Peace and Security—The Hope
“The General Assembly of the United Nations unanimously declared 1986 as the International Year of Peace. The Year will be solemnly proclaimed on 24 October 1985, the fortieth anniversary of the United Nations.”
HOW do you view this official statement from the United Nations organization? Does it make you feel more confident about the future? Many would say that anything that holds out even the remotest chance of bringing peace is worth trying. So why not an “International Year of Peace”?
Certainly, such a “Year of Peace” would be in harmony with the goals of the founders of the United Nations organization. Back in 1944 the president of the United States declared: “We have been determined . . . to so organize the peace-loving nations that they may through unity of desire, unity of will, and unity of strength be in position to assure that no other would-be aggressor or conqueror shall even get started. That is why from the very beginning of the war, and paralleling our military plans, we have begun to lay the foundations for the general organization for the maintenance of peace and security.”
Those ideals were shared by many. “For the United Nations to come into existence, it was necessary for a large body of persons to believe in the human capacity for good, and to feel that their hopes might be justified,” says the book Defeat of an Ideal by Shirley Hazzard, who worked for a decade in the United Nations Secretariat.
The charter of the newborn organization expressed the hopes of its founders: “The Purposes of the United Nations are: 1. To maintain international peace and security . . . 2. To develop friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples . . . 3. To achieve international cooperation in solving international problems.” Could anything be wrong with such goals?
Admittedly, the United Nations had an impressive start. Weighty world issues were discussed. In 1948 an outstanding Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted. Valuable humanitarian work was initiated to alleviate poverty, hunger, sickness, and the plight of refugees. International standards were established, such as safety standards for ships and aircraft, health certificates for travelers to some regions, uniform postal rates, and the assignment of space on broadcast bands.
The United Nations was closely involved in the efforts to make peace in the India-Pakistan conflict of 1947-49. It even showed military muscle when soldiers under its flag went into Korea in 1950 and into the Congo (now Zaire) in 1960. There are still UN peace-keeping forces in Cyprus and the Middle East. Yes, in the last 40 years the United Nations has made its mark. More than 150 countries have shown that they recognize this by sending delegates to its distinctive headquarters in New York City, on the banks of the East River.
But to what extent has the United Nations fulfilled its basic mandate to “maintain international peace and security”? And what effect will the proclaimed “International Year of Peace” have?