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The United Nations and international security: 1945 - 2013

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Essential powers of the UN for dispute resolution[edit | edit source]

Panorama of the UNGA

We must mention Article 99, which was added in San Francisco, allowing the UN Secretary General to bring to the Security Council any situation he considers delicate for the maintenance of international peace. A serving Secretary-General gains significant influence over what happens and can play an active role that can also offer good offices, as in the case of Vietnam, where the UN does not play a formal role. The Secretary-General may send special intermediaries.

Chapter VI provides for the peaceful settlement of disputes. Chapter VII deals with measures in the event of a breach of the peace or aggression. Peacekeeping is not provided for in the charter itself. We have seen that peacekeepers have become a central instrument of the United Nations in safeguarding armistice lines as an interesting example of international law. Something not planned will develop. Chapter VIII provides for cooperation with regional organizations.

The General Assembly has a subsidiary function, which is that if the Security Council cannot resolve a matter, it is possible for the General Assembly to deal with it. The resolution of 3 November 1950 "Unified for Peace" granted this competence to the General Assembly, which could convene an extraordinary meeting. This is another example of the development of international law that is not provided for in the original Charter. It is a tribute to Wilson's belief that it was better to create an organization in a dynamic way than a peace.

Limitations on the power of the UN[edit | edit source]

The issue of State sovereignty is raised by the UN Charter, which provides for intervention only in the case of inter-State conflicts. It was not binding on States to sign the Charter as the Charter is intended for cases where there would be a situation of conflict or war between States.

A second limitation to the effectiveness of its work is the question of the speed of its decisions. UN multilateral commissions do not always function effectively. There is also the fact that the States members of the Security Council do not always have an interest in acting quickly and have an interest in delaying a decision as a problem for the effectiveness of the United Nations. There is also the veto of great powers. In all conflicts that directly affect the interests of the major powers of the Security Council, the organization can be blocked through the veto of the major powers. There is also the issue of nuclear proliferation with a kind of "bomb veto". With the proliferation of atomic bombs or nitrogen bombs, States can exercise a factual veto through the threat of the atomic bomb reducing the possibilities of the UN, particularly with the example of North Korea.

Intellectual evolution of the security policy of the Secretaries-General[edit | edit source]

Each of the Secretaries-General has tried to give a face to his mandate through innovations.

Trygve Lie: 1946 – 1952[edit | edit source]

Trygve Lie.

Lie was the first Secretary General who had no model to guide himself. He is the founder of the Force for Peace program. Lie has taken an open position in international conflicts that have acted without the prior agreement of permanent members of the read Security Council that were criticized during the Korean War and in particular by the Soviet camp. It has adopted a position in favour of the Republic of China's entry into the Security Council in place of Taiwan. Through his position in favour of South Korea, Lie exposed himself enormously in the Cold War leading to the Soviet Union's refusal to support his re-election. He gave a strong profile creating a strong image of the position of Secretary General of the United Nations giving a model for his successors.

Dag Hammarskjöld: 1953 – 1961[edit | edit source]

Dag Hammarskjöld.

Lie's successor is the Swedish Dag Hammarskjöld, supported by France and Great Britain in the context of the Cold War. Hammarskjöld was a brilliant and discreet diplomat. By its reserved and diplomatic nature, it has succeeded in broadening the Secretary General's skills and enhancing the respect accorded to this function. Hammarskjöld took advantage of Stalin's death in 1953 and with the arrival of Khrushchev, who could offer a certain antagonistic openness in a Cold War context. There, he introduced the Blue Helmets into the Suez crisis of 1956, still being one of the most important instruments of the UN today. It has used conciliation diplomacy to achieve results and create dynamics within the UN. He was re-elected thanks to this conciliatory position without any opposition in 1958. In the Congolese crisis, he began to fall under criticism because he was accused of being at the service of the interests of Belgium and the United States. It was in this context that Khrushchev had drawn up a plan in a speech to replace the Secretary General with a troika. The figure of the Secretary General became so strong that states like the USSR sought to reduce its influence. Hammarskjöld died in a crash in Congo that still gives rise to speculation today.

