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UNO and the global disputes- Part I

UNO and the global disputes- Part I

  • The United Nations Organization (UNO), an intergovernmental organization, officially came into existence in October 1945 after the Second World War, to prevent another such conflict.
  • It was formed to replace the League of Nations, which had proved incapable. In setting up the UNO, the powers tried to eliminate some of the weaknesses which had handicapped the League.
  • The UN Charter was drawn up in San Francisco in 1945, and was based on proposals made at an earlier meeting between the USSR, the USA, China and Britain, held at Dumbarton Oaks (USA) in 1944. At its founding, the UN had 51 member states; there are now 193 (latest South Sudan).
  • The headquarters of the United Nations is situated in Manhattan, New York City, and enjoys extraterritoriality. Further main offices are situated in Geneva, Nairobi and Vienna.
  • The aims of the UN are:
    • to preserve peace and eliminate war;
    • to remove the causes of conflict by encouraging economic, social, educational, scientific and cultural progress throughout the world, especially in under-developed countries;
    • to safeguard the rights of all individual human beings, and the rights of peoples and nations.
  • UN System agencies include the World Bank Group, the World Health Organization, the World Food Programme, UNESCO, and UNICEF. Non-governmental organizations may be granted consultative status with ECOSOC and other agencies to participate in the UN’s work.
  • The organization won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001, and a number of its officers and agencies have also been awarded the prize.

Background and creation

  • In the century prior to the UN’s creation, several international treaty organizations and conferences had been formed.
  • States first established international organizations to cooperate on specific matters.
    • The International Telecommunication Union was founded in 1865
    • International Telegraph Union, and the Universal Postal Union was established in 1874. Both are now United Nations specialized agencies.
    • In 1899, the International Peace Conference was held in The Hague to elaborate instruments for settling crises peacefully, preventing wars and codifying rules of warfare.
      • It adopted the Convention for the Pacific Settlement of International Disputes and established the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which began work in 1902.
    • To regulate conflicts between nations, International Committee of the Red Cross and the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 were formed.
  • Following First World War, the Paris Peace Conference established the League of Nations (under Treaty of Versailles) to maintain harmony between countries.
    • This organization resolved some territorial disputes and created international structures for areas such as postal mail, aviation, and opium control, some of which would later be absorbed into the UN.
    • However, the League lacked representation for colonial peoples (then half the world’s population) and significant participation from several major powers, including the US and USSR; it failed to act against the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931, the Second Italian-Ethiopian War in 1935, the Japanese invasion of China in 1937, and German expansions under Adolf Hitler that culminated in the Second World War.
    • League was effective to solve only those problems where interests of major Powers were not involved. It was also based not on voting but consensus which made decision making more difficult.
  • The International Labour Organization was also created under the Treaty of Versailles as an affiliated agency of the League.

