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What Were the Goals of the United Nations When It Was Established in 1945? How Successful Has It Been in Achieving These Goals in the Post-1945 Period?

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What were the goals of the United Nations when it was established in 1945? How successful has it been in achieving these goals in the post-1945 period?

 

The 26th June 1945 marked the day in which the Charter of the United Nations and Statute of the International Court of Justice was signed by the founding 51 members. In Article 1 of this charter, four aims are clearly stated which rotate around maintaining global peace, building friendly international relations, raising the global living standard and being a centre for tuning the nations to achieve such goals. However, since this day, the UN has been in the middle of controversy, scandal and not to mention failures. However, the successes of certain legislature, initiatives and missions are also hard to ignore. This essay will explore the failures and successes in regard to each of the four goals of the United Nations established in 1945.

The first aim of the United Nations was to “keep peace throughout the world” (United Nations 1945), seen in the existence of the UN Security Council with the aim of maintaining global peace and security. Whitworth (2004) argues that there have been times when this aim has seen undeniable success. In the context of the Suez Canal Crisis of 1956, the UN created the first ever ‘United Nations Emergency Force’ which policed borders crucial to the conflict. In fact, those involved in the creation of the force were recognised internationally and went on to be credited with Nobel Peace Prizes. Whitworth (2004) suggests that UNEF was a cloak to allow Britain and France to retract from the crisis with dignity whilst solidifying the role of the UN in global conflicts. UNEF 1 was also credited with establishing standards for future peacekeeping missions, such as securing consent, non-use of force except in times of self-defence and impartiality. Success as the implementation of peace, is also seen in the statistics regarding the conflict in Ivory Coast in 2004. 70,000 combatants in the war were successfully disarmed and assimilated, once again, back into society where two presidential elections and a national referendum were made possible. The election of René Préval following the conflict in Haiti from 2004 to 2006 was also pronounced a decisive success as Préval won an iconic landslide victory (Lindsay 2006).

However, the conflict Haiti has been mentioned by some as more of a failure than success. Lyndsay (2006) highlighted the premises upon which the peacekeeping force, Minustah, operated in the country. For almost two years, Minustah supported an illegal government that isolated the poorer of Haiti’s population which was in this case, was a majority. Minustah also backed ex-soldiers who were linked to human rights abuses until the point where the peacekeeping force themselves, became part of the mainstream problem. As you can see, there was much hostility to the UN mission likewise to the UN missions of Rwanda and Srebrenica. These two missions in particular caught the attention of a global audience because of the intensity of the conflicts.  Between April and June 1994, an estimate of 800,000 Rwandans with a victimisation of Tutsis were murdered in the mere space of 100 days. McGreal (2015) describes the event in which New York ordered peacekeeping troops to withdraw from the school of Tutsis that were under their protection. As the troops made their exits many begged to be mercifully killed then rather than later by ruthless Hutu militias. Consequently, in a matter of hours, 2,000 people were slaughtered by bullets and blades – a genocide that could have been prevented had New York investigated signs of growing unrest from operatives in the country. Srebrenica also holds a lot of weight in the discourse of a successful UN due to the fact that it had previously been declared a UN ‘safe-zone’ – a safe-zone in which 8,000 innocent Muslim men were massacred. Despite small and often frequent successes of the UN seen in the maintenance of peace in times of growing tensions, the times in which the UN has shown disregard for professional advice, been oblivious to unrest and supported administrations that lacked support of the masses has overpowered such successes simply because that is what is expected from an international organisation which put organising peace at its core. The events of Rwanda and Srebrenica show a somewhat lazy and self-concerning UN and would have never have occurred if the UN achieved its aim of keeping peace throughout the world.

The second aim of the UN was to develop “friendly relations amongst nations” (United Nations 1945). Some may argue that success in this field has been seen through the sheer number of states that have opted to be a part of the United Nations and thus agreed to the principles laid out in the United Nations Charter. In 1945, 51 states had signed this charter and recently, this number has grown to 193.  Additionally, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), established in 1964, now with nearly 200 states, facilitates and oversees fair trade between its member countries as well as investment and development issues. However, this can too be criticised in relation to the diminishing influence of Africa in UN politics. Before the Cold War, Africa had accounted for a third of the total membership however when the Soviet Union was dismantled, 15 non-African members signed the charter and so Africa’s leverage on the UN for causes important to ‘third-world’ countries had shrunken as they had lost the support of the old Socialist bloc. Mazrui (1996) argues that “African leverage over the United Nations has declined; U.N. leverage over Africa has increased” and that the end of the Cold War weakened Africa by “undermining the game of checks and balances of the two superpowers”.  Therefore, the aim of developing friendly relations amongst nations cannot be fully satisfied if such superpowers, of their might and calibre are embroiled in a power struggle. Mazrui suggests that a factor for political collapse of certain African states particularly Somalia, Rwanda and Liberia was decreasing U.N involvement. This begs the question of whether friendly relations can be garnered amongst states when prioritisation is shown with certain international relationships.

“To help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms” was the third aim stated in the UN charter. This was the aim recognised by many scholars which addressed the issue of global human rights and the foundation of an international standard in which humans deserve to live. The traditional view of the UN as an organisation to drive member states to adopt, respect and abide by international obligations is often challenged. Spijkers (2011) advocates that the United Nations, is ultimately, a “value community”. Since its founding in 1945, Spijkers argues that the UN has been a home to continuing global discourse on “shared values, purposes, principles and norms”. This is evidenced in the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) in December 1948.  The historical document affirms the birth right of individuals through thirty articles and although not legally binding, the document asserts that human rights be protected by law. As mentioned previously, UNCTAD, an organ of the UN General Assembly was tasked with devising policies regarding development of states. So far, UNCTAD has formulated initiatives to empower rural women and girls, create sustainable fisheries and has advocated for racial and gender equality with emphasis on non-Western states with hopes of raising the standard of life in countries where low-income families are frequently documented.  Any violations of human rights are susceptible to trial in the International Court of Justice.

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