U Thant: 1961 – 1971[edit | edit source]

U Thant.

U Thant is the first Secretary General who is not European. U Thant was Burma's ambassador to the United Nations and had a good reputation with African and Asian states. U Thant was a calm and experienced diplomat who could withstand great pressure, which he showed during the Cuban missile crisis. Thant will take over Hammarskjöld's doctrine. It has also succeeded in raising the issue of social tensions between the richer states and the third world states, and there is also a much broader expansion of the themes related to the work of the United Nations. It is thanks to U Thant that we see that the potential of social tensions between North and South are of great importance and that it is necessary to address them at the international level.

Kurt Waldheim: 1971 – 1981[edit | edit source]

Kurt Waldheim was Austria's ambassador to the United Nations for many years. His record as Secretary General and President of the Austrian State is mixed. The 1970s were difficult years for the UN in the midst of the Cold War. Waldheim has distinguished herself for her commitment to human rights, advocating for an active UN in cases of human rights violations and for political prisoners engaging in important conferences to help boat people, but also to help refugees from Cambodia.

Kurt Waldheim (second from left) with Italian General Ercole Roncaglia, Colonel Hans Herbert Macholz, and SS-Gruppenführer Artur Phleps at the Podgorica airfield on May 22, 1943.

Pérez de Cuéllar: 1981 – 1991[edit | edit source]

Perez de Cuellar.

Pérez de Cuéllar took office in 1981. He promoted quiet diplomacy and a better distribution of wealth. The United States under Reagan criticized the UN and its Secretary General. After the thaw with the Soviet Union, a new and more constructive phase began for the UN, but also for Pérez de Cuéllar. His mandate will be crowned by successful mediations in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Central America. Its withdrawal took place shortly after the end of the Cold War. It can be said that Pérez de Cuéllar was the last UN Secretary General in the Cold War. He also sought to modernize the Secretary General of the United Nations. It promotes the study "Perspectives for the 1990s" focusing on the secretariat's capacity to gather information to prevent the outbreak of conflict. There is the idea of the secretariat as a body for the "global supervision" of international centres of tension, known as the "Global Watch". The "Office for Research and Information Collection" is established. Nevertheless, the Cold War context means that many issues are resolved by the United States and the USSR.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali: 1992 – 1996[edit | edit source]

Boutros Boutros-Ghali.

Boutros Boutros-Ghali before being promoted was Deputy Minister of Egypt, having played an important role in the Camp David agreements and in the African Union. He wanted to lead the UN into a new era seeking to give a new main line of conduct to the UN. Its Agenda for Peace included important and achievable points for strengthening peacekeeping, including an emphasis on early warning, preventive parking with agreements between the parties (demilitarized zones, blue helmet parking not after, but before a conflict), secretariat field missions or Security Council fact-finding missions. This was not an easy period for the United Nations. Many States, at the end of the Cold War, sought to find their own path restricting the UN's room for manoeuvre in this context. The Development Agenda aimed to fight poverty, famine as a perceived cause of conflict. Thus, it will strengthen humanitarian aid in situations of distress. The Agenda for Democratisation highlights the absence of democratic structures as a source of conflict. Boutros-Ghali will provide assistance to restore or consolidate democratic structures, for the organization and supervision of elections, the drafting of constitutions, but also for governance capacity building, technical assistance to administrations and police training.

Kofi Annan: 1997 – 2006[edit | edit source]

Kofi Annan.