1942 “Declaration of United Nations” by Allies of World War II

  • Atlantic Charter:
    • Churchill and Franklin met aboard the the USA Cruiser (HMS Prince of Wales) in Placentia Bay, Newfoundland to respond to Germany’s successful attacks on Britain, Greece, and Yugoslavia and to discuss their respective war aims for the Second World War and to outline a postwar international system.
      • At the time of the meeting (August 9-10, 1941) Germany had invaded the Soviet Union and was on the verge of attacking Egypt in order to close off the Suez Canal.
      • Churchill and Franklin were also, simultaneously, concerned about Japan’s intentions in Southeast Asia.
      • Both Churchill and Franklin had their own reasons for wanting to sign a charter.
        • Both hoped that the charter, with its statement of solidarity with the Allies, would sway American opinion toward involvement in the war.
        • In this hope, both were disappointed: Americans continued to reject the idea of joining the war until after the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor.
    • The Atlantic Charter was created to show solidarity between the United States and the United Kingdom in the face of German aggression. It served to improve morale and was actually turned into leaflets, which were airdropped over occupied territories.
    • The Charter (called Atlantic Charter) they drafted included eight “common principles” that the United States and Great Britain would be committed to supporting in the postwar world.
      • First, their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other;
      • Second, no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned;
      • Third, respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government; and to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them;
      • Fourth, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world;
      • Fifth, to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security;
      • Sixth, to established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety;
      • Seventh, such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance;
      • Eighth, all of the nations of the world must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential.
    • The Atlantic Charter was released by Churchill and Roosevelt on August 14, 1941 (even before USA involvement in world war 2) as a joint declaration following a meeting in Newfoundland. The Atlantic Charter provided a broad statement of U.S. and British war aims.
    • Impact of Atlantic Charter:
      • The charter, while it did not precipitate American involvement in World War II, was a bold step on the part of Great Britain and the United States.
      • The Atlantic Charter was not a formal treaty; instead, it was a statement of shared ethics and intent. Its purpose was, according to the United Nations, to be “a message of hope to the occupied countries, and it held out the promise of a world organization based on the enduring verities of international morality.“
      • In this, the treaty was successful: it provided Allied forces with moral support while also sending a powerful message to the Axis powers.
      • In addition:
        • The Allied nations agreed to the principles of the Atlantic Charter, thus establishing a commonality of purpose.
        • The Atlantic Charter was a significant first step toward the United Nations.
        • The Atlantic Charter was perceived by the Axis powers as the beginnings of the United States and Great Britain alliance. This had the impact of strengthening the militaristic government in Japan.
        • Though the Atlantic Charter pledged no military support for the war in Europe, it had the impact of signaling the United States as a major player on the world stage. This was a position that the United States would firmly hold after World War II in its efforts to rebuild a war-torn Europe.
  • On January 1, 1942, representatives of 26 nations at war with the Axis powers met in Washington to sign the “Declaration by United Nations” (endorsing the Atlantic Charter):
    • This document pledged the signatory governments to the maximum war effort and bound them against making a separate peace.
    • It incorporated Soviet suggestions, but left no role for France.
    • The name “United Nations”, coined by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt was first used in the Declaration by United Nations of 1 January 1942,
  • One major change from the Atlantic Charter was the addition of a provision for religious freedom, which Stalin approved after Roosevelt insisted.
  • By 1 March 1945, 21 additional states had signed.
  • During the war, the United Nations became the official term for the Allies. To join it, countries had to sign the Declaration and declare war on the Axis.

Other Conferences and Declarations

  • Quebec Conference:
    • At the Quebec Conference in August 1943, US Secretary of State and British Foreign Secretary agreed to draft a declaration that included a call for “a general international organization, based on the principle sovereign equality of all nations.”
    • An agreed declaration was issued after a Foreign Ministers Conference in Moscow in October 1943.
  • Tehran Meet:
    • When President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin in Tehran, in November 1943, he proposed an international organization comprising an assembly of all member states and a 10-member executive committee to discuss social and economic issues.
    • The United States, Great Britain, Soviet Union, and China would enforce peace as “the four policemen.”
  • Meanwhile Allied representatives founded a set of task-oriented organizations:
    • Food and Agricultural Organization (May 1943),
    • United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (November 1943),
    • United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (April 1944),
    • International Monetary Fund and World Bank (July 1944),
    • International Civil Aviation Organization (November 1944).

Founding the UN 1945

  • In 1945, representatives of 50 countries met in San Francisco at the United Nations Conference on International Organization to draw up the United Nations Charter.
    • Those delegates deliberated on the basis of proposals worked out by the representatives of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States at Dumbarton Oaks Conference in United States in August-October 1944.
  • The Charter was signed on 26 June 1945 by the representatives of the 50 countries. Poland, which was not represented at the Conference, signed it later and became one of the original 51 Member States.
  • The United Nations officially came into existence on 24 October 1945, when the Charter had been ratified by China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, the United States and by a majority of other signatories. United Nations Day is celebrated on 24 October each year.
  • The first meetings of the General Assembly, with 51 nations represented, and the Security Council took place in Central Hall Westminster in London beginning 6 January 1946.
    • The General Assembly selected New York City as the site for the headquarters of the United Nations. Its site—like UN headquarters buildings in Geneva, Vienna, and Nairobi—is designated as international territory.
    • The Norwegian Foreign Minister, Trygve Lie, was elected as the first UN Secretary-General.
  • Membership
    • Membership in the United Nations is open to all other peace-loving states that accept the obligations contained in the present Charter and, in the judgment of the Organization, are able and willing to carry out these obligations.
    • The admission of any such state to membership in the United Nations will be effected by a decision of the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.
    • In addition, there are two non-member observer states of the United Nations General Assembly: the Holy See (which holds sovereignty over Vatican City) and the State of Palestine.

