There can little doubt as to the fact that the foremost problem, confronting the Organization of United Nations (UN), is its operational ineffectiveness, which causes many political observers to suggest that UN’s continuous existence in its present form, does not make much of a sense.
Apparently, there are many good reasons to believe that, during the course of recent decades, UN has been undergoing a qualitative transformation from a peace-securing international organization into an essentially the ‘club of bureaucrats’, the only purpose of which existence is to provide an opportunity for its high-ranking affiliates to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle.
The validity of this statement can be well illustrated in relation to the fact that, for a duration of last thirty years, not a single UN Session has been conducted without its delegates spending a great amount of time, while discussing what can be done to eliminate hunger in world’s ‘developing’ countries. Yet, despite billions and billions of dollars having been poured into these countries’ economies, over the course of decades, the situation with ‘world’s hunger’ did not only improve but has grown much worse.
Even those who think that the continuous existence of UN is utterly vital for protecting a world’s peace, cannot avoid pointing out to the fact that the very principles of this organization’s functioning must be revised.
According to Gareis and Varwick: “It is impossible to overlook the fact that the UN in its present form is unable to play its role adequately as motor and agent of a comprehensive politics of world order” (3). Nevertheless, it would be inappropriate to think that UN’s current problems are essentially incidental and that this organization will continue to play the role of an international arbiter into eternity.
The reason for this is simple – the fact that, ever since early nineties, the world had ceased being bipolar (due to the collapse of Soviet Union), and the fact that the process of an ongoing Globalization results in rendering the very notion of nation outdated, creates objective preconditions for UN’s continuous existence to make very little sense. In other words, UN’s inefficiency, which throughout the course of last two decades has been grasping public’s attention on an exponential scale, appears dialectically predetermined.
As it was noted by Nanjundan: “The UN is in premature gerontocracy; the decline over the last 20 years due to bureaucratic inefficiency and corruption has been compounded by the post-cold war dominance of and dependence on the sole superpower, the US” (2731). In this paper, I will aim to substantiate an earlier articulated thesis at length and to provide readers with the insight onto the fact that the very realities of a post-industrial living predetermine UN’s uselessness.
The reason that I think it is important to explore a subject matter, outlined in the Introduction, is that the current situation with the state of international affairs is far from being considered fully adequate.
Partially, this can be explained by the fact that, in recent times, UN has been consistently failing to live up to its actual purpose of existence – namely, ensuring that the dynamics on an international arena are being fully correlative with the most fundamental conventions of an international law.
For example, in 1999, UN fully supported NATO’s aggression against Yugoslavia, even though this aggression violated the basic provisions of international law in a most blatant manner.
During the course of a so-called 2008 ‘August War’ between Russia and Georgia, triggered by Russia’s intention to keep the part of Georgia occupied, UN has again shown itself acting on behalf of aggressors. For duration of seven days, after the beginning of hostilities, the members of UN Security Council have been persistently meeting up, without being able to come up with a resolution, which would address the issue.
At the time when people were being killed by hundreds on a daily basis, the UN bureaucrats were engaging each other in verbal duels on whether Russia’s invasion could be considered an act of war or not. While referring to Russia’s invasion of Georgia, which went unopposed by UN, King states: “The true significance of the latest crisis in the Caucasus is that there is a little faith in multilateral institutions, such as the UN Security Council” (5).
In other words, for duration of at least last twenty years, UN was not only not helping to make this world a safer place to live, but this organization’s very involvement in the settling of international disputes was resulting in these disputes’ prolongation. The example of an ongoing ‘low intensity’ war between Palestinians and Israelis, which despite UN’s efforts continues to result in the deaths of innocent civilians on both sides, exemplifies the validity of this statement.
Nevertheless, despite their inability to provide practical benefits to the countries that support them financially, UN’s bureaucrats continue to enjoy a luxurious living.
As of today, UN has been turned into nothing less of a ‘high society club’, which provides the representatives of state-members (and their bodyguards, secretaries, speechwriters, PR managers, etc.) with an opportunity to stay in seven-star hotels, to fly private jets and to drink collectible vines, while participating in UN-sponsored conferences on the ‘elimination of world’s thirst’, for example.
Therefore, it does not come as a particular surprise that, as time goes on, more and more people grow increasingly concerned about the fact that their tax-money goes to support the hordes of social parasites, which are being arrogant enough to seriously believe that their work for UN is being highly beneficial to humanity’s well-being. This is why; there is good reason to believe that the issue, which will be discussed in this paper, is important, because it does concern just about every individual on this planet.
