IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

At 75, the UN needs a rebirth

23rd October, 2020 International Relations

Context: There must be a global push against the rules that have privileged rule of the few over the many. As, October 24 marks the diamond jubilee of the United Nations.

How it can regain its lost luster?        

  • Much has changed in the international system since 1945, the world body continues to see a tussle between ‘principle’ and ‘power’.
  • On the one hand, the UN represents hopes of a peaceful and just world order through multilateral cooperation, abidance by international law, and uplift of the downtrodden.
  • On the other, the institution has been designed to privilege the most powerful states of the post-World War II dispensation by granting them commanding heights over international politics via the undemocratic instruments of veto power and permanent seats in the Security Council (UNSC).
  • The collective command model of big powers built into the UNSC is one of the reasons why there has been no third world war.

A model that didn’t work

  • This model has caused havoc.
  • Almost immediately after the UN’s creation, it was pushed to the verge of irrelevance by the Cold War, which left the UN little room to implement noble visions of peace, development and human rights.
  • In the post-Cold War political era, the liberal sole superpower, presumed that the UN could spring back to life and embark on a plethora of peacekeeping missions, nation-building interventions and promotion of universal human rights.
  • In the U.S.-led ‘new world order’ of the 1990s, it appeared as if the problem of ‘power’ cutting out ‘principle’ had been resolved under the benign hegemony of a Washington that would be the flag-bearer of UN values.
  • The golden age of the UN was too deceptive to last. The present peaking of geopolitical tensions as a “great fracture”.
  • The phrase ‘new Cold War’ is in vogue to depict the clash between China and the U.S. Tensions involving other players like Russia, Turkey, Iran and Israel in West Asia, as well as between China and its neighbours in Asia, are at an all-time high.
  • The recrudescence of the worst habits of competitive vetoing by P-5 countries has prevented the UNSC from fulfilling its collective security mandate.

Obstacles to reforms

  • Apart from rivalries of member states, there is a larger underlying problem.
  • At the core of the paralysis of the UN is the phenomenon of P-5 countries (China, France, Russia, the U.K., and the U.S.) blocking reforms.
  • Outmoded procedures based on the discriminatory original sin of superior prerogatives to P-5 countries have to be discarded.
  • In the 21st century, If a simple majority voting method could replace the P-5 consensus method, the obstacles to UNSC reforms would reduce.

Conclusion: On the 75th anniversary of the UN, there must be a global push against ossifying ‘rules’ which have privileged ‘rule’ of the few over the many. That is the only way to restore some balance between ‘power’ and ‘principle’ and ensure a renaissance of the UN.