"Current Affairs Editorial – Of Paramount Interest?"

                                        Of Paramount Interest?

G.S. Paper II: Important International institutions, agencies and fora, their structure, mandate; Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

  • The Charter of the United Nations was signed on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco and came into force on 24 October 1945.
  • After a grueling war which lasted from 1939 to 1945, the vision for a new world had the war-drums throb no longer, and a world where the battle flags furled.
  • The charter was a realization of Alfred Tennyson’s poem where he called for a Parliament of man, Federation of the world.
  • But this year’s session of the UN General Assembly has conrmed the growing ineectiveness of the world body.

War of words at the United Nations General Assembly:

  • As the bitterly divided Indian and Pakistani delegations stood up over the past week to face each other more than 70 years later in the United Nations General Assembly, all those words rang hollow.
  • Reality was in short supply in the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.
  • The photograph brandished by Pakistan’s envoy as being from Jammu and Kashmir turned out to be from Gaza.
  • Religion became cause to divide rather than build a common understanding.

The Dignity of the United Nations:

  • The dignity of the United Nations, let alone the common man, disappeared.
    India and Pakistan used its multiple rights of reply for name-calling and rhetoric hurled at each other.
  • Another war of words was on between the U.S. and North Korea who sparred over Pyongyang’s latest provocations.
  • It wasn’t the language employed that made the UN’s 72nd General Assembly one of its most disappointing sessions.

Ineffectiveness of the United Nations to tackle the issues:

  • It was the UN’s ineffectiveness on each of the issues confronting the world today that was the most disappointing.
  • These issues were spelt out by the Secretary General António Guterres in his speech.
    We are a world in pieces; we need to be a world at peace.

World’s Seven Biggest Threats:

  • Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres listed out the world’s seven biggest threats.
  • They were nuclear peril, terrorism, unresolved conflicts and violations of international humanitarian law, climate change, growing inequality, cyber warfare and misuse of artificial intelligence, and human mobility, or refugees.
  • Disappointingly each of these issues saw little movement at the UNGA.

United Nations and the ineffectiveness of Sanctions:

  • The UN’s actions in response to North Korea’s missiles and nuclear tests just amounted to another round of sanctions against the Kim Jong-un regime.
  • Past history points to the slim chances of success of this tack.
  • Since 1966, the UN Security Council has established 26 sanctions regimes, of which about half are still active.
  • The Taliban regime in Afghanistan, against which the U.S. and Russia united to pass a slew of economic, political and travel sanctions in the 1990s, didn’t change course on its support to al-Qaeda or its brutal treatment of women and minorities.

The ill effects of Sanctions:

  • In some cases, the sanctions only squeezed the country’s poor.
  • This was evident in Zimbabwe (Southern Rhodesia) and Democratic People’s Republic of Korea itself, while not changing its belligerent positions.
  • In most cases, the misery was heightened by international military interventions, from Yugoslavia to Libya and Yemen.

The true role of Sanctions:

  • The truth is that sanctions do not work on rogue states.
  • Sanctions only help isolate their populations from the world, which in turn tightens the regime’s stranglehold on its people, and strengthens its resolve to disregard the UN.

Not Reprimanding NATO:

  • The UN has done itself no favours by failing to censure NATO on violating its mandate.
    Limiting NATO’s mandate only to the responsibility to protect (R2P) and not for regime change in Libya in 2011 was a glaring failure of the United Nations.

The Failure In Myanmar:

  • Another instance is the Asian country Myanmar, where the military junta faced sanctions for years.
  • Despite inviting former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to prepare a report on Rakhine state, post-democracy Myanmar has been able to carry out one of the region’s most frightening massacres just days after the report was submitted.
  • The UN Human Rights chief called military action a textbook case of ethnic cleansing.
    Half a million Rohingyas fled for their lives from Rakhine villages that were then burnt down, with landmines laid along the border to Bangladesh to prevent their return.
  • The United Nations in the light of the Rohingya refugee crisis looked short on ideas and late on action.
  • Restoring more than a million state less refugees to their homes seems a daunting task for the world body.
  • The United Nations which was set up expressly to ensure that such a displacement would “never again” be allowed to occur has clearly been helpless in the face of the situation in the Rakhine state.

Efficacy of the United Nations in saving Deals struck:

  • The other countries who decide to enter talks with the United Nations cannot be blamed if they doubted the efficacy of the UN in guaranteeing any deal struck.
  • The imminent threat from the U.S. of walking out of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (P5+1 agreement) is a case in point.
  • Other major decisions such as to walk out of the climate change agreement as well as threaten to cancel its funding contributions to the UN, have also seen little comment from the world body.
  • The impunity with which the United States violates the general consensus further reduces the respect with which the United Nations is viewed with.

Impotency in terms of Terrorism:

  • A similar impotency has been imparted to the UN on the issue of terrorism.
  • The UN’s powerlessness to enforce even the basic strictures against terrorists and sanctions is visible in Pakistan Hafiz Saeed and associates now plan to stand for public office in Pakistan.
  • Others like Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who received bail despite UN financial sanctions, have simply disappeared.

The Indian Struggle:

  • India struggles to convince China to allow the Security Council to sanction Masood Azhar, whose release in exchange for hostages in 1999 should have been proof enough.
  • But the UN must do more to act on attacks carried out by states, especially those that are permanent members of the Security Council.

On the Menace of Cyber Warfare:

  • Both Russia and the U.S. have been known to use cyber Warfare.
  • The use of new-age warfare — drones, robotic soldiers and remote killings — must see more regulation from the inter- national community.

The Way Ahead for the United Nations:

  • The important issue is the road the United Nations employs, and the respect the institution is accorded, not just as a mere structure but a shared ideal.
  • The United Nations will not work effectively if it is used merely as forum for destructive propaganda.
  • Neither will it work if it is used only as a convenience when national interests are directly involved, and regarded with indifference, or bypassed or opposed, when the general world interest is paramount.

A serious need for Reforms at the High Table:

  • This calls for a serious rethinking in terms of reforming the United Nations which is still dominated by the forgotten past of the 20th century and oblivious to the complex realities of the 21st century.

Source: “THE HINDU Editorial – September 27, 2017”