What has been said earlier provides us with a rationale for defining discursive questions, which will be addressed throughout the paper. These questions can be formulated as follows:
What represents a fundamental reason for UN to be growing progressively useless?
What contributes to the fact that, as of today, the classical guidelines for settling international disputes, endorsed by UN, may no longer be considered conceptually legitimate?
What accounts for UN’s operational inefficiency?
Nowadays, only very few people remember that UN has been founded as the instrument of enforcing the provisions of a so-called Peace of Westphalia on a global scale. According to the 1648 Peace Treaty of Westphalia, which was signed between the European countries that participated in the Thirty Years War, every country’s sovereign right to define its form of government and its state religion, without the involvement of a third party, represents the legal foundation of an international law.
As Philpott noted it: “Peace Treaty of Westphalia… set new standards for each of sovereignty’s three faces. It made the sovereign state the legitimate political unit” (360). Ever since the signing of an earlier mentioned Treaty, it became possible for the members of an international community to base their attitude towards the participants of just about every military conflict on a rationale-driven principle.
It is important to understand that the signing of the Peace Treaty of Westphalia was predetermined by the objective laws of history, concerned with the fact that the course of a continuous social, cultural and scientific progress necessarily results in transforming the conventions of politics. For example, prior to the beginning of 17th century, there were no ‘nations’ in Europe, in the contemporary sense of this word.
Back then, Europeans used to be classified along the lines of what happened to be the particulars of their class and religious affiliation. For example, there used to be so much more in common between the representatives of German and French aristocracy then between the representatives of French aristocracy and French peasantry, on the one hand, and the representatives of German aristocracy and German peasantry, on the other.
Nevertheless, the initial phase of an Industrial Revolution has brought about the emergence of a new social class – bourgeoisie. In its turn, the emergence of a bourgeoisie created objective preconditions for the legitimization of a ‘nation’, as a body politics’ actual agent.
In its turn, this explains why, until comparatively recent times, the very concept of statehood used to be thought of as being essentially synonymous to the concept of nation, because only the nations were believed to have the attributes of a political unit, as defined by 1933 Montevideo Convention: “The 1933 Montevideo Convention defined the criteria for statehood as having (a) a permanent population, (b) a defined territory, (c) government, and (d) the capacity to enter into relations with other state” (Borneman & Fowler 490).
Hence, the foremost objective of League of Nations and consequently, of its successor UN – ensuring countries’ compliance with the basic provisions of an international law, based upon the recognition of nations sovereignty’s legality.
To put it plainly – UN has been founded to prevent stronger countries from attacking and occupying much weaker ones, because regardless how weak a particular country might be, for as long as it is being referred to in terms of a ‘nation’, its right to enjoy a political independence is undisputable.
Nevertheless, as it was mentioned earlier, the process of Globalization, which continues to gain an exponential momentum, results in exposing the sheer outdatedness of the concept of nation, in the traditional sense of this word. Nowadays, intellectually advanced people refuse to think of their self-identity solely in terms of a nation, as it used to be the case not too long ago.
In fact, people’s tendency to invoke the concept of nation, while coming up with political statements, is now being often regarded as an indication of their intellectual primitiveness. This is exactly the reason why there is a negative correlation between the strength of a nationalistic sentiment, professed by the citizens of a particular country, and the quality of their living standards.
In turn, this also explains why, unlike what it is being the case in the countries of a Third World, the nationalistic parties do not enjoy much popularity with voters in traditionally White countries. Slowly but surely, the concept of ‘nation’ becomes a thing of the past, just as the practice of assigning people with their roles in life in accordance to their either ‘noble’ or ‘commoner’ birth-status, became the thing of the past at the turn of 20th century.
In its turn, this created a situation when classical ‘nations’ can no longer be considered the only legitimate players on the arena of international politics. The soundness of this suggestion can be explored in regards to the evolution of a European Union.
At the time of its founding in 1957, European Economic Community was expected to function as a solely consultative body, with the main purpose of its existence being assumed the standardization of trade tariffs between Community’s members.
However, as of today, EU has been turn into nothing short of a quasi-state of its own – it now has its own flag, its own currency, its own Parliament, its own President. Moreover, it is just a matter of very short time, before it will have its own armed forces and police. Yet, EU cannot be referred to as a ‘nation’, in the traditional sense of this word.
