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The birth of the United Nations

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French attempts to improve the security system[edit | edit source]

The League of Nations experienced many crises during the inter-war period and many of these crises can be read as failures of the League of Nations in the context of French attempts to improve the security system.

Photo of the signing ceremony of the Briand-Kellog Pact in Paris.

France during the inter-war period made constant attempts to strengthen collective security in its own interest and against that of Germany. First, there was the attempt at an alliance between France, the United States and Great Britain, which failed in 1920, the establishment of a sanctions mechanism through the International Blockade Commission in 1921, the mutual assistance treaty which failed in 1924, the Geneva Protocol failed in 1924 to give the League of Nations full powers to arbitrate in the event of conflict and was called into question following British pressure. The 1923 Locarno Treaty secures Germany's western border, it is a treaty made outside the League of Nations, but closely linked. In 1928, there was the Briand-Kellog Pact against war with an optional protocol on the peaceful resolution of mandatory disputes. This pact aims to condemn war as a means of conflict resolution and as an instrument of national policy[6]. War is outside the rules of international relations despite the fact that there are crises, but this is important for development from the point of view of international law. The Briand Plan of 1930 was intended to create a federal European link, but this did not succeed. There is the failure of the World Conference on Disarmament. Between 1932 and 1934, there was the Geneva Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, which was an effort undertaken by Member States in collaboration with the United States and the Soviet Union, but it was not successful. In 1935, there was an alliance treaty between France and the Soviet Union with a return to the old system. This treaty, which should have ensured France's security, will never be applied. We leave this period with all kinds of problems and in 1933, when National Socialism came to power in Germany, we found ourselves in this constellation.

The League of Nations and international security[edit | edit source]

Stalin and Ribbentrop signing the Treaty on the Border and Friendship between the German Reich and the Soviet Union on 28 September 1939.

The traditional interpretation is that the League of Nations succeeded until the mid-1930s in repelling aggression, but this positon is false. The League of Nations was unable to find solutions to asymmetric conflicts in the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1930s, the system collapsed first with Manchuria, the Chaco conflict and the Ethiopian crisis. The consequence is that Hitler can easily destroy what remains of the League of Nations after leaving the League of Nations in 1933 and the Conference on Disarmament, reintroduce conscription in Germany in 1935, the remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936, the annexation of Austria in 1938, the aggression against Czechoslovakia and Poland in 1938 and 1939. The idea of peacemakers turns out to be a chimera for conflict resolution in the reality of historical facts. The main facts are the absence of the United States, the policy of balance pursued by the West does not correspond to the principles of the Pact of the policy of appeasement of the West, this is a failure.

Soviet and German soldiers fraternizing after the invasion of Poland, Brest-Litovsk, 1939 September 20.

It should be noted that the birth of the United Nations occurred as a strange alliance between two democracies, the United States and Great Britain, but also the Soviet Union. This can only be understood in the context of the Second World War and in the immediate post-war period. This concept requires only that the United Nations is at the origin of military alliances against Axis forces. In 1939, with the signing of the non-aggression treaty, the German-Soviet pact, also known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, was the pact in which the Soviet Union and Hitler's Germany shared areas of influence in Central and Eastern Europe. This pact gives Hitler free rein to start the Second World War, it is an astonishing pact since the Soviets and Nazis were ideologically opposed.

German troops crossing the border on June 22, 1941, 2 km west of Zabialától.

In 1941, Nazi Germany launched an offensive against the Soviet army with Operation Barbarossa, which was a surprise. The Soviet Union will succeed in entering the alliance with the allies and in June 1941. The United States was neutral, but because President Roosevelt took a strong stand against the Axis forces, in 1937 there was a speech in the forties, especially since the United States put in place the lend and lease plan to support the British war effort. Roosevelt was convinced of the need for a global peacekeeping organization. In January 1941, he presented himself against totalitarianism in the State of Union Address speech in which he formulated Four freedoms: freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.

The birth of the United Nations[edit | edit source]

The Atlantic Charter and the United Nations Declaration[edit | edit source]

Roosevelt and Churchill aboard ship.

In August 1941, fundamental freedoms were enshrined and supplemented in the Atlantic Charter between Great Britain and the United States. It is a meeting that takes place on a warship off Newfoundland between Roosevelt and Churchill.

