International Relations Questions: United Nations Organization

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The role played by the UN on the stage of world politics

The United Nations Organization, commonly referred to as the UN, was formed on October 24, 1945, from the defunct League of Nation by “peace-loving” states from across the world. The objective of the organization was to actively prevent a repeat of future aggression as had been witnessed in the devastating conflicts that were both World Wars I and II. Presently, the U.N has a membership of not fewer than 192 members.

The number keeps expanding, albeit at a slower pace, as new and eligible countries are created from already existing ones. The requirement for a nation to be admitted as a member of the UN is that the prospective member must abide by the principles which guide the operation of the organization (“International Politics” 1). The new member is then given an equal right of voting as other members of the deliberative body that the General Assembly is, and it is required to contribute its predetermined membership dues needed to keep afloat UN’s operations.

Through its many sub-organizations, including the General Assembly (the GA), the Security Council (SC), the Economic and Social Council (ESC), the Trusteeship Council, and the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the United Nations is hugely involved in world politics (“The UN in Brief” 1).

The most notable of these involvements are the countless peacekeeping missions across the world as well as humanitarian missions that the UN has been involved in mostly through its sub-organizations. To attest to this fact, the UN together with its secretary-general at the time, Kofi Annan, was awarded the highly coveted Nobel Prize for Peace in 2001for what the Prize committee termed as “their work for a better organized and more peaceful world.”

Under its Charter which sets forth its purpose as: “the maintenance of international peace and security” (“The UN in Brief” 1) [and outlaw war], the development of friendly relations between states, regulate armaments, and the achievement of cooperation in solving international economic, social, regulate armaments culturally, and humanitarian problems, the UN has been involved in more than 63 peacekeeping operations since its creation in 1948. These missions are conducted to expand basic human freedoms and to a significant extent to promote equality of all people.

The UN sectary-general is simply the most visible proxy of the organization in the global political arena. Though not an all-powerful figure in international politics, the position of secretary-general has high authority to bring to the attention various organs of the UN matters about international or intra-national conflicts across the globe, or other matters that require the attention of the international community. Thus, the secretary-general transcends a merely administrative role and as such, the current and previous UN secretaries-general have played huge roles in mediating between warring parties in several dozens of international/intra-national conflicts (Chesterman, Traub, and Myers 1).

The Security Council

The UN Security Council is the most powerful body in the international political arena. The organ is mandated with the preservation of peace as its primary responsibility. The council membership constitutes five permanent members which are the U.S, Russia, Great Britain, France, and France, as well as several other non-permanent members who are elected by the General Assembly to serve in the council for two years.

The UN Charter gives the Security Council the authority to take measures on any activities that pose a serious threat to world peace. Either the Secretary-General or the GA can notify the SC of a matter that requires its attention. Alternatively, the SC may decide to take action against a member or nonmember deemed as engaging in activities that threaten international peace without receiving notification from the above-mentioned parties.

Generally speaking, matters which can be brought into the attention of the Security Council fall into either of the following two categories: one, “disputes” or issues that may give rise to disputes and which are a threat to peace (“The Security Council” 2). In such cases, the powers of the Security Council are limited to making recommendations to the disputing parties on how to resolve the issue. Under the second category are more serious matters including acts of aggression, threats to the existing peace, as well as ‘breaches to the peace’. For matters falling under this category, the council has the power to take enforcement measures which may range from cutting diplomatic ties to imposing economic sanctions on the culprit to military intervention if necessary.

However, one of the biggest challenges to the exercise of powers of the Security Council is the UN’s Charter which primarily forbids the UN from intervening in domestic matters. In defining “domestic affairs,” the Charter does not conclusively state what constitutes domestic affairs. This allows the SC to intercede in matters that could ordinarily be regarded as domestic affairs of a state, provided that the activities show signs of interfering with international peace.

When it comes to decision making at the Security Council, two voting systems are used. Procedural issues are dealt with, an affirmative vote by nine GA members, is sufficient to resolve the outstanding issue. However, substantive issues must be resolved by a resolution voted for affirmatively by all 5 permanent members of the SC. This requirement of unanimity in the decision of the five permanent members embodies the veto power, which has been widely criticized as having acted, on many occasions, as a stumbling block in the UN’s efforts to take substantive actions against groups or individuals deemed to have violated or threatened national, regional, or world peace.

Another way through which the UN is well to engage in international politics is peacekeeping efforts. Each peacekeeping mission of the United Nations aims to implement a certain objective, which may include enforcement of peace agreements, ceasefire monitoring, or creating buffer zones in war-torn areas, or even reconstruction of states devastated by war (“International Politics” 2). Among the most noteworthy principle of the UN peacekeeping force is the fact that the forces do not work for the United Nations directly as the organization does not maintain any military force. Rather, member states, voluntarily, provide the troops as well as the equipment necessary to accomplish peacekeeping missions.