Kofi Annan is a charismatic character who has marked the development of the United Nations in a very significant way, marking a fairly strong change following Boutros Boutros-Ghali's mandate from the prevention of inter-state wars to the prevention of armed conflicts, including civil wars, in particular through operational measures of mediation or rapid intervention during crises. Annan pushed the concept that in addition to being free of fear, we must also be free of violence, building the concept of "global human security" which is a security that is also defined with the freedom of need. There is an opening of the concept of security that is part of a humanitarian opening focusing on human dignity and well-being. The concept of military security is increasingly open where human security is linked to the concept of health, legal security, education, access to resources in a non-violent society. The fight against poverty and the reduction of poverty have become important tasks of the security policy, which is a substantial expansion of the concept of security. There is a set of structural and systematic measures. Structural measures are the strengthening of the capacities of societies to manage conflicts (capacity-building), the strengthening of the culture of peace with peace as a result of cultural values and practices or the organization of "democratic dialogues" within societies affected by internal conflicts. Systemic measures include, for example, the control of the diamond trade, the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons, measures to counter the proliferation of ABC weapons, fight poverty, prevent environmental degradation and its conflicting consequences on societies.

Ban Ki Moon: 2007 – 2016[edit | edit source]

Ban Ki Moon was elected in 2007 and is in his second term, which will end in 2016. He is a diplomat from South Korea. We can see an intellectual evolution, but it is difficult to say what the personality itself has brought in relation to context and contingencies.

Ban Ki Moon.

Mediation[edit | edit source]

The organisation can serve through its good offices, act as a mediator, observe and perform fact-finding. Both the Secretary-General and the Security Council play an important role in this area.

Three steps can be distinguished:

  • 1945 - 1969, during the "very cold" war and decolonization: this period was marked by the Berlin crisis in 1948, the Suez crisis in 1956 or the Cuban crisis in 1962. The Malaysian federation was created following the conflict in North Borneo between Indonesia, the Philippines and Malay-British in 1963. The fact-finding mission aims to establish the wishes of the population concerned. In Bahrain, a conflict between 1969 and 1970 involving Iran and the United Kingdom led to mediation by Ralph Bunche.
  • 1969 - 1986, crises during the period of détente: this period was marked by the Arab-Israeli conflict. With the hostage crisis in Tehran that lasted from 1979 to 1981, it should be noted that it is now Switzerland that manages American interests in Iran[6]. The peace plan proposed by Javier Pérez de Cuéllar before the Falkland Islands/Malvinas war was a failure due to time constraints.
  • 1987 - 2011, crises of the post-Cold War period: a conflict between Turkey and Bulgaria in 1989 took place concerning the eviction of women, children and elderly people from the Turkish minority. In South Africa, an observatory and mediation between the Mandela ANC and Mangosuthu Buthelezi's Inkatha Freedom Party is being set up to limit and contain violence. Between 1995 there was the territorial conflict between Eritrea and Yemen over the islands Ḩānīsh subject to the dispute resolution model and an arbitration commission after mediation by the SG. There was also French mediation and good offices from other members of the Security Council, including Germany and the United States. A territorial conflict took place between Cameroon and Nigeria in 2002.

Maintien de la paix[edit | edit source]

French VAB UNPROFOR armoured personnel carriers during the Siege of Sarajevo

Peacekeeping is surely another very central element of the UN. However, it can only be established with the agreement of the parties concerned. A Security Council resolution is the basis for a peace-keeping operation. As a general rule, peace-keeping operations follow a process with an armistice, the application of which is ensured by the peacekeepers to be drawn from countries that are neutral with regard to this concept. The concept of peacekeeping was developed by Lester Pearson, who represented the United Nations during the Suez Canal crisis that won him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957. Another person who developed peace-keeping is Hammarskjöld and Ralph Bunche who represented the UN in the Arab-Israeli conflict. Peacekeeping operations multiplied with the Suez crisis in 1956, the Congo crisis between 1960 and 1963, the Suez crisis from 1973 to 1979 following the Arab-Israeli war of Yom Kippur in 1973), but also the Cyprus crisis that began in 1976 and has lasted until now, the Lebanon conflict from 1982 to 1984. There is a multiplication of UN actions after the end of the Cold War, as with UNPROFOR in former Yugoslavia.

