75 years of United Nations — successes & failures

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Rashid A Mughal
THE present UNO came into being after the dismal and disappointing performance of League of Nations which was formed at the end of World War-I to prevent such armed conflicts between nations. But the World War-II between a short span of just thirty years (1917-1939) forced the world leaders to find ways and means to establish an organization with a mandate to prevent such conflicts in future and has necessary moral, executive, administrative and enforcing authority to restore peace, if and when a conflict breaks out between two sovereign states. World War-II was devastating for entire world as 70-85 million people (3%) of the world population in 1940 perished in war. Deaths directly caused by war (including military and civilian fatalities) are estimated at 50-56 million with an estimated 19-28 million deaths from war-related diseases and famine.
Thus UNO was established in 1945 with its H/Q in New York, USA, for upholding basic human rights of liberty, equality, particularly women rights, work place and child abuse, providing basic health facilities, gender equality, movement of people from one country to another due to persecution, victimization, wars etc. Indeed UN has done remarkable and note-worthy work in these areas and its achievements speak for itself. Its peace keeping role during the last 75 years has not only been significant but indeed laudable. However, unfortunately, the inter-power rivalry continued between big powers notably America and Russia. During the Cold War period the United Nations H/Q was de-facto a meeting place to discuss how to strike balance between the opposing powers. The Korean War, Suez Canal Crisis and the UN operation in Congo were the most important examples, which showed that the UN became an arena of ideological struggle between the two blocs- East and West.
Most international conflicts between 1945 and 1989 were of the traditional interstate kind resulting from incompatible interests over economic, military or territorial issues. For example, The UN played a significant role in mediating an end to the Iran-Iraq war and assisting with the implementation of Resolution 598 in 1987, which provided for a cease-fire and the deployment of unarmed UN military observer force. Also, the overwhelming majority of conflicts in the period of the Cold War took place between Third World countries where the great powers had been involved on opposite sides and often encouraged to continue the conflict. These conflicts were exacerbated by the ideological divide that for decades gave rise to distrust and hostility and prevented any effective international steps from being taken. After the end of the Cold War the conditions under which UN peacekeeping operations were deployed qualitatively, changed. Firstly, the number of conflicts increased significantly. Civil wars took place not only in the countries of Central and Eastern Europe but also in the Central Asian states, the Middle East, Africa and Southeast Asia. Secondly, these bear a significant amount of cruelty against the civilian population. New historical circumstances have put the UN up against new challenges, requiring constant readiness to settle ethnic and religious conflicts in multi-ethnic and multi-confessional states.
The Organization managed to support decolonization leading to the independence of a large number of new states and to mitigate, and even at times resolve, regional, bilateral and civil conflicts in a context that was nonetheless marked by severe ideological confrontation. At the same time, United Nations agencies made an important intellectual, political and judicial contribution to the universal recognition of human rights and strengthening cooperation for development and regional economic integration. Those advances constituted fundamental progress towards empowering the rule of law, which itself provides a favourable framework and is the best guarantor of human rights and peaceful international cooperation. It is, therefore, imperative that the United Nations of the twenty-first century respond effectively to present realities and effectively handle future challenges.
During the session of 2011—2012 the General Assembly of UN adopted the landmark Resolution 65/283 and Resolution 66/291 on mediation that recognizes its growing usefulness as a means of preventing disputes from escalating into conflicts and as a cost-effective tool in the peaceful settlement of disputes and the prevention of conflicts. In addition, the fundamental components of the solution to the conflict exist in the other documents and resolutions of the United Nations. The components of the solution are also endorsed in resolutions of regional organizations: the League of Arab States, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the Non-Aligned Movement and the African Union. They can also be found in the statements of the European Union and the international Quartet.
United Nations continues to mediate in the settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian and Nagorno-Karabakh conflicts, Cyprian issue and others irritants and flash points. The major challenge facing UN today is the settlement of Palestine and Kashmir issue. Effectiveness of UN in solution of these two issues is something which the world wants to see. Presently WHO, one of the 17 UN specialized agencies is doing a remarkable work in Covid19 situation which has shaken and jolted the whole world. Covid19 continues to threaten jobs, businesses, health and wellbeing of millions amid exceptional uncertainty. Building confidence is crucial to ensure that economies recover and adapt according to the WHO guidelines. WHO is doing a commendable work in Pakistan since long. It is helping Pakistan in sharing and providing know-how in the areas of communicable and non-communicable diseases, strengthening of health care systems, promoting health care through life-course and emergency preparedness and response thus saving thousands of precious lives. It is an on-going effort and has helped Pakistan immensely. WHO has also been providing capacity- building support to Pakistan in health spectrum which has resulted in positive change for extending support to needy and poor segments of society. However Pakistan, is least prepared to fight the Pandemic as for every 10,000 people, Pakistan has only 10 physicians, five nurses and only 6 hospitals. Lockdowns have seriously affected the economy and business along with growing un-employment. With only 2.8% budget allocation for health sector, Pakistan’s health care system needs much to be desired.
— The writer is former DG (Emigration) and consultant ILO, IOM.

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