The same can be said about another international organization – WTO. Despite the fact that it lacks the formal attributes of an independent geopolitical entity, this organization now dictates national governments what economic policies they should pursue in their countries.
For example, in 2008, WTO has granted a large financial tranche to Ukraine, while requiring from the Ukrainian government to cut subsidies to the state-owned sectors of country’s economy and to reduce elder people’s pensions by half. The Ukrainian government did not have any choice but to comply.
Another example – in 1999, American and British planes were bombing Yugoslavian military and civilian targets at will, which resulted in considerable casualties among the civilians: “The (Belgrade’s) bridges were bombed, and electric facilities and civic structures became targets. Often NATO bombs went astray or targeted the wrong building” (Rogel 179).
Nevertheless, during the course of hostilities, U.S. and Britain did not bother declaring war on Yugoslavia. In the same year, a substantial part of Yugoslavia’s territory – Kosovo, has been cut off from this country in the same manner as it used to be the case with Sudetenland being cut off from Czechoslovakia in 1938 by Hitler. Apparently, even though an international organization NATO cannot be considered a fully legitimate player in the field of international politics de jure, it nevertheless acts as such a player de facto.
It is needless to mention, therefore, that even if UN’s top-officials were not in cahoots with NATO’s top-officials, they could do very little to prevent the killing of innocent civilians in Yugoslavia. The reason for this is simple – according to the UN Charter, organization’s peacekeepers can only be involved in settling a particular international dispute, for as long as this dispute is taking place between fully legitimate political units – nations.
However, as it was shown earlier, due to a Globalization-driven deterioration of the very concept of a nationhood, the more and more armed disputes in today’s world are being triggered by quasi-sovereign international organizations (including transnational corporations), on the one hand, and by stateless ‘communities’ (such as Palestinians and Kurds), on the other.
Therefore, there is nothing particularly odd about the fact that, as of today, UN continues to prove itself helpless, when it comes to resolving armed disputes – legally speaking, this organization is simply not being adequately ‘equipped’ to deal with these disputes.
Partially, this can be explained by the fact that, just as it is being the case with the concept of nationhood, which used to be considered the only legitimate source of a geopolitical authority, the guiding principles of UN’s operating have grown outdated, as well. For example, ever since the time of UN’s founding, organization’s spokesmen never ceased praising the principle of people’s self-determination, as such that represents an objective truth-value. Apparently, it never occurred to UN’s bureaucrats that the idea that people should be allowed to determine the form of their country’s governing on their own is of clearly Western origin.
The theoretical premise behind this principle is the assumption that, regardless of where they live, people equally adhere to ‘live and let live’ principle. However, there are many exceptions to this rule. For example, the representatives of the Iranian government, which is being fully supported by Iranian ordinary citizens, have on many occasions publically stated that Iran’s ultimate goal is wiping the state of Israel off world’s map.
Another guiding principle behind UN’s functioning has traditionally been the ‘peaceful settlement of disputes’. According to Higgins: “The obligation of peaceful settlement for those disputes falling in the category of potentially endangering the maintenance of international peace is specified in Article 33(1) of the UN Charter” (293). However, the ‘peaceful settlement of disputes’ is only possible when there is no hope for either of disputing parties to expect that it will be able to reach its objectives by the mean of initiating armed hostilities.
For example, the actual reason why Palestinian terrorists continue to attack Israel is that they know that, every time Israel decides in favor of dealing with them decisively, the UN peacemakers become involved – hence, preventing Israel from ‘settling the dispute’ once and for all. However, if Palestinians knew that there would be a swift and merciless retaliation for every of their attacks, they would refrain from proceeding with these attacks, in the first place.
The best proof as to the conceptual fallaciousness of an assumption that the ‘peaceful settlement of disputes’ does result in the de facto settling of these disputes, can be found in Glennon’s article: “Between 1945 and 1990… the number of ongoing civil wars increased by over 400 per cent” (12). This example once again illustrates the sheer inconsistency of theoretical premises, upon which the UN’s functioning continues to be based.
What also hampers UN’s ability to workout strategies for the effective settlement of international conflicts is the organization top-officials’ unwavering adherence to the protection of people’s ‘human rights’. The reason for this is quite apparent – the concept of ‘human rights’ is an intellectual byproduct of a Western mentality.