The international court of Justice (ICJ) is yet another institution with a huge influence in the international political arena. The court was created under the United Nation’s auspices to try those suspected to cause or contribute to war and subsequently deter individuals or groups with intentions to cause war from doing so. Also, as a forum in which countries present their disputes with other countries, the ICJ plays the role of the main judicial organ of the UN. Importantly, countries are not bound to accept or implement judgments delivered by the ICJ, but the influence of the court in solving international conflicts remains significant.

Even though the UN Charter has been widely acclaimed as being highly flexible and has enabled the organization to wither down serious threats to its existence, notably the cold war (Kegley 530), the organization continues to face many challenges as new peace-threatening conflicts continue to emerge across the world. In attempts to resolve these conflicts, the UN is looked upon by the world to assume the role of the global policeman.

However, this is a considerably difficult role for the UN to play since the organization is operating under serious constraints. The major among these being the fact that some members, whose contribution to the UN budget is significantly huge and equally critical, are reluctant or tending to be so when it comes to paying their dues(Knight and Keating 56). For instance, for several years, the US has held back a significant amount of its contribution under the claim that the organization must bring its budget under control as it is wasteful.

Moreover, it is well known that a significant number of wealthy members of the organizations more often than not refuse, for a host of reasons to volunteer their troops to serve in the United Nations battalion. For instance, the United States has consistently refused the idea of its troops serving in a UN peacekeeping mission under the command of anything other than United States Commanders (D’Anieri 188).

Such attitudes have led to the frustration of collaboration efforts especially within UN joint peacekeeping operations and have also made “less wealthy nations feel pressured to ‘sacrifice’ their citizens for the sake of UN peacekeeping “ (“International Politics” 3), while their wealthier counterparts may influence or even buy their troops out of the service of United Nations.

Some of the anti-globalization movement

Friedman aptly defines globalization as the outcome of the increased integration of world financial markets, the World Wide Web, and free trade agreements, which tend to turn the world into a single marketplace that is characterized by lucrative business opportunities and at the same time brutal competition (Barber 1). It also tends to make insignificant national as well as regional borders.

Individuals and groups opposed to globalization believe that the ideas of market fundamentalism, besides the power of money, are increasingly undermining the concept of basic and inalienable human rights (Barber 1). This is so because unlike ordinary citizens, corporations not only enjoy privileges such as a considerably high degree of freedom to move freely across borders but also exercise this freedom by accessing and, often unethically, extracting natural resources as well as human labor from across the world. Also, anti-globalization movements believe global trade agreements and global financial institutions critically undermine traditional and localized decision-making methods.

Anti-globalization activists include groups such as NGOs, peace groups, students, faith-based groups, trade unions, and influential persons. Notably, the activists are not organized around a single identity or issue; the activists reject both the political and economic infrastructure of economic globalization as a whole. Further, the activists contend that globalized institutions root for neoliberalism with very little regard for ethical standards (Barber n.d), thereby causing widespread “globalization abuse.” In light of this, this movement advocates for the disbandment of free-market fundamentalism, an end to “legal personhood” that corporations enjoy.

The major organizations which are targeted by the action of this movement include but are not limited to the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, the Multilateral Agreements on Investment, and free trade agreements like the NAFTA (North America Free Trade Area). Regarding free trade agreements, the activists argue that often, proper measures are not set forth to protect the well being of workers as well as to protect the environment, which only serves to expand farther the power that developed nations have over their less developed counterparts (Knight and Keating 112).

Moreover, this movement castigates the Breton Woods institutions (the IMF and the World Bank) for their unrelenting push for authorities in less developed countries to embark on drastic economic privatization programs as a way of achieving economic efficiency, which might not be the best approach for the said countries since their economic variables may not be significantly different from those of countries in the developed world.

Among the most widely known anti-globalization activism groups are the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, the Mobilization for Global Justice, Grassroots Global Justice (US), and Movement for Justice in el Barrio (US).

About its efficacy, the anti-globalization movement has already managed to bring on board a radical critique of both the structure and mechanism of the global economy and has also demonstrated, on several occasions, the capacity to physically shut down meetings organized by their target groups. This movement will continue to expand in the future, even deepen its radicalism, and, if left unchecked, may revolutionize both the global economy as well as the political order.

In sum, as the world is continually being brought together by not only rapid advances in information technology but also by increasingly affordable transportation methods, governments need to develop strong mechanisms to protect the basic and inalienable rights of their citizens which, if left unchecked, might be eroded severely by the excesses of a globalized market. Otherwise, the anti-globalization activists might be proven right in the not-so-far future since, as Street argues, “international integration leads to national disintegration” (8).

