In Defence of the UN
Evaluate the claim that the United Nations is unnecessary The UN provides the foundations for the creation of a collection of laws which enshrine the fundamental rights of human beings in legally binding documents.
In this way, the UN sows the seeds required for the protection of people’s essential, basic, and vital human rights, thus paving the way for other organisations, NGOs, IGOs and States to continue this invaluable work to look after humankind. Above all, the UN provides a safe, fair platform for open, multilateral debate, enabling the discussion of a vast range of issues from across the globe. As enshrined in the UN official charter, the purpose of the organisation is 1. “to reaffirm faith in fundamental Human Rights”, which involved creating a multitude of conventions to outline the nature of these rights. ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’ was established in 1948 and adopted by the UN’s General Assembly, as a template from which to base its legislation. The Declaration in itself was not a legally binding document; however, it prompted the creation of a Commission on Human Rights, with members from 53 countries.
The commission was involved in drafting international conventions involving human rights, then lobbying the General Assembly to get the conventions passed. The Commission has been incredibly successful, in that the documents it produces are made available for comprehensive debates in the General Assembly, allowing all 185 members to input suggestions, collaborating together to produce bills they are all happy to sign and then ratify. 2. The Commission has succeeded in passing many vital conventions and covenants, such as ‘The International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights’, and the ‘Convention on Civil and Political Rights’, which was fully ratified by 1976. The covenants and conventions are legally binding, enabling the UN to take action against people and States who have broken them.
This is a huge development on the anarchy of the international system, previous to the UN, because it forces countries to be held accountable for unacceptable actions. This accountability could be a compulsory tribunal held in the international court, or in the case of an offending State, could include sanctions, or UN intervention. The UN used its power to bring to justice some of the perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide, by placing them before an international court, to face trial for breaching international law. The UN’s Conventions are responsible for creating the laws which some of the Rwandan government broke, thus providing the UN with a legal reason to bring the criminals to justice. Furthermore, the conventions are an internationally recognised set of Rights, which most of the countries agree on, providing the groundwork for international cooperation in the face of violations.
The Covenant on Social Rights has given the UN a base from which to work when assisting countries in drafting new, fairer, and safer constitutions for the people and corresponding laws. The UN succeeded in implementing such laws and upgrading constitutions to protect the rights of the people in many places, for example, in Bulgaria, Malawi, and Mongolia. It is only the multilateral nature of the UN that enables it to become intimately involved in altering constitutions, as when many of the countries collaborate, their work is seen as being done for the greater good, whereas one or two countries trying to do the same work are easily viewed with suspicion. The United Nations also acts as an international body in support of Rights for the people, specifically the right to vote. The UN has been fundamental in facilitating collaboration between the vast quantities of member States, gathering multilateral support for democratic elections, and using democratic countries’ experience to aid others in establishing fair elections.
Romania and Lesotho are two examples of States where the UN has enabled democratic elections to take place. The UN provides apolitical support for these elections, as the General Assembly backs the decision to get involved in these States’ affairs. Without the UN, any lone country trying to help another with elections, would be seen as meddling for personal gain, for example, the harsh criticism the US army received for its involvement in the Iraq elections of 2005, as the Iraqi people believed the elections were being orchestrated by the US, for the US’s self-interest, not for the Iraqi people. As a result, the UN’s multilateral nature is essential to allowing it to become involved in States’ affairs, without being seen as working in only one country’s interest. The democratic elections installed governments which the majority of the people supported, legitimising the governments, thus increasing the stability of these countries. In this way, the UN is essential in creating a more stable world.
On top of creating legitimate governments, the UN also generated a set of laws to protect people if they were forced out of their home countries due to war or conflict. The 1951 UN ‘Refugee Convention’ is a legally binding document which enshrines the rights of displaced people, where if they remained at home, their 3. “life or freedom would be threatened”. The international collaboration made possible by the open debate system of the General Assembly, compelled the member States to contrive legislation outlining both what a refugee is, and the rights they must receive. The mutual agreement results in countries acting together in the case of a breach of the convention, to quickly aid the people in the offending country. The Convention prevents people, who are granted refugee status, from being forcibly deported, which if allowed, would be an act equivalent to a death sentence.