Apparently, due to their endowment with an existential idealism, Westerners do believe that this concept is being equally appealing to non-Westerners. This, however, could not be farther from the truth, due to the specifics of these people’s mental wiring, which in turn can be explained by their biologically predetermined intellectual underdevelopment.
In all probability, it never occurred to the UN’s policy-makers that; whereas; Westerners do think of the concept of ‘human rights’ as representing an undeniable truth-value, the majority of non-Westerners think of this concept as being just another meaningless ‘buzzword’. In its turn, this explains why UN’s initiatives, concerned with helping people in the Third World countries to take the full advantage of their human rights, often encounter a fierce resistance, on the part of these very same people.
This simply could not be otherwise, especially given the fact that the UN-endorsed protection of ‘human rights’ is often being carried out by the mean of American planes dropping bombs on these people’s heads, as it was the case during the course of America’s 2003 war on Iraq.
What has been said earlier leaves very few doubts to the fact that, as of today, UN’s continuous existence is indeed making very little sense. This suggestion, however, is not only being concerned with the fact that in recent times UN has been consistently proving its operational inefficiency, but also with the fact that supporting this organization considerably undermines the economic integrity of state-members.
It is important to understand that UN represents the biggest bureaucratic apparatus that has ever existed on the face of the Earth. Moreover, as history shows, bureaucrats have always been trying to exercise an authority, as their foremost priority, even if there were no objective reasons for them to be exercising such an authority, in the first place. Bureaucrats always strive to gain as many personal benefits out of being in a position of power, as possible.
Therefore, there is nothing particularly odd about the fact that it now became a commonplace practice for even the mid-level UN’s officials to go as far as using private jets, while travelling internationally.
Organization’s functionaries spend millions and millions of dollars to hold a number of meaningless conferences and symposiums, in order to simply to socialize with each other, while eventually growing to believe in their own importance. They never experience any shortage of money – U.S. alone contributes $3.5 billion to UN on the annual basis.
One of the reasons to this is that, despite UN’s utter failures in just about all of its undertakings, the politically correct politicians from country-members simply lack courageousness to initiate a public discussion on whether their countries’ membership in UN is being beneficial to the ordinary citizens or not.
As a result, these countries continue to pump money into UN – hence, making sure that the UN’s useless bureaucrats may continue to enjoy a good living. Therefore, it is quite impossible to disagree with Helms when he states: “As it currently operates, the United Nations does not deserve continued American support. Its bureaucracy is proliferating, its costs are spiralling, and its mission is constantly expanding beyond its mandate – and beyond its capabilities” (3).
While understanding perfectly well that, despite their inability to provide any practical contributions towards the strengthening of an international security, they nevertheless must pose as utterly busy individuals, UN’s officials never cease promoting a variety of global campaigns, such as mentioned earlier campaign aimed at the ‘elimination of world’s hunger’, or the campaign concerned with convincing people to save electricity during the so-called ‘Earth Days’.
It is needless to mention, of course, that there can be very little actual beneficence to these campaigns, the main purpose of which is to provide a legal cover to the process of tax-payers’ money being thrown into the thin air. The same can be said about UN bureaucrats’ tendency to concern themselves with providing their ‘valuable’ opinions to the national governments, in regards to how they should be addressing a variety of essentially local issues.
In the light of an earlier provided line of argumentation, the UN’s continuous functioning appears to be nothing but an anachronism of a Cold War era. Therefore, it does not come as a surprise that, as of today, the growing number of people think of this organization’s very abbreviation as a synonym of uselessness.
It simply cannot be otherwise, because the end of a Cold War and the deterioration of the classical concept of‘nationhood’ eliminated the objective prerequisites for UN to be considered the ultimate enforcer of peace and security in the world. Nowadays, the USS Ronald Reagan alone is being fully capable of doing it.
The fact that there is a growing dissent among the people as to the fact that they can see very little reason for UN to continue meddling in international affairs is being well recognized by this organization’s top executives. In its turn, this prompted UN’s last two General Secretaries to come up with suggestions as to what may account for the best ways of increasing the extent of UN’s operational efficiency.
Nevertheless, even a brief glance at the proposed ‘reforms’ reveals an undeniable fact that only utterly naive people may believe in these reforms’ potential effectiveness. For example, in 2003, Kofi Annan suggested that the number of non-permanent seats in the UN Security Council should increase from ten to twenty. According to Annan, such Council’s reformation would amplify the power of non-nuclear states, within the context of UN designing approaches for dealing with the threats to world’s peace.
