The Middle East Tribune

Centered on Civil Liberties & Political Issues, Human Development & Socioeconomic Matters

UN: A World Forum of Bystanders

Syrian Family after the regime air bombed their home/<br /> Photo

Syrian Family after the regime air bombed their home/

On January 1920, fourteen month after the end of the First World War, the League of Nations (LN) was founded to maintain world order, guarantee peace and security, adjudicate international disputes, resolve conflicts, promote global health, and so forth. Nevertheless, history shows that failure of League of Nations to fulfill its mission was one of the crucial factors that fueled World War II. This actuality, however, was somewhat dissented on the basis that the first international organization had neither the authority nor the means to command and enforce, which made it a flimsy association of state representatives.

In the aftermath of World War II, the need to maintain world order, make durable peace and provide human development became indispensable to the progression of civilizations and preservation of human lives. To that end, the United States (the victorious nation which was not a member of the LN) along with the exhausted United Kingdom (UK) and ruined France pressed to replace or restructure the impotent League of Nations in favor of establishing efficient international organization that can lead the world to peace and prosperity.

On the other winning side, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) declined to join the projected international organization unless privileged with a vetoing force. Therewith, the Security Council (SC) was arranged to comprise eleven member-states at its start in 1945 (increased to fifteen-seat-members in 1965), five of which are permanent state-members (USSR, U.S., UK, France and China) who were armed with illimitable veto powers. Accordingly, on the ruins of the League of Nations, the United Nations (UN), and its ruling Security Council, was established in October 1945 as the world’s most powerful international organization of all times—a world government in all aspects.

As in its charter, the aim and purpose of the UN is to arbitrate disputes, resolve conflicts, prevent armed conflicts and wars, maintain world peace, protect human rights, enforce justice, combat poverty, fight diseases, provide human development, etc… To achieve its goals, the new United Nations organization was equipped with powerful principal arms and international institutions, such as:

  • Security Council (SC) that has the full authority to bring forth legally binding resolutions to enforce settling of conflicts, impose sanctions and initiate military operations worldwide, and much more.
  • International Court of Justice (ICG) that has the authority to settle legal disputes between states and deliver advisory legal opinions to the UN General Assembly and other branches, and more.
  • International Criminal Court (ICC) that has the jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for international crimes, like  genocides, crimes against humanity, and war crimes, and more
  • Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) established to promote international economic and social co-operation and development, as well as many more socioeconomic duties.
  • World Bank Group (WBG) designated to reduce poverty and offer capital loans to developing countries, and so on.
  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) established to inhibit nuclear weapons and control the use of nuclear energy for military purposes.
  • World Health Organization (WHO),
  • World Trade Organization (WTO),
  • Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
  • International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
  • World Food Program (WFP),
  • UNESCO, UNICEF and several other agencies

A look at world’s state of affairs, in terms of conflict resolutions and peacemaking, will show that the world is suffering the disastrous consequences of a stack of unresolved armed conflicts and longstanding territorial disputes, most of which are due to UNSC inaction or failure. Among those consequential issues, some are still on fire for decades, while other cases were pushed aside to fade way, or burnout, with time—no matter of human costs.

To refresh the public memory, herein some instances that epitomize the chronic inefficacy of the Security Council:

Iranian Nuke Program (as of 2003 as yet)

Twelve years have passed in trying to convince the “Islamic republic in Iran” to limit its uranium enrichment process and halt its nuclear weaponization programs—while the whole international community has turned a blind eye to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard direct militarily intervention in Syria and Iraq, or through its Shiite militant proxies in Yemen, Bahrain and Lebanon. Yet, UNSC response was limited to the application of digestible shots of economic sanctions and extending the talks until P5+1(may say the U.S) and Iran  reach some fallacious agreement or framework—as emerged on the very day this piece was almost ready for publishing.

Arab-Israeli Conflict (as of 1947 as yet)

Sixty-eight years of bloodshed and hatred owed to the lack of will of the SC to install a comprehensive Israeli-Arab peace treaty through which an end to Israeli-Palestinian unending wars and Arab-Israeli conflict can be realized. And, the result is zero

Syrian Civil War (as of 2011 as yet)

Four years of slaughtering of innocent Syrians by Assad’s regime and Iranian paramilitary groups (where more than 240,000 killed and at least 500,000 wounded) were not enough to find a solution or enforce a ceasefire, which paved the way for the so-called “Islamist” militants, Shiite and Sunnite alike, to destroy the region and export terrorism to the world.  Yet, Ban ki Moon just feels sorry and ashamed for UN’s inability to act. What a pity!