« The President of the United States of America and the Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill, representing His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, being met together, deem it right to make known certain common principles in the national policies of their respective countries on which they base their hopes for a better future for the world »

— Atlantic Charter, August 14, 1941

These are very strong points, but the United States is not yet ready to follow because it is not at war.

The first point says « their countries seek no aggrandizement, territorial or other ». Les alliés s’engagent à ne pas annexer de territoires. The second point says « they desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned ». This is the principle of the self-determination of peoples. The third point says « they respect the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them ». This point is explosive if we interpret it as meaning that the Dominions of the British Empire could read that they can choose their form of government. The fourth point states that « they will endeavor, with due respect for their existing obligations, to further the enjoyment by all States, great or small, victor or vanquished, of access, on equal terms, to the trade and to the raw materials of the world which are needed for their economic prosperity ». It is intended not to make the same mistakes as at Versailles. It is the principle of free trade that is a Liberal principle.

Document containing the clauses of the charter.

With the fifth point that says « they desire to bring about the fullest collaboration between all nations in the economic field with the object of securing, for all, improved labor standards, economic advancement and social security », the social question is put forward as a kind of countermeasure to what will be put in place during the Cold War. The sixth point states that « after the final destruction of the Nazi tyranny, they hope to see established a peace which will afford to all nations the means of dwelling in safety within their own boundaries, and which will afford assurance that all the men in all lands may live out their lives in freedom from fear and want ». The American President shows that he has used all his means and is de facto at war. The fact that the attack on Pearl Harbour played a role in the United States' entry into the war determined the United States' entry into the war against Japan. The seventh point « such a peace should enable all men to traverse the high seas and oceans without hindrance » reminds us of the freedom of the seas. The eighth point « they believe that all of the nations of the world, for realistic as well as spiritual reasons must come to the abandonment of the use of force. Since no future peace can be maintained if land, sea or air armaments continue to be employed by nations which threaten, or may threaten, aggression outside of their frontiers, they believe, pending the establishment of a wider and permanent system of general security, that the disarmament of such nations is essential. They will likewise aid and encourage all other practicable measure which will lighten for peace-loving peoples the crushing burden of armaments » is the passage that touches on the creation of the United Nations, but in a very vague way. The concept of disarmament must be pushed forward by the major powers pending the establishment of a broader and permanent system of general security. These points will be reflected in the UN Charter.

Roosevelt showed himself to be the initiator of the Charter and Churchill returned to the United Kingdom as a hero. Churchill was afraid that the principle of the Charter would not be well received in the British colonies. It was especially point three that had disruptive potential towards the Empire. Churchill wanted a new international organization that would reflect the League of Nations. In 1941, the measure was not in a position to impose itself militarily and politically in the United States. The Atlantic Charter describes the post-war order as a period of peace and social security because there is fear of the attractiveness of communism after the end of the war. The Charter only mentions the new international organization that is to be established.

In September 1941, there was an Allied Declaration and various states joined the principle of the Atlantic Charter, including the Soviet Union. The countries allied against Nazism accept this charter.

The international situation changed abruptly after the attack on Pearl Harbour. In December 1941, this caused the United States to enter the war and marked the birth of the true allies. From that moment on, those who signed the Charter formed a real military alliance against a clear enemy, the Axis powers. The Atlantic Charter became a guideline for the anti-Hitler coalition. It is on this basis that on 1 January 1942, 26 States signed the United Nations Declaration. It is the nations that have united as a war coalition against Germany. Until 1945, 19 additional states were added to these 26 states. The States that have signed this declaration are considered as founding members of the United Nations as stipulated in Article 3 of the UN Charter. Basically, it was a question of defeating the Axis forces together and avoiding concluding a separate peace. The United Nations is not going to make a separate peace with Germany.

From the point of view of content, the declaration does not stipulate any concrete indications with regard to the post-war order. It was a trick of the United States to leave this Charter open in order to avoid concrete questions and problems and thus not to endanger the War Alliance. The beginnings of the UN are clearly and clearly a war alliance.