Some of the environmental challenges we face in our global village

In the modern globalized world, both the scale and composition of activities has increased tremendously because of the increased demand for manufactured goods by populations across the world. This increased demand for manufactured goods has had a huge impact on the well-being of the environment as it has lead to widespread externalities (Long 17). Thus, there arises a challenge of keeping output at par with the consumer demand through maintenance of production activity, yet at the same time keep at a minimum the negative aspects that this sustained production can produce on the environment.

Rapid technological advances also pose a serious threat to the wellbeing of the environment in the modern world (Knight and Keating 112). New technologies that provide man with increased capability to extract more from nature are being developed every day. However, the degree of cleanliness of these new technologies unfortunately lags by far, which leads to increased environmental pollution. In this regard, the environmental challenge is the development of new and appropriate green technologies to help leverage the environmental depletion caused by advanced technologies increasingly being applied especially in the manufacturing and extraction industries.

This is so because greener technologies are still very expensive, and as such remain economically unsound as to be adopted by a majority of players in the said industries.

Moreover, globalization continues to make it difficult for countries to rely upon their national environmental laws and regulation in environmental conservation efforts because they have to abide by the international environmental protection laws. These international environment protection laws might not be formulated to match the standards that locally formulated laws can achieve. Hence, the environmental challenge, in this case, is the development of environmental protection laws that are not only universally harmonious but also locally effective.

Since adherence to environmental standards has an impact on both domestic and international trade and investment patterns, it often occurs that parties to environment protection conventions become reluctant to meet their end of the bargain as they may deem that strict adherence to such conventions may lead to their economies suffering many lost opportunities. The challenge is to have all participants in global environmental governance not only conform to the terms of environmental protection agreements they are parties too but also to continually make positive contributions to efforts of improving such laws and regulations.

Some of the leaders in the last few decades on the stage of world politics in the last 30 years and the differences they have made

Ronald Reagan

Ronald Reagan, the President of the United States of America, is among the most influential leaders of the 20th century (Curtis 1). His presidency began in 1980 and is remembered for two major achievements. First, by the time Reagan assumed the office of the president, the US faced stiff competition from the Soviet Union from global dominance. Reagan impressively inspired his countrymen to uphold American values of democracy and freedom at a time when there was increased doubt of whether there was a need to spread these values around the world.

Through a successful massive armament program, Reagan, amidst growing pessimism even from his own country on the ability of the US to compete with the USSR, was able to revamp US competitiveness in global politics such that it overshadowed the influence of the USSR and eventually contributed to its collapse in 1991, thus making an invaluable contribution to the triumph of the US and its western allies in the Cold War.

Second, Reagan greatly influenced the adoption of lean government as the best model of government (Nicholls 1). He strongly defended the idea that a smaller and less intrusive government is highly desirable as it frees up individuals to enable them to create growth for themselves as well as prosperity for the nation as a whole. He was thus able to also revamp conservatism which was in rapid decline at the time. His brand of conservatism was forward rather than backward-looking; it promised Americans a better and brighter future as well as inspired conservatives across the globe and thereby forced liberalism to take a defensive position in an American citizen.

Also, he managed to turn around an ailing American economy.

Mikhail Gorbachev’s Legacy

Mikhail Gorbachev is credited for playing his role in halting-even ending, the spread of communism around the world, and for which, together with his role in ending the cold war, he won the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize. It is under his rule as the president that the Soviet Union together with its communist ideology finally disintegrated. Paradoxically, Gorbachev had assumed the presidency with the great ambition of reviving the rapid declining communism by rebranding it, yet be he ended up as the person who sniffed out communism’s last breath (Greenway 25)

Gorbachev will be remembered for allowing Eastern Europe’s nations the political and economic freedoms they enjoy today.

Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela is considered among the late twentieth century’s most inspirational leaders (Curtis1). With hardly comparable endurance and patience, he put up resistance against the racism, oppression, and institutionalized injustice in apartheid South Africa.

Mandela was willing to sacrifice all of his freedoms- even his own life- in his quest for social justice for not only the black people of South Africa but for all South Africans. For his fight against social oppression, he was jailed by the regime of the jailed for 27 years in an isolated island prison.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Madiba, as he is passionately referred to by his countrymen, is his nothing-short-of-astonishing ability to forgive those who had caused him great suffering for more than 30 years. Instead of prosecuting them when he assumed the presidency of the “rainbow nation,” Mandela ambitiously chose to take the course of trying to the generational racial animosity and rift that ravaged his country’s multiracial society (Curtis1).

He vigorously preached for forgiveness and reconciliation. His decision won him worldwide recognition and respect as a true and exemplary statesman, and for his exemplary efforts to unite South African’s he was jointly awarded the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize with Fredric de Clark, the last president of apartheid South Africa. He is credited to have played a tremendous role in averting a civil war and potential bloodbath in the struggle to wrestle power from the white minority of the country.

