Have the aspirations of the UN’s founders as laid out in the Charter been met?
The United Nations was established at the San Francisco Conference on October 24 1945. The world had just witnessed the failure of the League of Nations to fulfill its purpose, the prevention of a Second World War. Consequently the countries that had opposed Germany and Japan looked to succeed where they had previously failed in promoting a “just and peaceful global community” (Taylor; Curtis, 2008 p.314). The objectives, principles and structure of the organization they hoped would achieve this were recorded in the United Nations Charter. Upon entering the UN, members were required to consent to the set of conditions laid out in this treaty. At the outset there were 51 members. By 2006 this number had grown to include 192 member states, almost encompassing the entire world. Yet whilst the organization has grown in size, the question remains as to whether those aspirations originally laid out in the Charter have actually been met. I will argue that the United Nations has had some success in its capacity as a humanitarian organization, as well as being a useful tool helping to solve international economic, social and cultural problems. However I believe that the UN remains somewhat impotent with regards to issues of international peace and security.
The UN Charter is composed of a preamble, followed by numerous articles grouped by topic into a total of 19 chapters. The preamble offers an overview of the hopeful aspirations upon which the UN was founded. The vision that is described consists of four crucial goals. These are then reiterated in the first chapter in a more formal context. The fist target of the UN is “To maintain international peace and security” (UN Charter). I will argue that the UN is, and indeed always will be incapable achieving this. The second goal laid out in the Charter is “To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples” (UN Charter). This effectively promotes the concept of state sovereignty, the idea that every state has the right to govern itself without alien intervention. I will argue that this too is unattainable in accordance with UN principles. My case for the failure of the first aim is based upon the principle behind the second aim, and visa versa. The case that I put forewords is that the ideal of simultaneously maintaining peace while promoting sovereignty is unattainable. The other aspirations of the UN include “solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character” as well as “promoting and encouraging respect for human rights” (UN Charter). I will argue that the UN has indeed had some success in achieving these two objectives.
In order to assess whether the United Nations aim to promote international peace and security has been successful, it is first important to have some understanding of the UN Security Council and the way it functions. Originally it consisted of 11 states. In 1965 this number rose to 15. Of these states, five maintain a permanent membership whilst the ten others are elected on a biennial basis. For decisions made by the Security Council to be passed, a majority of 9 of the 15 member states must vote in favor of them. Furthermore this majority must include every one of the permanent member states, effectively granting them veto power over all decisions regarding security. The permanent members consist of “the USA, Britain, France, Russia (previously the Soviet Union), and China” (Taylor; Curtis, 2008 , p.315), those states considered to be the great powers at the time the UN was formed.
In accordance with the Charter, in the incidence of a perceived threat to international peace the Security Council first attempts to find a nonviolent means to settle the issue. This is described in Chapter VI and may involve settlement or mediation. Other non-violent...
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