Peace enforcement[edit | edit source]

The concept of peace-enforcemnt must be based on a Security Council resolution based on Chapter VII of the Charter. Powers holding vetoes have made little use of them, particularly because human costs, high risks and power issues are risky. Many cases have been resolved by the Security Council, such as the Korean War from 1950 to 1953, the Civil War in Congo which lasted from 1960 to 1963, but which was peace-keeping without peace, the Iraq War in 1991, the Somalia Civil War in 1992, which was also peace-keeping without peace, and the Bosnia conflict in 1995. Peace was also imposed without UN consent, as was the case for Kosovo in 1999 and Iraq in 2003.

Le Conseil de sécurité des Nations unies est un haut lieu de la diplomatie internationale

Sanctions, "smart sanctions"[edit | edit source]

For there to be a sanction, a resolution of the Security Council or the General Assembly under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter is required. In the 1950s, sanctions were mainly targeted at countries that practiced apartheid, such as Southern Rhodesia in 1966 and South Africa in 1976. After the Cold War, sanctions were applied in different ways, including through the concept of "smart sanctions".

The question of the effectiveness of sanctions refers to the fact that they are traditionally seen as a weak instrument, but it is only recently that they have been seen as a relatively effective instrument. Nevertheless, the criticism is that sanctions affect populations more than governments, which is why targeted sanctions are put in place, known as "smart sanctions" such as, for example, the "Oil-for-food program" with Iraq. This also includes arms control, weapons inspection and disarmament, trade, aviation, travel, frozen accounts.

Preventive measures[edit | edit source]

The analysis and warning system (early warning, Frühwarnsystem) is a new development in UN instruments. This instrument was introduced by Kofi Annan consisting of preventive measures to avoid conflicts seeking to rely on a monitoring system in a preventive way. There are human actions that increase trust. These preventive measures consist in improving living conditions in the countries concerned through humanitarian aid to prevent crises or escalating conflicts.

Structural measures are development aid such as, for example, land reform or peace education, but also assistance for state-building and democratisation such as, for example, the "democratic dialogues" under Kofi Annan, training police forces to respect human rights. A set of systematic measures are aimed, for instance, at regulating arms trafficking, the production and trafficking of narcotics, combating proliferation, poverty and famine and environmental degradation.

One concept underlines the growing importance of preventive measures. This is the conceptualization of war in the 21st century and what is called the "new war". Herfried Münkler has published extensively on this subject. Münkler differentiates three categories 21st century:

  • Peace wars: Peace wars have always taken place in societies of plenty. This type of warfare is conducted from the centre to the periphery and is asymmetric, i.e. the larger a power is and the more technologically superior it attacks a weaker adversary. These wars of pacification are generally relatively short and bloodless. Actors seek to justify their actions by the use of international law.
  • War of destruction: the logic is that these wars operate in the opposite way to wars of pacification. These are peripheral regions or groups that bring war into affluent societies. The classic case of this type of war and international terrorism. These are asymmetric wars seeking to affect states in what Winston Churchill called the "soft underbelly" of states. In this type of conflict, terrorists compensate for their clear technical inferiority with a willingness to make increasing sacrifices.
  • War for the control of resources: he describes civil wars and transnational wars as "war of resources". In this type of war, the main aim is to achieve economic gains. What characterizes these wars is their endless duration and a privatization of violence. Officially, this war for control of resources has no political purpose. While the warring parties may sometimes name political goals, this remains vague and often serves only as a pretext. The primary target is not the regular army, but the civilian population.

In creating this war landscape, Münkler summarizes that traditional state wars that ideally oppose two symmetrical opponents are over. The rules of international law that were designed to precisely manage the traditional way of waging war are becoming increasingly important. Therefore, future wars are no longer entering national states with an asymmetric component. Preventive measures to avoid these wars will become increasingly important. There is a transformation of international law and the functioning of the United Nations and its instruments.

Major failures[edit | edit source]

Despite all the efforts of the United Nations, it must be said that there have been major failures. On the one hand, the UN has failed to stop wars and on the other hand, the UN has failed to prevent genocide.

