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United Nation’s Effectiveness Analysis Essay

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Updated: Sep 2nd, 2021

Introduction: Effectiveness of the United Nations in dealing with international problems

The effectiveness of the UN in tackling international concerns can be evaluated by the growing demands that suggest and require collective intervention from the UN along with the hope and confidence that is declining day by day. This decline in confidence over international level is due to many reasons. On one hand on a global context, it has been established that UN financial support is keeping on diminishing for its activities are limited to lead by some industrialized countries, where it is propelled by the challenge of humanitarian intervention. On the other hand UN has remained unable to maintain a level of peacekeeping within and across country borders and boundaries (Thakur & Schnabel, 2001, p. 3).

This research would highlight upon the main issues for which UN is proving itself responsible for lacking credibility in solving international issues. Apart from the human rights and third world development problems, conflicts like Iraq war concerns, UN’s lack of interest in resolving the Iraq issue and the dearth of fulfilling global expectations in maintaining peacemaking are the present concerns from which UN is trouncing.

The Iraq Issue: Literature Review

Global peace and security have always remained among the UN’s core missions and that even in a manner that UN’s foundation in 1945 was laid upon the building blocks of high hopes and dedicated serving of the UN as a global high command to keep the peace in a post-colonial, post-fascist world. With the closing of the ideological gap between East and West many look to the peace-keeping apparatus of the United Nations as the best tool to deal with the lesser crises that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union (Alagappa & Inoguchi, 1999, p. 3).

Apart from the diplomacy that Iraq made since the end of the Gulf War, UN discerned the Gulf War has been replaced by a new kind of conflict, a ‘war of sanctions’. This conflict tended to be a struggle between Iraq and the United Nations (UN) in which Iraq struggled to break out of the controls and sanctions the UN established as part of the cease-fire in the Gulf War, while the UN attempts to enforce them. The war was more than a struggle between Iraq and the United States and Britain that already led to several limited UN strikes on Iraq and Operation Desert Fox, and which could escalate to far more serious strikes in the future (Cordesman, 1999, p. 1). What critics say is that, it was a struggle that shaped every aspect of Iraq’s conventional military power and efforts to proliferate while in a broader context, it was a strategic struggle in which Iraq attempt to reassert its status as a major Gulf and Arab power, while the UN seek to limit Iraq’s capability to threaten its neighbours and change the character of the Iraqi government.

On 31 January 1992, the United Nations Security Council met at the level of the heads of government for the first time after which was declared that the meeting was evidence of a new era for the Security Council, one in which the superpower rivalry that contributed to years of stalemate and Cold War politics was replaced by a Security Council in which permanent members could agree to work together on issues relating to international peace and security. These were euphoric times for the United Nations due to two reasons. First, the UN organization was able to get rid of the shadow of Cold War rivalry and secondly there was also a definite willingness, even determination, among member states to use the United Nations to its full potential.

Although in 1991 UN felt pressure under the issue of Iraq-Kuwait conflict, when in the wake of the successful military operation Iraq pushed out of Kuwait and along with the new optimism and commitment to using the United Nations evidenced at the Security Council heads of government meeting, came a new willingness to use the United Nations more forcefully than during the Cold War. The situation felt some betterment by the end of 1992 when the Security Council had authorized UN involvement in two difficult conflicts the collapsing Yugoslavia and the ongoing civil war in Somalia. These conflicts under the shelter of Security Council allowed a significant use of force beyond that utilized in traditional peacekeeping but short of the full scale use of force authorized in the UN-sponsored actions in response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (Boulden, 2001, p. 1).

Although the UN confronted many challenges but the major challenge that was faced by the UN Council was the poor state of relations between the United States and the United Nations. The conflict started when in 1993 Clinton Administration was first seen to use UNSCOM (UN Special Commission) to charge with supervising and monitoring Iraq’s compliance with Security Council decisions on its weapons programmes. In order to analyze UN effectiveness, writers often criticize UNSCOM as its independence was key to its authority and effectiveness. The analysis of UNSCOM’s relationship with the other relevant UN bodies, Member States, and personalities clearly demonstrates the importance of maintaining that independence while how it had to be carefully managed.

