Does the U.N. Have the Solution?
Can the U.N. plug up the leaks?
TYPOGRAPHICAL errors are the bane of the printing business. In a newspaper article some years ago about the United Nations, the “i” and the “t” in “united” accidentally got transposed. So instead of speaking about the United Nations the article ended up referring to the Untied Nations.
Of course, with tongue in cheek, one might explain away the mistake as being no mistake at all. Although the U.N. still exists after its founding over 30 years ago, yet there have been times when the nations seemed rather more “untied”—each nation going its own way and seeking its own interests—than tied together, or united, in mutual interests and endeavors.
The goals of the United Nations organization are commendable. “The purposes of the United Nations are,” so reads its charter, “to maintain international peace and security.”
Article 55 of the charter says: “With a view to the creation of conditions of stability and well-being which are necessary for peaceful and friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples, the United Nations shall promote: a) higher standards of living, full employment, and conditions of economic and social progress and development; b) solutions of international economic, social, health, and related problems; and international cultural and educational cooperation; and c) universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion.”
Fine goals, but to what extent have they been reached? To what extent can they be reached? An article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in 1965 called attention to certain facts that still apply today 14 years later: “A balance of twenty years of UN history and a long list of conciliation and mediation measures shows that the United Nations have been successful in cases where the ‘super powers’ have not been directly involved.”
The article called attention to the fine work done by organs of the United Nations in other fields, such as by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and by a host of others.
There are U.N. agencies, for example, dealing with the peaceful uses of outer space, of atomic energy and of the seabed. Questions of the environment, industrial development and economic development also come up for consideration. There is a United Nations Fund for Drug Abuse Control. Much has been done in the way of disaster relief. One of the most remarkable achievements was caring for the needs of millions of Bangladeshi refugees after the war with Pakistan.
A Committee on Crime Prevention and Control has also done fine work. The first major intergovernmental conference ever devoted solely to women was sponsored by this organization in Mexico City in 1975.
A Basic Problem
However, these fine results are generally not the basis for any judgment made of the organization itself. The U.N., the article continued, “must get used to the idea that it will be measured by a political tape measure.”
Applying a political tape measure is difficult, however. The U.N. is no common political government. It is something different. It is not a world government, nor was it designed to be such, although Kurt Waldheim, its present secretary-general admits: “In its early days there was a widespread anxiety that the United Nations would infringe on national independence and sovereignty.”
But how could it? The U.N. has no power to make laws, much less to enforce them. Its decisions are not binding on the nations that are members. The member states are all sovereign and are considered equal. It is this very lack of real authority, respected and accepted by all member nations, that seems to be one of the major built-in defects of the U.N.
For example, with the exception of cases involving international peace and security, there is no provision made for the United Nations to interfere in the internal affairs of the individual nations. But this, of course, allows for interpretation—what are international affairs and what are purely internal matters?
United States President Jimmy Carter has spoken out strongly in favor of human rights and protested their disavowal, in some countries, in violation of the United Nations’ charter. Other countries accuse the United States of unduly interfering in their internal affairs by doing so. In actuality it boils down to the fact that each nation only accepts what it wants to accept and rejects what it considers an infringement on its rights as a sovereign nation. It is the same problem as in the “United States of Europe,” only on a grander scale!
This is backed up by what a U.N. pamphlet says regarding the U.N.’s International Court of Justice: “The Statute of the Court is a part of the Charter of the United Nations, and every Member State has automatic access to the Court. States parties to the Statute may at any time declare that they recognize the compulsory jurisdiction of the Court in legal disputes. The majority of Member States have not yet accepted compulsory jurisdiction.” [Italics ours.] So it is a court without any real authority, a ‘paper tiger!’
Kurt Waldheim, reviewing 30 years of U.N. activity, said that a workable international system must inevitably entail limitations on individual sovereignty. He said that although in some fields such limitations were being achieved, yet there have also been “strong reassertions of nationalism” throughout the entire world during the past 30 years.
“Strong reassertions of nationalism” make achieving world unity more difficult. Waldheim expressed what the U.N. was up against by saying: “The strengthening of our Organization’s role in maintaining peace by securing general respect for the decisions of its principal organs is perhaps the most difficult task of all.”
Achieving such “general respect” is admittedly not easy. N. J. Padelford and L. M. Goodrich, in their book The United Nations in the Balance—Accomplishments and Prospects, make this significant observation about the U.N.: “It has been called upon to keep the peace where there has been no peace in the hearts of men . . . The Organization cannot prevent a nuclear war from engulfing mankind if nations become bent upon this. It cannot compel great powers to do its bidding or to follow its recommendations. . . . It offers a forum in which the representatives of states can reason together, if they will. It can make available procedures of preventive diplomacy, of conciliation, and of peace-keeping to help settle disputes and to maintain international peace and security. But states must be prepared to accept and use these or the efforts will be stillborn.” [Italics ours.]
That is the crux of the matter. To gain unity there must be willingness on the part of all to cooperate for mutual good. This willingness must be a desire born of the heart, not simply of the mind. In short, love is the key to world unity.
But nationalism, the biggest problem standing in the way of world unity, is no expression of love. Instead, it stresses the personal, selfish interests of one nation, rather than seeking the overall welfare of all nations.
True love requires widening out in an individual’s interests and affections to include, not just those of his own nation, but peoples of the entire world. It requires international thinking.
But love cannot be legislated. How, then, can it be achieved? Is there any evidence to show that the nations, either those toying with the idea of a “United States of Europe” or the 150 member nations of the U.N., have recognized this key and are using it to open the door to world unity, bringing it finally within reach?