One possibility for state cooperation involves participation in international organizations. The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization, which means that all of its members are the states themselves. Nearly all states are members of the United Nations, which makes it particularly noteworthy in the international system. What are the current roles of the United Nations, and how does it potentially contribute to a cooperative international system?
Upon the ratification of the Charter of the United Nations in October 1945, the United Nations was officially established.
Explain the origins and objectives of the United Nations
The United Nations
The United Nations (UN) is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace. The UN was founded in 1945 after World War II to replace the League of Nations, to stop wars between countries, and to provide a platform for dialogue. It contains multiple subsidiary organizations to carry out its missions.
Replacing the League of Nations
The League of Nations failed to prevent World War II (1939–1945). Because of the widespread recognition that humankind could not afford a third world war, the United Nations was established to replace the flawed League of Nations in 1945. The League of Nations formally dissolved itself on April 18, 1946, and transferred its mission to the United Nations: to maintain international peace and promote cooperation in solving international economic, social, and humanitarian problems.
In December 1945, the U.S. Congress requested that the UN make its headquarters in the United States. The UN accepted this suggestion and, after considering different sites, constructed the United Nations headquarters building in New York City in 1949-1950. The UN headquarters officially opened on January 9, 1951, although construction was not formally completed until October 9, 1952. While the principal headquarters of the UN remains in New York City, major agencies base themselves in Geneva, The Hague, Vienna, Nairobi, and elsewhere.
Creation of the UN
The earliest concrete plan for a new world organization was begun under the aegis of the U.S. State Department in 1939. Franklin D. Roosevelt first coined the term 'United Nations' as a term to describe the Allied countries. The term was first officially used on January 1, 1942, when 26 governments signed the Atlantic Charter, pledging to continue the war effort.
On April 25, 1945, the UN Conference on International Organization began in San Francisco, attended by 50 governments and a number of non-governmental organizations involved in drafting the United Nations Charter. The UN officially came into existence on October 24, 1945, upon ratification of the Charter by the five then-permanent members of the Security Council – France, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States – and by a majority of the other 46 signatories. The first meetings of the General Assembly, with 51 nations represented, and the Security Council, took place in London in January 1946. Since then, the UN's aims and activities have expanded to make it the archetypal international body in the early 21st century.
A map of the world showing when countries joined the United Nations.
The United Nations Peacekeeping began in 1948. Its first mission was in the Middle East to observe and maintain the ceasefire during the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Since then, United Nations peacekeepers have taken part in a total of 63 missions around the globe, 17 of which continue today. The peacekeeping force as a whole received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.
Though the term "peacekeeping" is not found in the United Nations Charter, the authorization is generally considered to lie in (or between) Chapter 6 and Chapter 7. Chapter 6 describes the Security Council's power to investigate and mediate disputes, while Chapter 7 discusses the power to authorize economic, diplomatic, and military sanctions, as well as the use of military force, to resolve disputes. The founders of the UN envisioned that the organization would act to prevent conflicts between nations and make future wars impossible; however, the outbreak of the Cold War made peacekeeping agreements extremely difficult due to the division of the world into hostile camps. Following the end of the Cold War, there were renewed calls for the UN to become the agency for achieving world peace, and the agency's peacekeeping dramatically increased, authorizing more missions between 1991 and 1994 than in the previous 45 years combined.
During the Cold War
Throughout the Cold War, the tensions on the UN Security Council made it difficult to implement peacekeeping measures in countries and regions seen to relate to the spread or containment of leftist and revolutionary movements. While some conflicts were separate enough from the Cold War to achieve consensus support for peacekeeping missions, most were too deeply enmeshed in the global struggle.
Though the UN's primary mandate was peacekeeping, the division between the US and USSR often paralyzed the organization, generally allowing it to intervene only in conflicts distant from the Cold War. In 1956, the first UN peacekeeping force was established to end the Suez Crisis; however, the UN was unable to intervene against the USSR's simultaneous invasion of Hungary following that country's revolution. In 1960, the UN deployed United Nations Operation in the Congo (UNOC), the largest military force of its early decades, to bring order to the breakaway State of Katanga, restoring it to the control of the Democratic Republic of the Congo by 1964.
The UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP), begun in 1964, attempted to end the conflict between the ethnic Greeks and Turks on the island and prevent wider conflict between NATO members Turkey and Greece. A second observer force, UNIPOM, was also dispatched, in 1965 to the areas of the India-Pakistan border that were not being monitored by the earlier mission, UNMOGIP, after a ceasefire in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965. Neither of these disputes were seen to have Cold War or ideological implications.
There was one exception to the rule. In the Mission of the Representative of the Secretary-General in the Dominican Republic (DOMREP), 1965–1966, the UN authorized an observer mission in a country where ideological factions were facing off. However, the mission was only initiated after the US intervened unilaterally in a civil war between leftist and conservative factions. The US had consolidated its hold and invited a force of the Organization of American States (dominated by US troops) to keep the peace. The mission was approved mainly because the Americans presented it as fait accompli and because the UN mission was not a full peacekeeping force. It included only two observers at any time and left the peacekeeping to another international organization. It was the first time the UN operated in this manner with a regional bloc.
The UN also assisted with two decolonization programs during the Cold War. In 1960, the UN sent ONUC to help facilitate the decolonization of the Congo from Belgian control. It stayed on until 1964 to help maintain stability and prevent the breakup of the country during the Congo Crisis. In West New Guinea from 1962 to 1963, UNSF maintained law and order while the territory was transferred from Dutch colonial control to Indonesia.
After the Cold War
With the decline of the Soviet Union and the advent of perestroika, the Soviet Union drastically decreased its military and economic support for a number of "proxy" civil wars around the globe. It also withdrew its support from satellite states and one UN peacekeeping mission, UNGOMAP, was designed to oversee the Pakistan-Afghanistan border and the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan as the USSR began to refocus domestically. In 1991, the USSR dissolved into 15 independent states. Conflicts broke out in two former Soviet Republics, the Georgian–Abkhazian conflict in Georgia and civil war in Tajikistan, which were eventually policed by UN peacekeeping forces, UNOMIG and UNMOT respectively.
With the end of the Cold War, a number of nations called for the UN to become an organization of world peace and do more to encourage the end to conflicts around the globe. The end of political gridlock in the Security Council helped the number of peacekeeping missions increased substantially. In a new spirit of cooperation, the Security Council established larger and more complex UN peacekeeping missions. Furthermore, peacekeeping came to involve more and more non-military elements that ensured the proper operation of civic functions, such as elections. The UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations was created in 1992 to support the increased demand for such missions. A number of missions were designed to end civil wars in which competing sides had been sponsored by Cold War players.
The US took the lead in establishing the UN. The UN world headquarters are located in New York City.
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