THE UNRRA[edit | edit source]

In this conception of a War Alliance, UNRRA plays a fundamental role. This organization was founded in November 1943. Its purpose was to provide food, oil, clothing, shelter and other basic needs to the victims of the war. UNRRA was a classic international organization based on an agreement signed between several States. UNRRA had a lasting impact on the post-war order. In a first phase, forty states were part of UNRRA, rising to 51 at the end of the war.

In its most active period, UNRRA had about 20,000 employees. The UN will only reach this number in 1977. The organization was largely funded by the United States. Apart from her military duties, she also had the civilian function of protecting powers in the conquered territories. UNRRA has done its work always based on the Four Freedoms. Although UNRRA was conceived as global and autonomous, it had links with the League of Nations. The main beneficiaries were China, Czechoslovakia, Greece, Italy, Poland, Ukraine and Yugoslavia.

The principle was that powerful states would maintain peace while others would disarm. It is a community of disarmed states with an international police force. Churchill questioned the role of China and the Soviet Union. Churchill wanted to give an important role to small states. In 1943, Churchill opposed Roosevelt proposing three regional councils with a great power at the head of each. The various conferences will lead to the creation of the United Nations.

Post-war plan[edit | edit source]

On October 30, 1943, there was the Moscow Declaration also known as the Four Nations. Great Britain will renounce the regional concept that was the idea of sharing the world in spheres of influence. Britain is seeking to find a sphere of influence, but must now share it with the two major emerging powers. In addition, it had to accept China into the circle of great powers. The idea was to found a peaceful organization. It was the 1943 Tehran conference that clarified some fundamental questions about the new organization that needed to be created. Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin agreed to found a universal world organization. As a result, the United States took the initiative to develop concrete proposals. This is where the United Nations is conceptually being set up. From the outset, in 1943, there was clarity about how to organize the UN after the war.

In 1944, the proposals to found the UN were established at the Dumbarton Oax conference. It was expected that the League of Nations could no longer have its place in the new world order because it could no longer fulfil its role satisfactorily and because the Soviet Union and the United States were not members of it. For the Soviet Union, this organization was imperialist, and the United States' refusal to join had weakened the League of Nations. It was important to leave with a new organization. The structures of the United Nations are not fundamentally different from those of the League of Nations with an Assembly, a Council and a Secretariat, in addition to which there is an International Court of Justice. The UN was to have a contingent of troops to keep the peace being a rupture with the League of Nations, the right of veto is abolished for the Assembly. The UN gives more weight to the great powers. In Dumbarton Oax, there have been minimal changes, but this conference will lead to the San Francisco conference. This prevented the great powers from evading their duty. The fact that the major powers have more weight forces them to take responsibility.

It was Roosevelt who, at the Yalta conference in February 1945, purged the last political differences there were and was able to obtain his desire to create the UN. Roosevelt's role during the war is comparable to Wilson's role in Paris during the First World War. Thanks to the Commonwealth, Britain could ensure that it had more strength and voice because all the dominions could vote. With this additional weight, Stalin was able to make it clear that Belarus and Ukraine were admitted to the United Nations as an independent and autonomous member with voting rights. Stalin also limited the right of veto to questions of substances. During the Yalta conference, it was also decided to keep the practice of mandates in place and to define them as territories under the administration of great powers. Roosevelt wanted to act quickly, it was especially important to use the fact that in the United States, public opinion in the euphoria at the end of the war was still positive. The choice of San Francisco is also symbolic for the founding conference of the UN.

Roosevelt died before the conference began. His successor, Truman, announces that this is an absolute priority. There are 45 States participating in the San Francisco Conference. It was the states that were at war with the Axis powers. Many countries will go to war against the Axis at the very end of the war also to be among the founding members of the UN. In San Francisco, there is a change with regard to the "great" Men. With Roosevelt's death and Churchill's departure, the political scene led to a discontinuity. There is a difference in the vision of these policies put in place.

The San Francisco Conference and the Charter[edit | edit source]

President Truman at the San Francisco conference.

Although this conference was aimed at trying to create a new world order, it was different from the other major Westphalian conferences until 1919. Madeleine Herren points out that this is the first time a wise global peace agreement has been signed within the framework of the United Nations. The Charter was adopted before the end of the war. This is no longer the old logic where war is the continuation of politics by other means. It is already during the war that we are trying to build principles that will mark international law before the end of the war.

