Thursday, April 25, 2024

Speedy reforms alone can save the un from going the league of nations way


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United Nations has failed to keep peace and security in the world

By Nantoo Banerjee

Two ongoing devastating wars – one in Ukraine and the other in the Gaza strip – have so far killed and injured tens of thousands of civilians since last year. The Ukraine-Russia war started in February 2022. As of February 15, this year, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) verified a total of 30,457 civilian casualties in the course of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Of them, 19,875 were reported to have been injured. Nearly 3.7 million Ukrainians were internally displaced. Around 6.5 million refugees from Ukraine have been recorded globally. Approximately 14.6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in 2024. In Gaza, at least 29,782 people have been killed and 70,043 wounded in Israeli attacks since October 7, last year. The revised death toll in Israel stands at 1,139. The war continues. Gaza-based Palestinians, comprising large numbers of children and women, are dying in hordes almost every day. So far, little pressure has been exerted by the friends of Israel and Palestine on the two sides to bring the mindless war to an end.
So far, the UN, including its all-powerful Security Council, proved to be totally ineffective to stop the wars in Ukraine and Gaza to establish peace and human security in the two politically explosive regions. In Ukraine, the US and its allies are actually fanning the war by providing massive arms and financial assistance adding to the endless suffering of the people of the east European nation. Last week, French President Emmanuel Macron went to the extent of openly discussing the possibility of sending European troops to Ukraine to help the country fight the war against Russia, threatening a major escalation of the largest ground war Europe has witnessed since World War II and challenging the authority of the UN. Russia has responded immediately with the possibility of a nuclear war in Europe. France is one of the UN Security Council’s five permanent members. In a way, President Macron’s public outburst once again undermined the authority of the UN.
There are at least 10 other countries and regions where civil wars, armed violence and terror attacks have been causing human disasters for years and even for decades. They include Afghanistan, Burkina Faso and the Sahel, the Central African Republic, Chad and the Lake Chad Basin, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria and the Yemeni Houthi rebels-controlled Red Sea. In Afghanistan, nearly 150,000 civilian casualties have been recorded since the US military withdrawal in 2021. By now, some 28.3 million people need humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan. The inter-communal conflict in Chad and the Lake Chad Basin has been going on for nearly 15 years. The conflict in Congo has so far affected 26.4 million people who badly need humanitarian assistance. The violence and brutality in Somalia, ethnic cleansing in South Sudan and inter-communal conflict in Sudan have sent millions of peoples in utter distress. Syria is one of the world’s worst affected countries trapped in the violence assisted by outside powers. In the Red Sea, controlled by allegedly Iran-backed Yemeni Houthi pirates, a trillion-dollar annual global sea trade has been severely impacted. All the countries mentioned in the list are UN members. Yet, the UN stands totally ineffective, if not unconcerned, to help establish peace and security in the region.
The helpless condition of the UN and its rarely cooperative five-member Security Council, led by two rival groups (one under the US and the other a Russia-China combine) are increasingly creating a situation which the world witnessed in the 1930s under the League of Nations. The League was the first worldwide intergovernmental organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace. The League of Nations was established on January 10, 1920, at the initiative of victorious Allied powers at the end of the first World War. The League of Nations failed as aggressor nations — as also its powerful permanent members such as France and Britain — undermined the authority of the world body. France and Britain even ignored the League in their efforts to appease Germany’s Hitler at the early stage, which arguably led to the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939. By 1937, the League became a totally useless body. It was formally disbanded on April 19, 1946.
Right now, trust between the UN’s member-governments appears to be reaching a breaking point. Not many countries trust the UN for resolving or reshaping critical intergovernmental issues. China is seriously questioning the legitimacy of the US to help establish the world order. New intergovernmental bodies such as BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa group), Quad (Quadrilateral Dialogue involving the US, Japan, India and Australia), US-Japan-Australia Strategic Cooperation, Aukus (the Australia-UK-US strategic pact), and Beijing’s own multibillion dollar Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) or a Chinese Marshall Plan for global dominance involving so far some 60 countries pose a new challenge to the diminishing UN authority. Interestingly, China is believed to be the main opposer to the UNSC reforms for now. Earlier, the western powers resisted the call for the reforms.
To be effective, the UN needs to be urgently revamped. The UNSC must recognize the changing world order – economic and strategic. It is unthinkable that some of the world’s most influential countries today such as India, Japan, Germany and Brazil are still to become permanent members of the UNSC. India is the world’s most populous country, fifth largest economy, and the fourth largest military power after the US, Russia and China. Japan and Germany are economic and technological super powers. Brazil is South America’s most influential country. Their presence as permanent members of the UNSC would have made the council much stronger to deal with the global political impasse. The deepening global crisis demands a fundamental and rapid shift in the operational style of the UN. The UNSC must recognize and represent contemporary global power dynamics. (IPA Service)


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