I know on my last blog post I talked about ‘a day in history’, but I had to mention this one. Today, 24th October, is United Nations (UN) Day!
On this day, the UN Charter came into force in 1945, laying the foundations for modern international relations.
If you’re reading my POLITICS & IR blog, then I’m guessing you already know some basics about the UN. But, if you’ve been living under a rock for the last 75 years, I’ll give you a little hint.
The UN was founded following World War 2 to promote the spread of peace and to reaffirm faith in the belief of human rights. It also sought to mediate dialogue between countries to avoid conflict. But the UN has had its challenges over the years.
During the Cold War, the UN became the diplomatic battleground (Ironic, I know) between the USA and USSR. Both wanted to become the leading diplomatic state. More friends, the more likely for international acceptance when it came to any issues. Since both states were on the UN Permanent Security Council, both had the ability to veto any resolution the other put forward. Stalemates were common.
A prime example of when the UN struggled even with its own principles was during the Falklands War. As an overseas territory of the UK, the UN classified the Falkland Islands as an ‘occupied territory’, meaning it did not support the UK’s claim. But after the Argentinian invasion of the islands, the UN quickly passed a resolution authorising Britain to use the means necessary to retake the islands, suggesting a support to the UK’s claim. Ultimately, the UN was forced the overrule one directive over another.
Of course, the UN has had successes in its time. Many potentially volatile situations were avoided or deescalated due to UN intervention. A UN taskforce remains in disputed or unstable territories like Kosovo or South Sudan to maintain the protection of citizens and the principle of self-determination.
Today, the UN maintains several mission taskforces throughout the world and provides the balance to international relations, offering every country a voice. Certainly, it faces new, modern challenges, like the Responsibility to Protect (I talk a bit about R2P in my last blog post, plus a link to the UN’s page on the subject). An ever-simmering debate continues about the role of the UN Permanent Security Council and whether such a powerful group is still needed.
Despite its flaws, the world might just be a more anarchical place.