Setting out with a mission to establish peace and safety, and prevent wars, the United Nations (UN) has been subjected to heavy criticism of late.
At the centre of these criticisms is the organisation’s ineffective, sluggish and unsuccessful performance in the face of wars, crises (particularly the Syrian Civil War) and conflicts, along with the privileged position of the permanent members of its Security Council.
In March last year, 21 aid organisations accused the UN of being a complete failure. Amnesty International secretary-general Salil Shetty also criticised the UN for failing to resolve the refugee crisis, which he defined as “one of the defining challenges of the 21st century”.
In a recent interview, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated that Syria was an example of the UN Security Council’s failure: “The conflict has lasted now for five years and the responsibility for ending these sorts of conflict falls principally on the UN Security Council, where you have five states, five member states, who have a special responsibility.”
While the 70th session of the UN General Assembly held in September last year witnessed such criticism as well, the requests for increasing the authority of the General Assembly vis-a-vis the Security Council and restricting the permanent members’ veto rights were also on the agenda.
As it is well known, while the victorious countries of World War 2 took the initiative in the founding of the UN, they also provided themselves with the rights and authorities of veto, as well as making themselves the permanent members of the Security Council, which is the most critical executive organ of this organisation.
It is impossible to pass a resolution through the council that can be vetoed by any single one of the permanent members, which consists of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China.
While the decisions taken by the other organs of the UN are advisory only, the decisions taken by the Security Council are binding over all the member countries.
That this privileged position is in no way compatible with universal justice, the principles of equality and international law is the biggest problem regarding the UN.
This problem is also the underlying reason behind the UN’s failure in “maintaining global peace and safety, and preventing crises”; aside from some exceptional cases.
As a matter of fact, the UN could not make its presence felt in the face of countless crises, wars, conflicts, aggressions and occupations, such as the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962), the Guatemalan revolution (1954), the Suez Crisis (1956), the occupation of Hungary (1956), the Vietnam War (1955-1975), the China-Vietnam War (1979), the occupation of Afghanistan (1979-1988), the occupation of Panama (1989), the occupation of Iraq (2003), the Georgian War (2008), the occupation of Crimea (2014), and the ongoing Syrian and Yemeni wars.
The UN has also virtually ignored everything that happened regarding the Arab-Israeli wars, the Gaza-Palestine problem, sundry and assorted conflicts in Africa, the Sarajevo massacre, and the persecution, torture and genocide that Muslims in Myanmar and East Turkestan have suffered for decades.
What is highly interesting is that the UN invariably managed to take some of the swiftest decisions in world history regarding those cases overlapping the foreign policies of its permanent members.
As it remained silent about the 2011 Egyptian Revolution, the Security Council immediately put into action Resolution 1529 to intervene when a similar revolution was staged in Haiti in 2004.
While remaining a mere spectator in the atrocities carried out in Syria, the council swiftly intervened to bring down the Gaddafi regime in Libya, where France sought to claim a major share in Libya’s oil production. Right after the recent Paris atrocities, the same organisation took a decision that virtually invited all the countries of the world to participate in a wide-scale bombardment of Syria, again, with lightning speed.
In the 1990 occupation of oil-rich Kuwait by Iraq and many other similar incidents, the UN stirred itself to action and took steps with unprecedented speed. However, it has failed to display the same success — and rapidity — in protecting and watching over the poor and insufficiently funded Rwandans in 1997.
Further examples can be cited. What is perhaps the interesting fact of all is that all five of the permanent members of the Security Council, who have officially undertaken a global mission to ensure peace, safety and tranquillity, are the countries that generate more than 65 per cent of weapons production and sales worldwide; in fact, 35 per cent of this margin belongs to the US alone.
As long as it abides by its true mission and is able to carry it out reliably, it is quite clear that an organisation, such as the UN, is significant and crucial with regard to maintaining the peace and safety of the whole world and resolving international disputes.
However, it is also a historical fact that a system that is left to the sole initiative of the permanent members of the Security Council is bound to remain gridlocked as a result of competing geo-political interests.
Therefore, the UN must be pulled out of being a mechanism that theoretically represents all the nations of the world, but instead, serves to justify the interests of elite countries on legal ground in reality.
There is an urgent need for reforms regarding the structure of the Security Council. These reforms should specifically focus on privileges, such as permanent membership to the council and the veto rights, which are not based upon the universal standards of law and justice, and the principles of the sovereign equality of states must be better defined and clarified. It is essential for the council to become transparent and have a clear legal remedy in itself.
Above all, despite the fact that half of the decisions taken by UN are concerning the Muslim and Middle East countries, it has to be known that a Security Council where 1.7 billion Muslims are essentially excluded — or not represented fairly — will never be legitimate and effective.
Of course, it is mainly the Islamic world that should take a lesson from this situation. So long as Muslims do not unite among each other, they will continue to look to other unions and alliances in order to safeguard their rights and interests and for justice. The time has come for the Islamic world to realise what a grave fallacy this is and take steps accordingly to remedy this tragic situation.
Adnan Oktar's piece in New Straits Tiimes & Ekurd Daily: