ROLE OF UNITED NATIONS DURING AN INTERNATIONAL CONFLICT

Authored by Martin Geomin George Law Student from UPES Dehradun

INTRODUCTION

Due to the devastation of the Second World War, the nations around the world unifiedely decided that there was an emerging need for an international body to control the chaos and reasons of war. Hence in 1945, the United Nations was created for the same purpose, with a single mission of maintaining international peace and security among nations of the world by preventing conflicts by deploying peacekeepers and creating the environment to allow the peace to sustain and flourish. But the basic motive was to allow these activities to overlap and reinforce one another so that their strategies would be effective.

The primary responsibility UN Security Council is to maintain international peace and security. Whereas, the General Assembly and the Secretary-General play major, important, and complementary roles in laying strategies to achieve this international peace, along with other UN offices and bodies.[1]

Conflict prevention which has been laid down by the United Nation Charters states , that prevention involves a range of actors across the three pillars of the United Nation;

  1. Peace and security
  2. Development; and
  3. Human rights.

Each of these factors works in a different yet mutual manner to address both the deeper and immediate causes of violent conflict by means of engaging the local, regional, national and international levels. They also partner up with the communities, civil society, governments, regional and sub-regional organisation and other international institution to achieve their goals of global peace and security. The UN deploys various sub-player in achieving their goal to prevent violent conflicts with the help of various UN actors such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)m the Peacebuilding Supporting Office (PBSO) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).[2]

POWERS OF UN

The primary responsibility of the UN Security Council (UNSC) is to maintain international peace and security among nations of the world. This organ of the UN consists of 15 members from which 5 are permanent and have veto power which is namely; the US, UK, Russia, China and France. There has been a long history of conflicts between these nations which will be discussed in detail in the later part of this article.[3]

The UN Security Council being the major organ responsible for peace have following powers and functions under the United Nation in case of international conflicts;

  1. The UN Security Council shall maintain international peace and security in adherence to the principles and purposes of the UN.
  2. The security Council has the right to investigate any situation or dispute which may result in international conflict between nations.
  3. To recommend methods of adjustment of such conflict or the terms of the settlement.
  4. To formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate such conflicts.
  5. To determine the threat to peace and recommend what actions can be taken to curb it.
  6. To take military action against the aggressor.
  7. To call on members to apply economic sections and other measures to use force to stop aggression.
  8. To recommend the admission of new members.
  9. To exercise the trusteeship functions in the strategic areas.
  10. To recommend to the General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General and together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice.[4]

LIMITATIONS

With the new contemporary global challenges, it is jeopardising the solidity and the effectiveness of the UN bodies in executing its objective of peace and security. For example, the transactional terrorism and illicit arms trade can be a vital example of how the effectiveness of the UN is hampered. These incidents have been limiting the actions of the Security Council and in general, the UN’s security system to assure peace and international stability among several nations.[5]

Secondly, the lack of an international army for the UN security council is also perceived as a limitation. Even though initially there was a plan to build an international army, but the plan never came to life because the member state was not very accepting to other members.

Thirdly, the lack of democratic mechanisms and accountability of the UN has been affecting its structure and trust among the members. The composition of the Security Council appears to be anachronistic for other countries because it still shows the power of  distribution caused by the war and those five permanent members hold major power over the non-permanent members.

Lastly, there is nothing much the UN can do for the judgements pronounced by the International Court of Justice. As there was not world government which court ensues that the judgment given by the ICJ should be enforced in the local jurisdiction of a nation. Most importantly, the nation was never ready to compromise with their independence and power and hence they resisted any attempts to limit their sovereignty.

PAST TRACK RECORDS

One of the most important aspects is to see the journey for the need of such an international peacekeeping organisation.

