Maintaining world peace has been a priority for many nations since the twentieth century when the world experienced a lot of conflicts. The two world wars had far reaching effects and it is out of this concern that European powers saw it necessary to curb any further occurrence of war.
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The UN organization was formally established in 1945 when world war two came to an end. The main reason behind its formation was to maintain world peace. Besides this, the UN also performs other functions in the social and economic spheres. For example, it aims at promoting human rights by ensuring that they are not abused.
It also aims at encouraging economic development through the World Bank and other financial institutions that provide economic support and advisory services on development issues.
The Security Council is one of the most important organs of the United Nations and it has the mandate to safeguard international peace by ensuring that there is enough security in the world. Its powers and functions are stipulated in the charter of UN. The Security Council is made up of fifteen members and five of them have a permanent membership.
The five members have veto powers, while the remaining ten members are elected. “The five permanent members of the Security Council include China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States”. All countries willing to join UN must accept the terms and principles of the UN, before they can be granted membership. The UN has tried to maintain world order through the following mechanisms.
The UN has been applying peaceful settlement of disputes as one of its key strategies of dealing with international disputes. In this case, it applies peaceful methods of conflict resolution which include the following. “Negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, or resort to regional agencies or arrangements”.
The Security Council does not intervene in all disputes but it has to assess the seriousness of the disputes first before it intervenes. The Security Council can take various actions to solve disputes once it has decided to do so.
The Security Council can also use various sanctions to deal with aggressive nations. There are no specific sanctions stipulated in the charter, but the Security Council mostly applies economic sanctions against aggressive nations. Economic sanctions may involve total or partial disruption of economic ties and communication.
Economic sanctions are always used to isolate aggressive nations from the rest. These sanctions deny them access to strategic materials and services, hence they are compelled to stop being aggressive. Economic sanctions if well implemented, have the advantage of not causing much burden to the countries that assist in their implementation. Unlike military sanctions, economic sanctions do not expose the people in the conflict regions to a lot of danger.
Apart from economic sanctions, military sanctions can also be applied. “This may include demonstrations by air, sea, or land forces; blockade; or other operations by air, sea, and land forces, the latter including actual military action against the offending country or countries”.
Members of UN have the obligation to carry out the sanctions that have been set by the Security Council. In 1963, the council applied an arms embargo in South Africa on the basis that the government was using the arms supplied to the country to enhance apartheid policy. In 1977 the same measure was taken against South Africa. In 1989, the General Assembly passed another economic sanction against South Africa.
During the Gulf War of 1990, the Security Council advised Iraq to withdraw its troops that occupied various towns in Kuwait. Since Saddam Hussein was not willing to withdraw his troops from Kuwait, the Security Council imposed serious sanctions against his government.
In this case, Iraq was banned from participating in International Trade. “Finally, on 25 September, the council passed Resolution 670 mandating a complete air transport blockade of Iraq”. This was followed by serious air strikes which saw the defeat of Iraq in the war, and the dispute was finally settled. This was one of the most serious military sanctions that the Security Council has ever successfully implemented.
In 1991, an arms embargo was imposed on Yugoslavia by the Security Council. This was done in order to quell the tension between ethnic communities in that country. “The Security Council, in Resolution 757, imposed mandatory trade sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, excepting only shipments of food and medicine for humanitarian purposes”.
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Libya has also been a victim of sanctions. In 1992 it faced an air traffic embargo when the government was accused of protecting its two citizens that had allegedly participated in the Lockerbie bombing. Currently, Libya is facing military sanctions owing to the escalating protests in the country, following President Gadaffi’s refusal to quit office.
Peace keeping is also another method commonly used by UN to restore peace in troubled regions. This process began during the Cold War period. Many peace keeping missions were conducted in 1990s in countries such as Rwanda, Bosnia and Burundi. Recently, there was a peace keeping mission in Ivory Coast by UN soldiers.
Disarmament programs have also been conducted by the Security Council to prevent nations from being aggressive. This has not been an easy task since countries like Iran and North Korea are still participating in nuclear programs. However, some countries have been cooperative in this area.
The role of maintaining world peace has not been an easy task for the United Nations. This is because of the challenges it has faced since its inception. Some of these challenges can be discussed as follows. Peace keeping missions require a lot of logistic support and this has really strained the meager resources allocated for such activities.
For example, the UN does not have enough soldiers and it always rely on soldiers from member countries. This has actually affected its capacity to deal with conflicts properly.
Poor funding has sometimes crippled its capacity to maintain peace. The UN relies on funds from donors who some times fail to support some of its programs related to maintaining peace. Some member states have also failed to submit their financial contributions for along time. This has generally led to its failure to implement some of its decisions.
The numerous cases of conflict have strained the resources of the UN. For example, cases of terrorism especially in the Arab countries like Iraq have been very difficult to deal with. The current wave of revolution in the Arab world is also proving difficult to handle.
The permanent members have been accused of using the Security Council to achieve their own interests. For example, it has been alleged that the UN is only keen on protecting the oil rich nations which are of strategic importance to the developed countries yet it is not keen on restoring order in poor countries like Rwanda.
Some members have also suggested that the concept of permanent membership should be abolished. “Permanent members have also been accused of using their veto powers to strike down measures that run contrary to their individual national interests”. In addition to these, some of its members have also failed to honor its principles.
Even though the UN has faced some challenges, it has however tried to contain various conflicts that may interfere with international peace and security. The above mentioned challenges should therefore be solved in order to make it more effective in maintaining world security.
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