The other key factor was the full backing of the Council. While UNSCOM had to be free to operate without the interference of other bodies, it clearly needed the support of the Council. Only the Council had the means to enforce the conditions of the cease-fire resolution 687 and the resolutions that followed. The only leverage UNSCOM had was the authority to call on the Security Council to apply the threat of sanctions or military action on the one hand, or incentives on the other. When both its independence and the backing of the full Council dissipated, UNSCOM’s ability to function, despite its remarkable accomplishments, was bound to dissipate as well (Krasno & Sutterlin, 2003, p. 36).

The proactive mandate intentionally gave UNSCOM the authority to act assertively in dealing with the Iraqi regime, which was required to cooperate ‘unconditionally’ in the disarmament process. The Council not only gave UNSCOM the authority to dispose of WMD but also all related subsystems and components and the authority to monitor Iraq so that it could not rebuild the systems once the disarmament process was complete. Unlike IAEA’s (International Atomic Energy Agency) weaker mandate prior to the Gulf War, which permitted it to enter only Iraqi-designated facilities with prior notice, UNSCOM was given the right to carry out surprise inspections at undeclared sites. UNSCOM’s intrusiveness would be both immediate and ongoing.

Cordesman (1999) visualizes the UN efficiency on the background of the Gulf War that liberated Kuwait, thereby scarcely ending up the struggle against Saddam Hussein. It was more than a war on weapons that resulted in sanctions that began almost immediately after the cease-fire after which the UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 687 was passed in 1991, and set the terms for the cease-fire in the Gulf War (Cordesman, 1999, p. 3). The Resolution 687 was an effort initiated by the UN as a means for dismantling Iraq’s weapons of mass along with the means to produce them.

The UN resolution’s efficiency set up no time limit and established ambiguous conditions for terminating controls and sanctions. Therefore UN seek help from Article 22 of Resolution 687 that required UNSCOM and the IAEA to certify that Iraq does not retain any long-range missiles and weapons of mass destruction, or the capability to manufacture them, before Iraq can resume uncontrolled exports. The Resolution looked forward that Iraq must have fully disclosed all related information, and implies that it must have demonstrated that it has taken no steps to develop a future capability to proliferate. Since 1997, UN has been blamed for the growing debates over whether Article 22 was the only condition for lifting the economic sanctions or whether Iraq must have complied with all of the terms of the cease-fire. UNSCOM and the IAEA, both being responsible for reporting on the status of Iraq’s compliance presented reviews to the Security Council at least every six months.

Critical Analysis

It is more than enough for a critical analysis to view the current structure, roles, and functions of the UN that reflect the international system that emerged at the end of the Second World War on one hand while the prominence and support the international system provides to the United States on the other. The UN worked as one of the powers of the United States, which remained dominant in the immediate post-war period, and used the UN as its proxy to uphold economic development and freedom from aggression as the twin rights of states. The United Nations was seen as a fortification against fascism and protector of an ever-growing number of weak, post-colonial states.

Initially there was an optimistic opinion about the possibilities for the United Nations to play an ever-larger role in conflict prevention, internationally UN was seen an exceedingly broad concept which spans development assistance, counselling on the processes of democratization, political risk analysis to provide ‘early warning’ of hot spots, and other forms of institutional support. This view of the United Nations as peacemaker, however, assumes that the mass of NGOs, regional councils, and member country governments can cope with internal and external conflict in a selfless, objective and coherent manner. Today the UN’s reform agenda is openly criticized for the new roles it has performed in maintaining peace and security.

In March 2003, when the United States under the umbrella of the notion “Iraq’s diplomacy has failed” planned to rid Iraq from its weapons of mass destruction, UN Security Council came forward with some techniques. In 2006, Kofi Annan the Secretary General of the UN clearly stated the illegitimacy of the UN charter. What can be more critical than the sentence uttered by him that presented the political hypocrisy of the United States against Iraq? Even Russia condemned the war. Therefore UN was highly criticized by the rest of the world except the United States and UK which were ahead in making plans for Iraq invasion.

The UNSCOM compendium was initially supposed to be a part of that comprehensive review that Kofi Annan had proposed in a presentation to the Security Council on September 22, 1998, but which never formally took place after the December 1998 bombing and the termination of inspections. The purpose of the review (which Iraq had requested) was to assess the extent of Iraq’s compliance with resolution 687, reach agreement on what final steps needed to be taken, and wrap up the disarmament work of the Commission, taking into account that the monitoring aspect of the work would continue. The Secretary-General introduced the idea to the Council even though Iraq was at the time adhering to its decision of August 5, 1998, not to cooperate with UNSCOM (Krasno & Sutterlin, 2003, p. 159).