The structure of the United Nations Organization

  • There are now seven main organs of the UN:
      • General Assembly
        • It is the main deliberative organ of the UN and is composed of representatives of all Member States. The work of the United Nations year-round derives largely from the mandates given by the General Assembly.
        • A revitalization of the Assembly is under way to enhance its role, authority, effectiveness and efficiency.
      • Security Council
        • It has primary responsibility, under the UN Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security. A reform of the Security Council, including its membership is under consideration.
      • Secretariat
        • The Secretariat carries out the day-to-day work of the Organization. It services the other principal organs and carries out tasks as varied as the issues dealt with by the UN: administering peacekeeping operations, surveying economic and social trends, preparing studies on human rights, among others.
      • International Court of Justice
        • Located at the Hague in the Netherlands, it is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It settles legal disputes between states and gives advisory opinions to the UN and its specialized agencies. Its Statute is an integral part of the United Nations Charter.
      • Trusteeship Council
        • It was established in 1945 by the UN Charter to provide international supervision for 11 Trust Territories placed under the administration of 7 Member States, and ensure that adequate steps were taken to prepare the Territories for self-government and independence.
        • The trust territories were most of them former mandates of the League of Nations or territories taken from nations defeated at the end of World War II.
        • The Trusteeship Council, suspended operations in 1994, upon the independence of Palau, the last remaining UN trustee territory.
        • By 1994, all Trust Territories had attained self-government or independence.
      • Economic and Social Council
        • Established by the UN Charter, it is the principal organ to coordinate the economic, social and related work of the United Nations and the specialized agencies and institutions. Voting in the Council is by simple majority; each member has one vote.
      • International Criminal Court
        • International Criminal Court is an intergovernmental organization and international tribunal that sits in The Hague, Netherlands.
        • The ICC has jurisdiction to prosecute individuals for the international crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and crimes of aggression.
        • The ICC began functioning on 1 July 2002, the date that the Rome Statute entered into force. The Rome Statute is a multilateral treaty that serves as the ICC’s foundational and governing document.
  • Four of the five principal organs are located at the main UN Headquarters in New York City.
    • The International Court of Justice is located in The Hague, while other major agencies are based in the UN offices at Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi.
  • The six official languages of the United Nations, used in intergovernmental meetings and documents, are:
    • Arabic,
    • Chinese,
    • English,
    • French,
    • Russian,
    • Spanish.
  • On the basis of the Convention on the Privileges and Immunity of the United Nations, the UN and its agencies are immune from the laws of the countries where they operate, safeguarding the UN’s impartiality with regard to the host and member countries.
  • Below the six organs sit, “collection of entities and organizations, some of which are actually older than the UN itself and operate with almost complete independence from it”.
    • These include specialized agencies, research and training institutions, programmes and funds, and other UN entities.
  • The United Nations obey the Noblemaire principle, which is binding on any organisation that belongs to the united nations system.
    • This principle holds that an international organization must remunerate its entire staff equally for work of equal value, irrespective of differences in levels of pay in the various countries from which they are drawn.
    • It must also be able to recruit and retain staff from all its member states.
  • The World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and their affiliated organizations have not agreed to be covered by the UN common system of Salaries and Allowances.
  • Specialized agencies:
    • The UN Charter stipulates that each primary organ of the UN can establish various specialized agencies to fulfill its duties such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Food and Agriculture Organization, UNESCO, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization (WHO).
    • The UN performs most of its humanitarian work through these agencies.

How different is the UN from the League of Nations?

  • The UN has been more successful
    • There are some important differences which have tended to make the UN a more successful body than the League.
    • The UN spends much more time and resources on economic and social matters and its scope is much wider than that of the League. All the specialized agencies, with the exception of the International Labour Organization (founded in 1919), were set up in 1945 or later.
    • The UN is committed to safeguarding individual human rights, which the League did not get involved in.
    • Changes in the procedures of the General Assembly and the Security Council (especially the ‘Uniting for Peace’ resolution), and the increased power and prestige of the Secretary-General, have enabled the UN, on occasion, to take more decisive action than the League ever achieved.
    • The UN has a much wider membership and is therefore more of a genuine world organization than the League, with all the extra prestige that this entails.
      • Both the USA and the USSR were founder-members of the UN, whereas the USA never joined the League.
      • Between 1963 and 1968 no fewer than 43 new members joined the UN, mainly the emerging states of Africa and Asia, Later, many of the former member states of the USSR joined and now membership has reached 193; the League never had more than 50 members.
  • Some of the weaknesses of the League remain
    • Any one of the five permanent members of the Security Council can use its power of veto to prevent decisive action being taken.
    • Like the League, the UN has no permanent army of its own and has to use forces belonging to its member states.

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