The size of this conference was twice the size of the Paris conference of 1919. About 10,000 people, experts and diplomats are attending the conference. Only the states that had declared war on the Axis forces had been admitted to this conference. There were also feminist organizations supported by Eleanor Roosevelt, who plays an important role in San Francisco, but also for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The United Nations logo is a new global communication system.

The most difficult discussions are the issue of the Security Council and the veto power that was linked to the member of the Security Council. It needed to be clarified whether the veto could cover substantive and procedural issues. The Soviet Union will ask for something other than what was declared during the war, requiring that the veto right be applicable to procedural matters. The Soviet position will eventually prevail in the Security Council. This influenced the functioning of the UN during the Cold War. The Soviets also raised the issue of amending the Charter, it takes two-thirds of the Assembly to amend the Charter. This is the power that the powers in the Security Council have agreed upon.

Latin America wanted at least one permanent seat for Latin America, India asked that the number of inhabitants be taken into account and Liberia asked that the alphabetical order of non-permanent members be followed in order to guarantee equal opportunities. Finally, it is said that geographical distribution must be properly taken into account and ensure that members defend world peace. In 1945, there were six non-permanent members. The number of members was later adapted to meet the growing number of countries, particularly after 1960.

San Francisco is a success for France, which will be admitted as the fifth major power with veto power and a seat on the Security Council. Britain wanted a partner in Western Europe so that it would not be alone with the United States in case the United States withdrew and it had to face the Soviet Union.

The second important body is the General Assembly. During the San Francisco conference, it was the small and medium-sized states that tried to counterbalance the Security Council. Small states are looking for something more and not to have an organization under the control of the major powers. There is a compromise in Articles 10 and 11 of the Charter where the major powers say that global security and peace preservation issues can be discussed by the Assembly, which can also provide recommendations to the Security Council. This is a result that will mask the way the UN works.

The major powers were able to largely impose their ideas formulated in Dumbarton Oax and practically dominated the new organization. What was new was that the UN could mobilize its own troops, which would later be called "blue helmets" to impose Security Council decisions. The history of the United Nations shows that the structures of newly developed organizations have recovered in times of crisis as stable and functional as pessimists feared during their foundation... The UN manages to be stronger than pessimists thought and weaker than optimists thought. Italy and Austria joined the organization in 1955, followed later by Japan, and it was in 1973 that the two separate Germanies joined the United Nations.

During the San Francisco conference, there was little discussion about the Secretary General, who is the most senior UN official and works for all organs of the organization. The organs of the United Nations have a slight difference from those of the League of Nations, particularly in terms of the right of veto, which is the most different element between the two organizations. In Europe, the headquarters is moved to New York, but Geneva was able to save itself as the home of the European headquarters of the UN.

Today, it is self-evident that peacekeeping and human rights are linked. It was actually the United States that proposed the idea. The American delegation faced a dilemma, Roosevelt wanted to make human rights a central principle of the organization, on the other hand, it was necessary to prevent interference in American internal affairs from starting and to prevent the Senate from rejecting the Charter. The British also warned strongly against the inclusion of human rights in the Charter because there was no universal consensus and this jeopardized the concept of absolute state sovereignty. For the Soviets, human rights were not a major issue. Finally, both London and Moscow voted in favour of introducing human rights into the Charter to avoid weakening the process.

It was the founding conference in San Francisco that was decisive for the conception in the Charter of Human Rights. The idea of human rights finally came to the fore with the 1948 General Declaration of Human Rights. Although this declaration remained legally indicative, its international effect was enormous with an important first step towards a universal consensus of values. Although this statement had many imperfections, it contributed to the fact that the basic consensus did not fall apart.

Annexes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Profil de Sacha Zala sur Documents Diplomatiques Suisses
  2. CV de Sacha Zala
  3. Profil wikipedia de Sacha Zala
  4. Profil de Sacha Zala sur le site de l’Université de Berne
  5. Site personnel de Sacha Zala
  6. Schmitt, Carl, Marie-Louise Steinhauser, and Julien Freund. La Notion De Politique ; Théorie Du Partisan. Paris : Flammarion, 2009. p.91 - 92