Turkish Invasion of Northern Cyprus (as of 1974 as yet)

More than forty years since Turkey invaded and slashed the northern part of Cyprus, while the case remains under discussion—maybe for another 40 years.

Iran-United Arab Emirates (as of 1971 as yet)

Forty four years since the territorial dispute erupted between Iran and United Arab Emirates(UAE) over three Arabian Islands (Abu Musa, Greater and Lesser Tunb Islands), yet left unresolved—perhaps not to annoy impendent nuclear Iran

Pakistan- India (As of 1947 as yet)

More than six decades past where three deadly wars were fought between Pakistan and India over the Kashmir region. And, the action of the Security Council is yet to be known.

Iran- Iraq War (1980-1988)

It took eight years and over one million dead until the Security Council found a way to broker a ceasefire between Iraq and Iran.

Having itemized some cases should not connote that other conflicts, like the Russian invasion and annexation of Crimea, Russian-Ukrainian conflict, Russian invasion of Georgia, U.S. war on Iraq, Sudanese civil wars and genocide, Lebanon’s civil war and other issues, have been properly addressed by the Security Council or have less detrimental effects on world peace.

On top of that recurring failure, the unfortunate reality is that the United Nations has also been unsuccessful in combating poverty, fighting fatal diseases, delivering timely disaster relief and humanitarian aid—not to discuss its human development undertakings. Yet, it surpasses all governmental agencies when it comes to generating tons of equivocated reports through which it presents statistical-based improvements and unattained achievements. Beclouding that, the proclaimed improvement in fighting poverty are largely owed to the redrawing of higher poverty lines, obscuring that hundreds of millions of Chinese have uprated themselves to higher socioeconomic brackets as a result of China’s continuous high economic growth, computing of GDPs per capita at nominal values without any adjustment for inflation, and other statistical tricks.

Add up that UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) has jeopardized the safety and wellness of humankind, when it fell short to timely respond to 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, or to promptly contain the deadly epidemic virus from spreading out. Whereas, it was Doctors Without Borders (DWB), a French humanitarian aid organization, who warned the world and rushed to help the poor ailing Africans in their life-threatening ordeal—let alone how the minimally funded DWB outperformed the well-funded WHO. In similar manner, UN refugee-related agencies were, as always, inefficient and sluggish to fulfill their global humanitarian aid missions. Time and time again, they  are bone-idle  to provide adequate humanitarian aid to millions of Syrian refugees, who fled their homes to neighboring countries—not to dredge up UN operation in the aftermath of 2010 Haiti earthquake.

Given its unparalleled authority, the truth remains that UN’s achievements are meager to be called up, whereas its shortcomings and failures are so many to list in one document. Like father like son, the veto-crippled Security Council has proved throughout the past seventy years that it is a mere international political bazaar or a world forum of bystanders at best.  Unfortunately, besides transforming UN’s peacekeeping forces into sitting ducks and white flag-wavers, it seems that the theatrical role of the SC is to protract conflicts, no matter of human sufferings, until the self-serving P-5 vetoers see self-interest.

A UN peacekeeping soldier stands next to a shelter inside a UN base at the Golan Heights/ Photo

A UN peacekeeping soldier stands next to a shelter inside a UN base at the Golan Heights/

This persistent failure has evoked a broad disapprobation of UN’s Security Council for being disunited and unable at least to stop the mowing down of innocent people—let alone solving conflicts, enforcing order and imposing peace. This factuality, however, has induced many analysts to mull over the benefits from having a big international organization that costs much (around 14 billion dollars for two-year budget including Peacekeeping expenses) and achieves little.

Unfortunately, the United Nations has demonstrated since its origination that it is neither free nor potent to serve the world as determined in its charter. By and large, its governing bodies and agencies have proved to be more politicized than being humanized, bureaucratically driven than being result oriented, unvigilant to cope with urgencies, and so forth. Otherwise, they would have done much better than just dashing hopes.

This reality impels all to question about such incessant impuissance! Is it a competence issue, lack of will or a matter of compliancy? Actually, it is a combination of all. Yet, the compelling question is whether there are viable solutions to reform the UN, SC and other agencies, or not. Should it be restructured, segmented and decentralized, or just be dissolved?

