded humanity till date, smaller conflicts and calamities — all manmade — combined together can, however, equal the enormity of a third world war. These regional conflagrations, that have left millions dead, have divided the international community down the middle and currently present us with a grim scenario.
With global decision making increasingly becoming the monopoly of a few and unilateralism, order of the day, the fate of the UN literally hangs by a thread. But then one must accept that the demise of Cold War indeed held a great promise for the hallowed institution as it enlivened the hope for a prosperous and peaceful world order.
However, this concept of a frictionless world turned out to be a myth with sectarian conflicts engulfing every nook and cranny. So disastrous is the performance of the UN in keeping its security promises that it appears to be heading the League of Nations way slowly but surely. Unfortunately, the UN, as it exists today, is nothing but a skeleton, which is required to be invested with weight and muscle to be effective. Let us not forget that the UN is obligated not only to provide a neutral system for maintaining global peace but also devise ways and means to manage critical problems, which no single government is capable of handling. Who else other than this widely represented world body can be tasked with monitoring and enforcing order in an ideal society based on law? The Iraq war has virtually robbed the UN of this power and leaves a grey area to be exploited by any government. With the signing of the UN Charter in 1945, a framework for an effective system of international governance in an increasingly interconnected world came into being though both the Cold War and its subsequent era witnessed an unfortunate degradation in the entire institutional mechanism that everybody promised to adhere to. The UN Charter binds the member states into accepting a clear restraint on the use of disproportionate force because the maintenance of peace and protection of legitimate global interests vests with the UN itself.
The Security Council bearing primary responsibility for ensuring global peace has either been shaky in its approach to critical situations or swayed by partisan interests. Many believe that the biggest accomplishment of the UN is its success in preventing a direct armed conflict between the major powers. But in reality, given the diminishing influence and impact of the world body in crisis situations, the fear of mutually assured destruction has so far prevented the big powers from adopting adventurist action against each other. While there is no doubt at all that some ill-conceived action by dictatorial regimes does provide the perfect alibi for propagating unilateralism, the international community must put their heads together to come up with some acceptable solution so that the damaged credibility of the UN can be repaired at the earliest.
In the words of former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the UN must gear up to become a perfect forum for resolving differences rather than turning into a mere stage for acting them out. It might not be out of context to remind ourselves that a high level panel appointed by Annan, for outlining the challenges faced by the UN, have given their nod for the use of brute force in some situations to prevent a threat from becoming imminent with a rider that the Security Council be made the nodal point for threat assessment.
It would be myopic of the influential world leaders to decline this opportunity in the fear of getting trapped by a clause or formal agreement that smacks of a legal commitment toward shared and collective responsibility in handling troubled situations. At the end of the day, as world powers struggle to find the most appropriate global response to mitigate the sufferings of ordinary Syrians, Organization of Islamic Cooperation Secretary-General Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu’s conviction that Syria can be extricated from the bloody crisis through a political solution and that the UN has a role in it offers a ray of hope, however dim it might be.
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