The United Nations is in hot water again. Several Haitians have hit the U.N. with lawsuits over a four-year cholera epidemic that studies have traced to Nepalese peacekeepers at a U.N. camp. This epidemic has killed 8,500 and sickened at least 700,000, according to the mission in Haiti. This is not the first time the U.N. has been sued for peacekeeping missions. Despite having been created to promote international cooperation, the U.N. is failing at its job because it has no power to do enact policy or change.
There are several resolutions that illustrate the U.N.’s ineffectiveness at enforcing its decisions. The first, Resolution 338, called for an end to the Yom Kippur War of 1973, in which Israel faced Egypt and Syria. This resolution called upon these countries to cease hostilities within 12 hours. Part of the problem with this resolution was that it was ambiguous: It was stated in three lines, and the only explicit order was the immediate start of negotiations for a peace treaty. In addition, hostilities in the Middle East continued in spite of the resolution, as it failed to consider the cause of the conflict—religion. It took two more resolutions that only reiterated the call to decrease tensions.
The second resolution that displays the U.N.’s ineffectiveness was Resolution 1706 in 2006. The Security Council passed this resolution in Darfur, Sudan, in order to authorize the deployment of a U.N. peacekeeping mission. This resolution, however, required the consent of the Sudanese government to be implemented. Unfortunately for the U.N., Sudan never gave consent. It would be nearly another year before the council reached an agreement with Sudan on a force that it would accept. However, this resolution was ineffective as it implemented a confusing command structure and failed to account for shortage of advanced military hardware. The U.N. did not have the military might to stop Sudan from killing civilians due to its overarching policy of respecting national sovereignty.
While these two instances occurred in countries outside the Security Council, the U.N. also had trouble controlling countries within this group. During the Cold War, the U.N. did absolutely nothing to stop the fighting, simply because it had no power. Whenever it tried to pass a resolution, the USSR and China, two countries on the Security Council, would veto it with its veto policy. In fact, during the Cold War, the U.N. was looked upon with contempt because of its ineffectiveness in negotiating anything other than “arms deals.” The U.N. still reflects its absence of power today, as its structure does not allow for enforcement.
By Elinor Aspergen
Attempting to do one thing right, the U.N. created the Human Rights Committee in 1976 to give individuals a forum to voice their complaints against human rights abuses. In its twenty years of existence, however, the Committee has only registered 765 complaints against the backdrop of two billion individuals who call on the Committee for protection. Moreover, the Committee has only viewed and commented upon 199 cases, and only 15 percent of the cases have states implemented the Committee’s views. Despite the adoption by leaders in the 2005 World Summit of the doctrine of a “responsibility to protect” endangered people, reports still pour into the U.N. about villages destroyed by the hundred and of brutal treatment of civilians.
The U.N. was founded on the idealistic values of peace, but in the real world, peace cannot be achieved without real sovereignty. In order to effectively resolve the world’s conflicts, the U.N. needs more power. In fact, the U.N. needs to reform its entire system. It should be more focused on individual rights, and needs to develop the military capability to enforce. Additionally, the occasional sanctions imposed by the U.N. Security Council have achieved absolutely nothing. In order to truly bring peace, the U.N. needs to enforce peace.