By Carlton Joseph
The New Year is here and many of us resolve to improve our organizations, our community and ourselves. This is normal behavior for all thinking people and organizations. This year I would like us to step outside of our personal resolutions and focus our energies on evaluating an organization that was established to improve the lives of mankind – the United Nations (UN). Specifically, I want us to look at the UN Charter and a few of the Articles upon which it was founded. Has it fulfilled its Charter? Has it achieved most of its goals? Does it serve all nations or only a few powerful ones? Let me quote from the Charter so that we might begin the process of evaluation or at least give some thought to the issue.
” 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, and
- To establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
- To promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom.”
So says the preamble to the Charter that was established in 1945 after World War 11. It’s based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members. I would like the people of the world, but especially the people of the Caribbean, to seriously reflect on the UN and examine this organization to determine if it has lived up to its Charter. And if not, can it ever do so with its present organizational structure?
My first issue with this organization is that although it is supposed to be based on the principle of sovereign equality of its members, it is not equal, in that the five members, each with veto power, are more “equal” than all the other members. This should never be accepted by the other members, unless they do not see themselves as equal. There are five permanent members: China, France, Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States, and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly, with end of term date. To be
adopted, a resolution needs nine votes in favor and no vetoes by the United States, France, Russia, Britain or China.. In essence, the UN is the political tool of the five members who can veto any action the other members of the council wish to take.
In 1948, Russia, Great Britain, and the United States created the state of Israel by seizing part of Palestine. They created the state of Israel but left the previous owners of the land, stateless. Similar to what the settlers did to the native population of the United States. The very first act of these countries that created the United Nations, created the basis for the conflict between Israel and Palestine, and because of their veto power, the conflict will never be resolved.
One Article states : “A Member of the United Nations, which has persistently violated the Principles contained in the present Charter may be expelled from the Organization by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. ”
Israel is the prime example of a country that has persistently violated every principle contained in the Charter. Israel has violated every international law and UN resolution. It has built settlements on Palestine lands, bombed Palestine civilian communities and boasted that they will retard their progress. It has not been expelled. It is able to act with impunity because the United States unconditionally supports its actions and the US can veto any action the UN might want to take against Israel. This is but one example. The same holds true for any of the other veto power members- Russia, China, Great Britain and France.
Let’s now at an article concerning member states: “A State which is a Member of the United Nations but not of the Security Council may participate, without a vote, in its discussions when the Council considers that country’s interests are affected. Both Members and non-members of the United Nations, if they are parties to a dispute being considered by the Council, may be invited to take part, without a vote, in the Council’s discussions; the Council sets the conditions for participation by a non-member State.”
Now, this idea of participation without a vote makes no sense in a “democratic institution” because the rules and structure are autocratic. The only interests that are served are the interests of the five veto members in the Security Council.
The Charter also states in another Article that : “All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered. ”
Afghanistan, Chile, Syria, Libya, Grenada, Haiti, Honduras, to name a few, have all had disputes and none have been settled in accordance with these rules. The US, Russia, France and others have either removed the heads of government of certain countries when they did not agree with the governments in charge, bombed those countries or simply allowed coups d’état to occur.
Today, war is raging in the Middle East. Millions of people are forced to become refugees; people who are fighting to save their homes and bring some normalcy to their lives are called terrorists. Some of the veto members have been waging a “war on terror,” endless, unproductive wars, where the only beneficiaries are the nations with veto powers and their allies who sell weapons that keep the war going.
The United Nations has failed to achieve any of the goals in its Charter. If this were a private company, the Board of Directors would be forced to resign or the organization would cease to exist. It is time for the nations who are not part of the five veto countries to reject the notion that some states are more equal than others because they are rich and militarily powerful. We are either equal or we are not. In its present organizational structure equality is impossible and justice is unattainable. It is time for the rest of the world to question seriously the need for this organization. It is irrelevant and only serves to create jobs for bureaucrats and friends of politicians, at exorbitant costs to poor underdeveloped and developing countries.
(Trinidad-born Carlton Joseph is a close observer of political developments in the United States.)