The Convention also grants refugees the rights to have their basic human needs met, for example nutrition, clean water, and safe shelter. This ensures that refugees retain their dignity, and are treated as human beings. The UNHCR (UN High Commission for Refugees) was also established, and it offers assistance in the form of economic support, counselling, and other services to help rehabilitate the refugees, and maintain their quality of life. In 2013, 414,600 people were forced to leave their homes, and 206,000 received UNHCR aid to help them restart their lives, this kind of aid is unprecedented in history, doing a significantly better job to protect people’s lives than the Refugee Commission in the League of Nations was able to do, as the League did not have enough collaborating countries. In addition, countries are unwilling to act alone to support refugees, this is clear from the pathetic responses of many countries to the Syrian refugee crisis. There were over 2.
3ml Syrian refugees in 2014, and the UK refused to agree to accept any set number for over a year, it was only after significant UN pressure that the UK agreed to accept 500. This is why the UN is critical; no other organisation can amass such multilateral support for the rights of humanity. In 2013 51.2 million people worldwide were forcibly displaced, demonstrating how many people rely on the Refugee Convention to safeguard their rights. Another key faction of the UN is UNICEF, which does invaluable work to protect the lives of vulnerable children worldwide.
4.UNICEF works in 155 countries to implement the 1989 ‘UN Convention of the Rights of the Child’, which states all children have the right to adequate nutrition, clean water, and health, it also promises to work towards the disarmament of children, and establishing a separate justice system to deal with child criminals. All members of the UN, bar Somalia, South Sudan and the USA, signed the Convention, and the States agreed to work together to tackle any violations. The 190 countries who signed apply significant pressure to the 3 who didn’t, encouraging them to adhere to the majority of the Convention, despite not signing.In 2010 the UN helped Chad organise a regional conference to tackle the issue of child soldiers, and begin an open discussion about the issue, furthermore, the UNICEF representative explained that people involved in recruiting child soldiers can be prosecuted before the International Court.
The UN gets involved in areas of the world where countries acting alone don’t want to, and the huge amount of backing the UN receives from its members gives it a lot of soft power when organising such negotiations and discussions. The UN continued its work to protect children by helping found and support juvenile court systems in 120 countries. The UN also helped ensure the inclusion of legal assistance and counselling services for child victims as part of the court systems in Kenya, Morocco, and Malawi. The UN gives 185 States in the General Assembly the opportunity to discuss how they believe warfare should be conducted, and it was through the UN that the 5.1968 ‘Chemical Warfare Convention’ was written.
By 2013 190 States had ratified it, thus outlawing the usage of chemical weapons, because they are so difficult to contain, and usually end up causing great harm to civilians. The Convention is responsible for initiating the disarmament of Libya’s chemical arsenal, as in 2004 when Gaddafi signed up to the Convention; the UN had legal precedence to assist in removing and destroying the chemical weapons. This made the world slightly safer for civilians, and as more States follow suit, the UN will be directly responsible for removing a huge threat to civilians. There are some people who argue that the UN’s failure in certain peacekeeping missions indicates that the organisation is redundant. To make this statement is to totally ignore the multifaceted nature of the organisation.
The UN is far more than the Security Council, and the ways in which is works for peace are as numerous and diverse as its members. The UN is a platform for open debate between a vast number of countries, it is a place in which these States are required to discuss highly controversial issues, and by doing this, realise they have common ground. The UN is the only organisation in the world to encourage free debate between such an immense range of States, providing a place where all countries have a voice. Being able to discuss issues is fundamental to initiating cooperation between countries, and encourages them to assist each other, even when the issue being discussed does not directly affect them. When the States collaborate within the UN, they allow it to act as an incredibly powerful, apolitical body, which works for the good of humankind. This is what the UN is about.
It is a multilateral organisation which enables the international community to work for the good of the people. As long as conflict remains, war crimes are committed, and people do not have access to basic necessities, the UN will remain essential. The UN continues to be the only organisation of its kind, a place focused on protecting human rights, with enough backing from member States to be able to act. Thus, the UN is the heart of multilateral cooperation for the good of humankind, and it is absolutely necessary.