However, one does not have to be overly smart to realize that if anything, Council’s expansion would only result in this organization becoming even less operationally effective. As Walsum had noted: “No one can seriously believe a Council with 20 members can be more effective than one with 10, but it has become politically incorrect to point this out” (14).
It is perfectly understandable that there are many ‘important’ African countries that would like to be provided with an opportunity to have their voices heard on the Council. However, it is equally understandable that they would only be using such an opportunity to do what they always do – milking Western countries for money, on the account of Western ‘legacy of imperialism’.
Another reform, proposed by the UN current General Secretary Ban Ki-moon in 2007, is being concerned with increasing the extent of ‘gender equality’, within the body of UN’s bureaucracy (Kettel 875). According to this initiative’s twisted logic, the increased representation of women among UN’s top-functionaries will result in a drastic improvement of organization’s operational efficiency.
The sheer fallaciousness of such an assumption, however, is being apparent even to a one’s naked eye. After all, there are no objective reasons to believe that, as compared to what it is being the case with male-bureaucrats; female-bureaucrats will necessarily prove themselves much more responsible and professionally adequate.
Therefore, it will only be logical to assume that the latest initiatives, aimed at improving UN’s performance, can never bring about the desired effects, even if being implemented. What it means is that, as time goes on, UN will continue to grow increasingly useless. In its turn, this will eventually lead to organization’s disbandment.
The validity of this suggestion appears particularly self-evident in the light of today’s worldwide financial crisis. After all, given the fact that just about all world’s countries are now experiencing an acute budget-deficit, providing the hordes of UN’s functionaries with an opportunity to live in the ‘fast lane’, at the expense of undermining the extent of these countries’ economic sustainability even further, simply does not make any sense, whatsoever.
I believe that the line of argumentation, deployed throughout this paper’s entirety, fully substantiates the validity of an initial thesis as to the fact that, as of today, UN can be best defined as an utterly useless organization.
The only purpose for UN’s founding in 1945 was to ensure that the geopolitical developments in a bipolar world would be managed in an orderly manner, which in turn would prevent the outbreak of a WW3 between USSR and U.S. However, even during the time of a Cold War, it was not on the account of UN’s existence that both superpowers never declared a war on each other, but of the account of both countries’ possession of nuclear weapons.
Therefore, it is quite incomprehensible why world’s countries would still be interested in maintaining this bureaucratic organization, especially given the fact that, as it was illustrated earlier, there are no objective reasons to think that UN’s continuous functioning results even in the slight improvement of present geopolitical situation, and to say the least – in the ‘elimination of world’s hunger’.
Therefore, it will only be logical to conclude this paper by reinstating once again that it is only the matter of time before UN would be disbanded, as an organization that has long ago proven its powerlessness to make the world a better place to live. The very laws of history presuppose no other alternative to such a scenario.
Borneman, John & Fowler, Nick. “Europeanization.” Annual Review of Anthropology 26 (1997): 487-514. Print.
Gareis, Sven, & Varwick, Johannes. The United Nations: An Introduction. Palgrave: MacMillan, 2005. Print.
Glennon, Michael. “Idealism at the U.N.” Policy Review 129.3 (2005): 3-14. Print.
Helms, James. “Saving the U.N.: a Challenge to the Next Secretary-General.” Foreign Affairs 75.5 (1996): 2-7. Print.
Higgins, Rosalyn. “Peaceful Settlement of Disputes.” Proceedings of the Annual Meeting (American Society of International Law) 89 (1995): 293 – 296. Print.
Kettel, Bonnie. “Challenging the Margin: Gender Equality and the UN Reform Process.” Third World Quarterly 28.5 (2007): 871-886. Print.
Nanjundan, Samir. “UN at 50.” Economic and Political Weekly 30.43 (1995): 2731-2734. Print.
Philpott, Danial. “Sovereignty: An Introduction and Brief History.” Journal of International Affairs 48.5 (1995): 353-68. Print.
Rogel, Carole. “Kosovo: Where It All Began.” International Journal of Politics, Culture, and Society 17.1 (2003): 167-182. Print.
Walsum, Van. “A Hitch could Still Stall the Momentum in Favor of a P-11, UN Security Council.” Financial Times 12.5 (2005): 10-15. Print.