Most strategists and restructuring experts believe that the permanency and severity of UN”s case has made it beyond fixing. It is so because of the impossibility to annul the paralytic five veto prerogatives from the SC voting system, even if four of the deciding P-5 agreed to rescind their vetoing powers, which will block any real reform attempt before it starts. Secondly, it is hard to fix because of its resourceless financing system (which depends on rich state-donors for funding) from which the UN lost autonomy and neutrality.

Away from discussing other structural defects or remediable suggestions at this time, seeing that most remedies have to include decentralization, segmentation, regionalization, subcontracting, or other disintegrative trends. Yet, the only viable solution to elongate UN’s lifespan and reinvigorate its needed role depends on the reform drive of the five permanent state-members.  Reform will be feasible once the P-5 jointly agree to nullify their veto powers and employ democratic voting system. Democratization of the Security Council, for example, entails that the count of SC seat-members should be reset in which it includes one representative for each group of ten nations or so, who should be selected by each nation-group.

In all likelihood, UN’s financing system needs restructuring at which a steady funding system is instituted instead of the current donative arrangements.  The United Nations has no choice but to introduce a mandatory subscription charge or membership fee on all UN’s member-states, poor and rich alike, so that to ensure the smooth flow of funds free from political inclinations. To give an example, a fifty million U.S dollars charge on 193 member-states will bring in $9,650 billion a year, which is more than enough to do the job without relying on contributions of rich countries for funding.

Obviously, the demand for help and support of the world’s top organization is soaring, especially in matters related to conflict resolution and peacemaking, humanitarian aid and human development. People of the world, especially those of the third world, need to be certain that there are equitable international organizations that can aid them when in need and stand up for the helpless against the tyranny of the strong without political preference.

To live up to that mission, we need, now more than ever, efficacious international organization, resolute international leadership and impartial leading nation that not only respect democratic values and human rights at home, but also lead and act in accordance with these values abroad without double-dealing politics and profiteering obsessions.

Failing to reform and democratize world’s top international organization and its Security Council before long will only bring more terror, more bloodshed and more havoc to all nations—if not a third world war.


Author’s Note: This article is also published at Arabian Gazette


11 comments on “UN: A World Forum of Bystanders

  1. Thank you for a very informative article. I agree that the UN is essentially worthless at this stage. Gaddafi made a scathing speech to the General Assembly in 2009, condemning the UN for being ruled by the permanent members of the Security Council: he called this a dictatorship and argued that the General Assembly was where the power should be. He pointed out the 65 wars that the UN has failed to prevent since 1945 and argued that the Security Council was simply a mechanism for the super-powers to exercise absolute control for the furthering of their own interests.
    The reason no solution was found to the Syria crisis was because Kofi Annan’s peace-plan was never allowed to go ahead, because those with vested interests didn’t want to see it succeed.
    But the perfect illustration of how worthless the UN is was the intervention in Libya, where the UN didn’t even bother to send fact-finding missions to Libya to ascertain the situation or to verify the legitimacy of the accusations against the government there.
    The question is, however; what would replace the UN?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jaqui Lane
    April 18, 2015

    Mohammad, Thanks for your article. I think the time has come for the UN to be disbanded and a new structure created. There’s only so much you can patch a worn-out structure. It gets to a point where you’re trying to patch over patches and there’s nothing of the original structure.
    2015 is a vastly different place than 1945.
    So, let’s focus on what could replace the UN.
    I suspect the reason we still have it is because no-one can think, or is trying to think
    of a new structure. Challenging, yes, but not impossible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      April 18, 2015

      A strong point of view. Though I prefer to see the UN reformed and restructured, yet I think, like you, it is almost impossible to achieve.
      Thank you for your contribution


  3. nonentiti
    April 11, 2015

    Wonderful article, once again. I am afraid that the UN is still a political organization and as such inhabited with politicians, who do not have the natural insight to see the problems on the large scale as you clearly do. All such organizations do is give each member special jobs and so each loses the chance to see the big picture.
    I would have no solution either, but I do think that both the capitalist focus of much of the world and the lack of leadership in most countries is a big problem. And then we get the idea of veto rights in the UN for exactly those members who are most often involved in war. Like America banning the Thai leader, who is the only one so far, who is actually showing how a country can be run without tyranny or corruption, yet the narrow minds of the politicians cannot see that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      April 11, 2015

      Yes, small-mindedness and self-serving inclinations of politicians is one of the main causes for this worldwide chaos.
      Thank you