The Algerian war that lasted from 1955 to 1961 affected a French colony that had been so since 1830. France used Algeria as a colony even when it became a French department with a distinction between citizens and subjects. Following the Second World War, tensions became increasingly acute and France reacted with great violence against the national independence movement. France finally withdrew and many human rights violations have given a very negative image to France. One of the typical problems that was in the UN Security Council was that France was a member of it and could therefore systematically block any attempt at mediation with the use of the veto.

In Vietnam from 1962 to 1974, the same logic was applied to the United States, which could block any activity with its bicycles. In all, and this is a great difference compared to the League of Nations, even if the UN was blocked and could not develop its own activity in the Vietnam War, the figure of the Secretary General was of great importance since it was able to set up mediation.

Another rather serious case is the situation in Uganda, which lasted from 1973 to 1977 with the dictatorship of Amine Dada, where there were countless human rights violations. It was a serious situation - the UN failed to respond. Another situation is that of Cambodia from 1975 to 1978, where the genocide perpetrated by the Khmer Rouge took place. The UN has not been active. In 1994, took place in Rwanda with the genocide of about 500,000 human beings who were murdered in a very short period of time.

With regard to the situation in Central Africa still today, failures are highlighted and even in the Middle East, it is worth noting the important role of the United Nations in the creation of two independent States in Palestine, but which, faced with reality, has forced the United Nations to accept the results that have been achieved.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

After sixty years of the UN's existence after the Second World War, there has been an increasingly broad definition of what peace is and what international security is. It is a concept that, in the inter-war period, was really linked to a peace conceived in a military way with peace as the absence of war, whereas today we are able to conceptualize international security in a much more proactive way in the sense that we must give people human living conditions so that they can live decently.

The major difference between 1945 and today is the increase in the number of nation-states as a result of the decolonization process. This expansion of actors in international relations has also led to a broader conceptualization of United Nations activities in terms of development of development aid policies and in terms of the environment. The development of the League of Nations has shown that a culture of peace is needed to ensure international stability. It should not be forgotten that when the peacemakers in Paris in 1919 achieved peace treaties, war was still a legitimate instrument for the conduct of war. It was only in 1929, with the Briand-Kellog pact, that the war was condemned. This first decade of the League of Nations is still conceived in the spirit that sovereign States can wage wars.

Conceptualization leads to a much more in-depth analysis of what conflicts are, i.e. conflicts not only conceived in a military way, but also to integrate elements related to politics, economics, poverty, the issue of, for example, the arms trade or diamonds. There is an attempt on the part of the United Nations to deal with these issues in a preventive manner and to be able to block wars and conflicts in a preventive manner.

The question now is how UN actors can find a good mix of instruments to address these issues. In about thirty years' time, this period will be analysed, highlighting the current UN activity, which is different from that of the Cold War. The classical instruments developed under international law were instruments designed for conventional wars between States and now we find ourselves in a situation where there is no longer much clarity. We are in a fairly dynamic phase that will see fairly significant changes in what can be effective instruments of international law.

Annexes[edit | edit source]

  • Foreign Policy,. (2015). The Untold Story of the U.S. and Cuba’s Middleman. Retrieved 4 August 2015 (Archive copy)
  • W.P. Deac. ‘Duel for the Suez Canal.’ Military History, Vol. 18 Issue 1. Apr2001, pp. 58- 64.
  • P.H.J. Davies. 2012. Intelligence and Government in Britain and the United States, Vol. 2. ‘Ch 7: The Great Centralization, 1957-66’, pp. 163-177.
  • R.J. Aldrich. 2001. The Hidden Hand. ‘Ch 21: Defeat in the Middle East: Iran and Suez’, pp. 464-494.
  • W.S. Lucas. ‘The missing link? Patrick Dean, Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.’ Contemporary British History. Vol.13 No. 2. 1999, pp. 117-125.
  • P. Cradock. 2002. Know Your Enemy: How the JIC Saw the World. ‘Ch 18. Intelligence and Policy.
  • “Security Council.” International Organization, vol. 1, no. 1, 1947, pp. 74–98. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/2703520.

References[edit | edit source]