A complete report, which summarized all of UNSCOM’s work, had never been compiled prior to the request for a comprehensive review. Each regular monthly report had given a summary of the most recent work but had not tried to give an overall picture, therefore, UNSCOM staff members in New York began rapidly to pull together the data and analysis that they had accumulated over the years. The extensive report was completed but when it was realized, at the end of 1998, that the comprehensive review was not going to take place in the form anticipated, UNSCOM had to decide what to do with the documented results of their labor. One of the members who had tried to stop the circulation of the report was the Russian Federation, calling into question whether the Russian goal in supporting the comprehensive review was to find a negotiated political solution to the issue or real compliance with a set of objective criteria based on the data included in the report.

The agreed goal of the comprehensive review was to assess Iraqi compliance, as the Russians stated, to “confirm on the basis of evidence and verifiable information the validity of any allegations of non-compliance by Iraq,” and to “answer the question whether Iraq still constitutes a military threat for the region” (Krasno & Sutterlin, 2003, p. 161). UNSCOM act with diplomacy and tried to establish a ‘material balance’ of exactly which weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) had been destroyed or rendered harmless and what threats remained. This seemed clear enough, but that assessment was dependent on having a concrete baseline data set on which to construct a balance ratio of what weapons remained. That proved to be a very elusive and slippery task because of Iraq’s continued noncompliance and untrustworthy behavior. Determining a material balance was dependent on knowing what WMD were in Iraq’s possession at the beginning of 1991. UNSCOM developed it own methods of gathering information despite the ambiguous data emanating from Iraq. It was this combination of information gathered from Member States, companies that had sold material and equipment to Iraq, and UNSCOM’s own inspections combined with the capability to assess that information in its Information Analysis Unit, which provided the United Nations with its own data.

Starting from the post cold war condition, the United Nation always performed in a paradoxical context, in which it defended the US some times in the name of ‘war on terror’ and other times by blaming sanctions to demote WMD. At a time when the UN, freed from cold war ideologies and state rivalries, it took the lead and direct humankind toward peace and harmony, its basic (empty) formalism revealed even more blatantly (Debrix, 1999, p. 6). At a time when peacekeeping is given yet another chance to fulfill the promise of collective security, its exercise becomes less assured than ever, and peacekeeping missions, far from ‘empowering the UN’ leave the image of the international organization as an impotent peace and security enforcer.


Meeting all the challenges that spotted UN now require strengthening preventive diplomacy as well as the UN’s capacity to support increased numbers of international relations operations performing complex tasks in collaboration with member states and NGOs. The United Nations recognizes the problem. The Secretary General’s decision to appoint an international expert panel on UN peace operations clearly emphasizes this recognition. With sharply increased demand for UN peacekeeping in different forms and experiences of both success and failure, developments in the decade since the Cold War’s end have foreshadowed dilemma that will face UN peacekeeping in the new millennium. The dilemma is linked to changes in the types of conflicts that demand the organization’s attention, specifically to the shift from interstate to more intrastate or internal conflicts, and to the norm of nonintervention in a state’s internal affairs. The question that arises is that how the UN intervention would be able to justify itself?

Work Cited

Alagappa Muthiah & Inoguchi Takashi, (1999) International Security Management and the United Nations: United Nations University Press: New York.

Boulden Jane, (2001) Peace Enforcement: The United Nations Experience in Congo, Somalia, and Bosnia: Praeger: Westport, CT.

Cordesman H. Anthony, (1999) Iraq and the War of Sanctions: Conventional Threats and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Praeger Publishers: Westport, CT.

Debrix Francois, (1999) Re-Envisioning Peacekeeping: The United Nations and the Mobilization of Ideology: University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis.

Krasno E. Jean & Sutterlin S. James, (2003) The United Nations and Iraq: Defanging the Viper: Praeger: Westport, CT.

Thakur Ramesh & Schnabel Albrecht, (2001) United Nations Peacekeeping Operations: Ad Hoc Missions, Permanent Engagement: United Nations University Press: New York.

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