UN Day : « It's your world »

4 Avril 2014

Always criticized, sometimes denounced and often blamed, peace is a difficult business for the United Nations. In the 69th year of the United Nations charter, let us look at the creation of a global dream

Credits photo -- Yann
Credits photo -- Yann
It is with the intervention of the United States in the First World War that the idea of an international organization seeking to resolve conflicts through dialogue appeared as a necessity. Indeed, by asking the Senate to vote on the involvement of the United States in the war, Woodrow Wilson had already begun to think about future peace, based on cooperation between the states within an international institution.

This would be done in 1919, when the Treaty of Versailles adopted Wilson’s 14 points, which included the creation of a League of Nations. But the isolationism of the Republicans in the United States and the frontal opposition to this project by the powerful Senator Henry Cabot Lodge ended the Wilsonian dream. The refusal of the United States to join the League of Nations condemned the League to impotence before it realistically began its activities from headquarters in Geneva.

This impotence is relative since many issues were resolved by the League, including the Colombo-Peruvian War, the crisis of the Åland Islands and the Greco-Bulgarian conflict. But its inability to respond to the invasions of Manchuria by Japan and of Abyssinia by Italy, or to the Spanish Civil War had already shown signs its decline.

The departure of Nazi Germany from the League of Nations in 1933, the resetting of the Axis powers, the Anschluss of Austria in 1938, the invasion of Czechoslovakia and the invasion of Poland leading to the declaration of general war in Europe sounded the death knell of the League of Nations. However, the League maintained its activities during the war under the leadership of the Irish Sean Lester, the last Secretary General.

From the League of Nations to the United Nations

From the Declaration of the United Nations in 1942, it was question to replace the League of Nations by a new institution, more likely to protect peace in the world than its predecessor had done. Decided during the Yalta Conference, a special conference was called in June 1945 in San Francisco during which the United Nations is created through the signature of the UN Charter.

Consisting among other things of the Security Council, a General Assembly, an Economic and Social Council, a Secretariat and an International Court of Justice, the United Nations is not a new League of Nations. Because it has an army for peacekeeping (Blue Helmets) and can take effective resolutions, the United Nations which is headquartered in New York, embodied at its inception the hope of a peace supposed to prevent the outbreak of the Third World War.

But the Soviet "empty chair" policy until the Korean War, and the paralysis of the UN institutions because of the struggling between the USSR and the United States during the Cold War, suggested that the United Nations was no more effective than the League of Nations was.

However it has been legitimated through missions like sending a force of peacekeeping in Cyprus in 1964, through resolutions like the one taken during the Six-Day War in the Middle East or through the adoption of treaties such as the non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (1968). In 1971, the People's Republic of China entered the United Nations, whose authority was not discussed anymore.

In addition to overseeing elections, the United Nations obtained cease-fires, including those in Angola and El Salvador in 1991. But powerless against the Rwandan genocide and the war in Kosovo, the UN has been discredited by the Iraq War initiated by the United States without any Security Council's resolution. The mismanagement of the situation following the earthquake in Haiti in 2010 and the inaction of the United Nations toward the current Syrian conflict did not undermine criticism.

The UN dream

This year, the Assembly decided that the International Day of United Nations would coincide with the World Day of information on development. Faithful to its values, the United Nations did not hesitate to leave the front of the stage to the causes it supports. Defending peace, women and children's rights, the fight against corruption, the right to health, to a healthy nutrition or the environmental protection, the United Nations has a unique expertise that has been awarded by more than a dozen Nobel prizes for peace, including the one given this year to one of its organizations: the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

But as evidenced by the criticism of this award of the Nobel Prize, due to several failures, the United Nations is no longer a dream. Criticized for its organization and its bureaucracy, the United Nations will have to improve its image in the future. However, the history and the cumbersome administrative procedures of the United Nations shall not wither the UN ambition, the ambition which from Wilson to Ban Ki Moon has united several generations in the hope of a triumph of peace.

The United Nation day

Last Thursday, throughout the world, events were organized to promote this dream of peace. In Libreville in Gabon as in Lome in Togo, stands covered esplanades of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and of the Congress to present the UN activities to the public. In the meantime, in Lahore university (Pakistan), as in many other institutions, seminars were held to commemorate the anniversary of the UN Charter. In Yaounde (Cameroon), it is during the whole week that various events were organized, in particular to promote the rights of women. In Dakar (Senegal), it is a major blood operation which had been launched for the occasion. Meanwhile, in New York a session of the General Assembly of the United Nations was opened.

Beyond these events, the United Nations Day was also an opportunity for announcements and balances. Taking advantage of the opening of the General Assembly, Ban Ki Moon reaffirmed his commitment to achieve a diplomatic solution to solve the situation in Syria, and underscored the concerns of the Organization of the United Nations about global warming. Similarly, Sandra Honoré, representative of the Secretariat of the United Nations in Haiti, expressed her regrets about the cholera outbreak, without still recognizing the involvement of the UN in its onset. The Tunisian government has on his side, used this day to thank the United Nations for its help towards democratization, encouraging the development of its activities.

But if one thing only had to be retained of this day, it is that the United Nations is not a distant institution. Concretely working with people indeed, the United Nations seeks to help everyone to reappropriate the world through health interventions, or food aid interventions or again, peacekeeping. This is what is meant by its motto: "This is your world."