It is vital to note that the first two peacekeeping operations were deployed by the UN where the UN Military Observer Group and the United Nation Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP) and the early armed peacekeeping operation was among one of the First UN Emergency Force (UNEF I) that was deployed successfully in the year 1956 to the address of the Suez Crisis. Moreover, the United Nation Operation of Congo (ONUC), which was launched in 1960, was among the initial large-scale mission consisting of nearly 20,000 military personnel at its paramount.[6] 

The UN in 1960’s and 1970’s established several short-term missions in the Dominican Republic – Mission of the Representative of the Secretary-General in the Dominican Republic (DOMREP), UN Security Force in West New Guinea( UNSF), – Yemen – UN Yemen Observation Mission (UNYOM), and West New Guinea (West Irian) and thereafter started some long term deployments in the Middle East – UN Emergency Force II (UNEF II), Cyprus – UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP),  UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF).

In 1988, the United Nation peacekeepers were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and during that time, the Nobel Committee cited

“The Peacekeeping Forces through their efforts have made important contributions towards the realization of one of the fundamental tenets of the United Nations. Thus, the world organization has come to play a more central part in world affairs and has been invested with increasing trust”.[7]

Inevitably, there was a rising increase in the need for a number of peacekeeping operations after the cold war was ended.

The peacekeeping operations were established in countries such as Angola -UN Angola Verification Mission I (UNAVEM I) and UN Angola Verification Mission II (UNAVEM II), El Salvador – UN Observer Mission in El Salvador (ONUSAL), Cambodia – UN Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC), Namibia – UN Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG)[8] and Mozambique – UN Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ)[9] were deployed to:

  • Help in the implementation of complex peace agreements;
  • Stabilize the security situation;
  • Re-organize the military and police;
  • For the election of new governments and to build democratic institutions for such nations. 

With the continuing rise of crises in several countries and regions, soon there was emphatically reaffirmed the need for the role of UN Peacekeeping. Moreover, in the second half of the 1990s, the Security Council approved the new UN operations in:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina – UN Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH);
  • Angola – UN Angola Verification Mission III (UNAVEM III) and UN Observer Mission in Angola (MONUA);
  • North Macedonia – the UN Preventive Deployment Force (UNPREDEP);
  • Croatia – the UN Confidence Restoration Operation in Croatia (UNCRO), the UN Transitional Administration for Eastern Slavonia, Baranja and Western Sirmium (UNTAES) and UN Civilian Police Support Group (UNPSG);
  • Haiti – UN Support Mission in Haiti (UNSMIH) UN Transition Mission in Haiti (UNTMIH) and UN Civilian Police Mission in Haiti (MIPONUH).[10]
  • Guatemala – UN Verification Mission in Guatemala (MINUGUA).

[1] Somini Sengupta, The United Nations Explained: Its Purpose, Power and Problems, The New York Times, (Sept 18, 2016), https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/19/world/what-is-united-nations-un-explained.html

[2] Philip Remler, Russia at United Nations: Law, Sovereignty, and Legitimacy, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, (Jan 22, 2020), https://carnegieendowment.org/2020/01/22/russia-at-united-nations-law-sovereignty-and-legitimacy-pub-80753

[3] Structure Functions and Powers of the UN and its Main Organs, KUNA-USG-Packet, Kyymca.org, http://www.kyymca.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/KUNA-USG-Packet.pdf

[4] About the Council, Functions and Powers, United Nations Security Coucil https://www.un.org/securitycouncil/content/functions-and-powers

[5] Chiara Villani, The United Nations: Strengths and weaknesses, IAPSS International Association for Political Science Students, (March 12, 2015), https://www.iapss.org/2015/03/12/the-united-nations-strengths-and-weaknesses/

[6] Observing the ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir, UNMOGIP FACT SHEET, (June 06, 2021 19:44 IST) https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/unmogip

[7] Osli, The Nobel Peace Prize 1988, The Nobel Prize, (Sept 29, 1988) https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/peace/1988/press-release/

[8] United Nations Transition Assistance Group UNTAG, UN Peacekeeping, (March 1990) https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/past/untag.htm

[9] United Nations Operation in Mozambique, UN Peacekeeping, (Dec 1994) https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/past/onumoz.htm

[10] United Nations Civilian Police Mission In Haiti, UN Peacekeeping, (March 15, 2000) https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/past/miponuh.htm

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