Fifty Years of Frustrated Efforts
“WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, . . .”—Preamble to the charter of the United Nations.
OCTOBER 24, 1995, marks the 50th anniversary of the United Nations. All 185 current member States are committed to the organization’s original principles and goals as expressed in that charter: to maintain international peace and security; to suppress acts of aggression that threaten world peace; to encourage friendly relations among nations; to protect the fundamental freedoms of all peoples without discrimination based on race, sex, language, or religion; and to achieve international cooperation in solving economic, social, and cultural problems.
For 50 years the United Nations organization has made notable efforts to bring about world peace and security. Arguably, it may have prevented a third world war, and the wholesale destruction of human life through the use of nuclear bombs has not been repeated. The United Nations has provided millions of children with food and medicine. It has contributed to improved health standards in many countries, providing, among other things, safer drinking water and immunization against dangerous diseases. Millions of refugees have received humanitarian assistance.
In recognition of its accomplishments, the United Nations organization has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize five times. Yet, the lamentable fact of life is that we still do not live in a world without war.
Peace and Security—Unattained Goals
After 50 years of efforts, peace and security are still unattained goals. In a recent speech to the United Nations General Assembly, the president of the United States expressed his frustration by saying that “this century so full of hope and opportunity and achievement has also been an age of deep destruction and despair.”
As 1994 closed, The New York Times observed: “Nearly 150 wars or skirmishes are in progress in which thousands of people are dying—more civilians than soldiers by most reckonings—and hundreds of thousands are becoming refugees.” The United Nations Department of Public Information reported that since 1945 more than 20 million people have lost their lives as a result of armed conflicts. U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Madeleine Albright, noted that “regional conflicts are now in many ways more brutal.” Violation of human rights and discrimination hit the news on a daily basis. Many nations seem to tolerate rather than befriend one another.
Sir David Hannay, Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations, admitted that “the United Nations has been, up to the 1980s, fairly close to being an honorable failure.” The secretary-general of the United Nations, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, lamented that there is a growing indifference and fatigue among member States when it comes to peacekeeping operations. He concluded that to many of the members, “the United Nations is not a priority number one.”
The Media’s Influence
As powerful as the United Nations may appear to be, its efforts are often thwarted by politics and the media. The United Nations is powerless if it lacks the support of its members. But without the public’s approval, many UN members will not support the United Nations. For instance, according to The Wall Street Journal, the “spectacular failures in Somalia and Bosnia have persuaded many Americans that the organization isn’t just wasteful, but actually dangerous.” This attitude of the public has, in turn, persuaded some American politicians to propose reducing U.S. financial support of the United Nations.
News organizations are not shy when it comes to criticizing the United Nations severely. Terms like “total incompetence,” “cumbersome,” “inefficient,” and “paralyzed” have been unreservedly used when describing various aspects of UN operations. The Washington Post National Weekly Edition recently stated that “the United Nations remains a slow-motion bureaucracy struggling to adapt to a real-time world.”
Another newspaper quoted Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali as expressing his frustration with the Rwanda massacres. He said: “It is a failure not only for the United Nations; it is a failure for the international community. And all of us are responsible for this failure.” A popular television news-special in 1993 stated that the United Nations “has failed to stop the greatest threat to peace—the spread of nuclear weapons.” The TV program spoke of a United Nations that “for decades has been mostly talk.”
This widespread feeling of disappointment weighs heavily on the minds of United Nations officials and adds to their frustration. Yet, despite the frustrations, at the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, many seem to have renewed optimism and are hoping for a fresh start. Although acknowledging the shortcomings of the United Nations, Ambassador Albright echoed the sentiments of many when she said: “We have to stop talking about where we’ve been, and we need to talk about where we’re going.”
Yes, where is the world going? Will there ever be a world without war? If so, what role will the United Nations play in it? Moreover, if you are God-fearing, you should ask, ‘What role will God play in it?’
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Peace and security cannot exist as long as there are war, poverty, crime, and corruption. The United Nations recently released the following statistics.
Wars: “Of the 82 armed conflicts between 1989 and 1992, 79 were domestic, many along ethnic lines; 90 per cent of casualties were civilian.”—United Nations Department of Public Information (UNDPI)
Weapons: “The ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross] estimates more than 95 manufacturers in 48 countries are producing between 5 and 10 million anti-personnel mines each year.”—United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)
“In Africa, there are about 30 million mines scattered over 18 countries.”—UNHCR
Poverty: “Worldwide, one out of every five people—more than one billion in all—live below the poverty line, and an estimated 13 million to 18 million die annually of poverty-related causes.”—UNDPI
Crime: “Reported crime has grown at a world-wide average of 5 per cent each year since the 1980s; in the USA alone, there are 35 million crimes committed annually.”—UNDPI
Corruption: “Public corruption is becoming commonplace. In some countries financial frauds are estimated to cost the equivalent of 10 per cent of the country’s annual gross domestic product.”—UNDPI