By NS Venkataraman*
It is now around seven decades since UNO was founded after the Second World War with much expectations and with declaration of lofty goals to establish a peaceful world. Ever since then, there have been many criticisms about the functioning style of UNO and it’s counter productive internal structure, that have disappointed a cross section of discerning thinkers around the world. Many people are of the view that it is necessary to restructure the UNO and redefine it’s powers to make it a powerful and meaningful entity. But, it appears that such changes for the better with regard to structure and powers of UNO to make it a more purposeful and meaningful organization is unlikely in the foreseeable future, considering the ground realities.
Of course, one has to take a holistic view of the overall performance of UNO during the last several decades.
There are several functioning divisions in UNO such as UNICEF, UNIDO, FAO, WHO, UNHRC, etc., which have all turned out reasonably good performance over the years. However, it should be noted that these divisions essentially have the role of functioning as “administrative bodies” and perhaps as divisions bringing out well researched reports and recommendations from time to time on various issues . These divisions have also been involved in distribution of funds to needy nations and providing them technical and educational support in implementing social welfare programmes. This is good as far as it goes.
Suspected partisan role of WHO
Amongst these divisions, WHO has recently got into avoidable controversies by giving an impression of dealing with the COVID 19 crisis not in an objective manner but with what some people term as “political angle showing undue favour, to one nation namely China”. By allowing such a view to prevail, WH Ohas tarnished it’s image to some extent. It would take a long time for WHO to redeem it’s image as a fair and neutral body.
Sadly, UNO as a body has expressed no view on this damaged image of WHO.
Controversial role of UNHRC
In the same way, the UNHRC has also been often criticized for commenting about human rights violations in some regions and ignoring human rights violations in some other regions and not taking a holistic view of the issues involved .
Again, UNO as a body has not taken any note of such criticism against UNHRC.
Failure to achieve primary objective
While several divisions have been created in UNO for various proactive purposes , the primary objective of forming UNO is to ensure that the conflicts in the world would be resolved peacefully and by avoiding war between the nations and preventing aggression on weak nations by militarily powerful ones. The judgement on the performance of UNO has to be ultimately made on this count of successfully ensuring world peace.
There are many instances when serious unrest and violence have taken place in the world within nations and between nations. In most of such cases, the UNO could do nothing other than watching the scene like a distant and detached observer, which has created an impression that UNO is only capable of issuing paper condemnation and lengthy cosmetic statements.
Is the U N Secretary General responsible for ineffectiveness of UNO ?
Who is responsible for this situation is the question that needs to be analysed carefully.
While making such an assessment , the first functionary that comes to one’s mind is the U N Secretary General.
U N Secretary General could have played an effective role to significant extent , if he has the required stature as a statesman and administrator with international reputation. Unfortunately, this has not happened. The most charitable description of the UN Secretary Generals who occupied the positions in the last several decades is that they have functioned as glorified Chief Executives. The most uncharitable description could be that the UN Secretary Generals have been functioning as impotent functionaries , more comfortable with being an observer rather than acting as a moral force and he being heard as a moral voice.
What is conspicuous is the failure of the UN Secretary Generals to act as the conscience keeper of the world by speaking boldly and strongly against the wrong doers and war mongers. On the other hand, U N Secretary Generals have been simply following the routines and simply allowing the member nations to have their way.
Certainly, the world needs a UN Secretary General who would be a world figure commanding respect as having the voice of wisdom.
What is the responsibility of the” powerful nations”?
Apart from the voiceless role of UN Secretary General ,certainly the five “top powerful nations” who are permanent members of the Security Council are responsible for treating the UN Secretary General as a non entity and then playing their role in the Security council with self interest as priority and with partisan and narrow objectives rather than with the world goodness in view. These five nations have arrogated to themselves the powers to do or undo the peace process in the world and they deserve to be condemned for being largely responsible for failure of UNO to function as a peace keeping organization.
Today, UNO has been reduced to the level of a mere discussion forum and as a venue for meeting between the heads of the nations once in a while.
Unrest in Myanmar
While several instances can be readily pointed with regard to the failure of UNO to ensure world peace, the most recent one is the unrest in Myanmar, where a military junta has over thrown a democratically elected government and have used repressive force to silence the protestors who object to the enforcement of military rule. Hundreds of people have been killed and many people have been injured and many more have been imprisoned.
The military junta in Myanmar care a hoot about the condemnation by UNO and goes on merrily with it’s own militant plans. Perhaps, it has the silent support of one big nation namely China which is it’s neighbor .
It appears that Myanmar would continue to be under military rule for several years to come , which will constantly remind the world about the failure of UNO.
This article will not be complete without mentioning the plight of the people of Tibet, which nation has been aggressively occupied by China for the last several decades using repressive force and not allowing anyone in the world to visit Tibet to see the conditions for themselves. It is sad that UNO has not even taken note of this issue so far in any meaningful way and has not voiced it’s concern.
What has the UNO done to protect the freedom of people in Tibet ?. It is nothing for all practical purposes. UNO has remained irresponsibly silent about the blatant occupation of Tibet by China, as if it is a matter of no concern to UNO
Obviously, China would care a hoot, even if UNO would condemn the aggressive acts of China in Tibet. There is no greater evidence required to prove the ineffectiveness of UNO.
Crisis facing world conscience
Myanmar unrest and suppression of freedom in Tibet by China and consequent human rights crisis in Myanmar and Tibet and UNO simply watching from the gallery, has created the biggest black marks on the overall image of UNO, making peace loving people lose confidence in UNO itself.
Obviously, acts of violence , terrorism and suppression of freedom remain unchallenged in the world and all members of UNO have to hang their head in shame for reducing UNO to such disturbingly low status. As a result, there is a crisis of conscience amongst a cross section of people in the world.
What is shocking is that not even one member nation of the UNO has boldly expressed it’s misgivings about the rapidly increasing irrelevance of UNO . What is urgently needed now is the world movement to reform the UNO.
*Trustee, Nandini Voice for The Deprived, Chennai