    • larrymuffin
      April 11, 2015

      Before we all start jumping on the UN we should remember that the goals of the UN are lofty and often unrealizable among competing Nations. The UN is a Club and it is as good or bad as its members. The failure of the UN is the failure of the World. Governments send their diplomats to the UN with precise goals and objectives to achieve. The Security Council permanent members, the big 5 also have a share of the blame for inaction or for action with flawed results. As for those who say abolish the UN, waste of money etc. I would say to them blame yourself and your own government and your elected officials for not performing and not presenting your point of view. When you have 180 National Points of view difficult to arrive at a consensus. Having worked myself as the UN GA I know how frustrating it can be at times but again a source of the frustration often came from competing world view for domination. There are no easy solutions and we have to continue to work at it. We cannot collectively pick up our marbles and go home ignoring the other guy. The world is interconnected and isolation is not a solution.


      • Dr. Paul Hill
        April 19, 2015

        Verses the unruly 180 nations, your argument would seem to support the idea that the G-20 might offer a more reasonable hope of sustaining an operational framework.

        From the United States’ perspective, I am confident we would get a far better return on what an organization of the top economic world powers might attain, verses what we are underwriting and witnessing from the prospective of the United Nations.

        One area we certainly do agree upon… “There are no easy solutions and we have to continue to work at it.”

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Karima Vane
    April 10, 2015

    Dear Mohammed:

    Impeccable article!

    Whether in style or flow of ideas.

    As an individual (One person in this vast world), I often have wondered so many such big puzzles that dominate our world.

    Is it BEARUCRACY? Certainly is!

    Not sure it is anymore!

    If not soon be addressed, even they (Domineering) will have a lot on their hands to catch up with: North Korea, Iran, Pakistan, and even India which is considered an ally for “NOW”.

    But for how long? How long can the impoverished countries, populace, survive?

    We all envision the uprisings of civil war, militia groups, affiliation with ISIL or Al-Qaeda (for example) just to name few.

    In this Internet-Age and at the close of the twentieth century, powerful countries (US in the lead, UN, SC, etc.) do not expect other third world nations to stay put and accept what is going on.

    If they (Powerful countries) can lead the change needed, they can still maintain their status-quo of leadership among all nations.

    And that is what all nations need.


    I believe that’s what the WORLD needs most of all

    Enough said!

    Please keep writing and many congrates for such wonderful articles.
    Your friend,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      April 10, 2015

      I simply agree with your viewpoint, Karima. I tend to believe that change and reform will come eventually. The question is whether it will come voluntarily or as an effect of long struggle. The world cannot be run as before, but let’s hope that the few giants will listen to the the small, but many .

      Thank you Karima.


  5. Dr. Paul "Chip" Hill
    April 7, 2015

    Well stated, Mohammad! I could not agree with your position, more. The UN is at least as great a failure as the League of Nations. Both organizations held lofty ideals but were doomed to failure by the designs of the powerful Western leadership that desired to maintain a status-quo amongst themselves.

    It is not fair, however to lay all the blame solely at the feet of the Western powers, though. The UN ‘could’ work if the General Assembly would grow-up and act in the interests of the world order they espouse. The body of the General Assembly (GA) does possess the power to over-ride and direct the all-powerful Security Council (SC) to act based upon the directive of the assembly. The problem remains, though… the GA is as divided as the SC, ergo the GA is no better equipped to play the role they have been given then the bickering SC. The entire bunch are a sorry lot and waste billions of dollars on maintaining their own need to exist.

    I would rather the G20 just dissolve the UN (they could do this by simply stop funding the UN) and say they (the G20) would assume the responsibilities for trying to organize a world order capable of functioning and reacting to global crises. While its existence would be far from fair or equitable, I suspect it would perform more fairly and equitably than the UN.

    Good job, my friend… well stated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mohammad S. Moussalli
      April 7, 2015

      I agree with your view and share your doubts too. It is the responsibility of all to reform. Without democratizing the UN and SC, history will repeat itself and the world will re-devastate itself again. I wonder why those who call for democracy, don’t practice it on this international level. Hypocracy isn’t it.
      Thank you my friend


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© 2018 Mohammad S. Moussalli; ----------------------- Sharing, reblogging, excerpts and republication of this material, or part thereof, are permissible PROVIDED that it's clearly attributed to the author with reference to the original publication.
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