One of his memorable achievements in the international political arena is his invaluable contribution to the resolution of the long-running international dispute between Libya, the US, and Britain that was the Lockerbie bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Mandela was able to bring together the conflicting parties to find a common way forward for resolving the parties. Libya finally accepted to hand over for trial its two agents suspected for the bombing, allowed the long-standing dispute to be brought to a conclusive end.

Moreover, Nelson Mandela remembered as among the very few African leaders to have voluntarily relinquished power. He did this on completion of his only term as president in 1999 when he chose to hang his boots in politics.

In sum, Mandela’s inspirational is regarded the world over as a true icon for peace and reconciliation not only in his conflict-ridden continent but also the world over. He is undoubtedly a true and exemplary citizen of the world.

Why the transition in Tunisia-Egypt was different from that in Libya

To a large extent, the recent popular revolutions in both Tunisia and Egypt had the same fundamental triggers. Although the lack of basic freedoms was flagrant in both countries, it is appalling social conditions which led the young population to rebel against the long-standing regimes (Lalieu and Collon 2). In other words, the young people in Egypt and Tunisia had very little hope for the future.

In contrast to the revolts in Egypt and Tunisia, the tagger for the revolts by the people was the desire to get rid of the corrupt and oppressing regime of Muammar Gadaffi, which has been in power for a little over four decades. When compared to the social conditions in Egypt and Tunisia, Libya’s population enjoys far better conditions thanks to oil revenues from its vast oil deposits. Gadaffi’s regime has over the years considerably tried to trickle down oil money to ordinary citizens. As such, Libyans largely enjoy considerably advanced education and health systems, in addition to the fact that life expectancy in Libya is significantly higher than that of its neighbors.

However, even with all the above economic benefits, the majority of Libyans wanted to remove the current regime for what is widely regarded as monopolization of power by Gadaffi and his close relatives and cronies at the expense of political freedoms (Waghorn 1). Gadaffi is also accused of monopolizing his country’s wealth and oppressively cracking down on those opposed to his rule.

Another notable way in which the popular uprising in Libya was different from those in Egypt and Tunisia is that, unlike in both Egypt and Tunisia where the army remained largely neutral in protests against the regimes in these countries, the Libyan army not only remains largely loyal to Gadaffi but also is helping him to ruthlessly fight off decedent elements. The army has been even accused to randomly open fire at unarmed protestors using anti-aircraft guns and as well as randomly shooting snipers.

Further, unlike both the Egyptian and Tunisian armies which exhibited commendable professionalism embodied in discipline and unity during the period of instability, the Libyan army could and can be trusted to act as a pillar of stability under similar conditions. This is because it is demoralized and weak since the best resources are only available to elite but rogue units led by Gadaffi’s sons and which are largely oriented to offering Gadaffi’s regime protection from decedents. In sum, the Libyan army has deep interests in keeping the current regime in power, and cannot be trusted to midwife political reforms desired by the majority of Libyans.

Works Cited

Barber, David. The Anti-Globalization Movement. 2003. Web.

Chesterman, Simon, James Traub, and Joanne J. Myers. “Secretary or General?: The UN Secretary-General in World Politics”. Carnegie Council. 2007. Web.

D’Anieri, Paul. International Politics: Power and Purpose in Global Affairs. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning, 2009. Print.

Curtis, Jerry. “The legacy of Nelson Mandela.” Helium. 2007. Web.

Friedman, Thomas L. The Lexus and the Olive Tree. NY, New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1999. Print.

Greenway, H.D.S., and Globe Staff. “Gorbachev’s Legacy”. The Boston Globe. 1991. Web.

International Politics: Introduction to the United Nations”. n.d. Web.

Kegley, Charles W. World Politics: Trend and Transformation. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning, 2009. Print.

Knight, W. Andy and Tom Keating. Global Politics: Emerging Networks, Trends, and Challenges. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print.

Lalieu, Grégoire and Michel Collon. “Libya: Popular Uprising, Civilian War or Military Attack?” Investigaction. 2011. Web.

Long, Bill L. International Environmental Issues and the OECD, 1950-2000: An Historical Perspective. Paris, France: OECD Publishing, 2000. Print.

Nicholls, Gerry. “Ronald Reagan’s Real Achievement”. The Calgary Herald. 2011. Web.

Streeten, Paul. Globalization: Threat or Opportunity? Copenhagen, Sweden: Copenhagen Business School Press, 2001. Print.

The Security Council.Information Please Database, Pearson Education. 2007. Web.

“The UN in Brief: Not So Well Known”. 2009. Web.

Waghorn, Dominic. “Why Libya is Not Egypt or Tunisia”. 2011. Web.

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