'There can be little doubt that the social, economic and humanitarian work of the UN has been far more successful and valuable than its peacekeeping role.' Assess the validity of this verdict on the work of the United Nations Organization.

Published: March 19, 2017

United Nations has played a very important role in a number of international crisis by arranging negotiations, ceasefire and providing peacekeeping forces. Apart from this political role it has achieved enormous successes in non-political work viz. economic planning, taking care of refugees, protecting human rights etc. However, it is argued that this organization has been more successful in economic and humanitarian work than in its peacekeeping role.
Successes of UN as peacekeeper:

  • Immediately after its inception UN helped Indonesia in gaining independence from Holland.
  • The Korean war (1950-53) was the only crisis when UN was able to take decisive action when the interest of one of the superpower was involved. Security council immediately passed the resolution condemning North Korea and asked member states to send help to South Korea. UN peacekeepers were able to repel invaders and preserve the border between North and South along the 38th
  • The Suez crisis of 1965 showed UN at its best. When President Nasser of Egypt nationalized Suez Canal, British and French sent their troops to ‘protect their interests’ and at the same time, Israel also launched an attack on Egypt. A resolution condemning them was passed in General Assembly by 64 to 5after vetoed by Britain and France in the security council. Under pressure, they withdraw and UN force of 5000 was sent instead.
  • UN forces in Cyprus has been able to prevent any major clashes between Greek and Turk residents since 1964. But on the other hand has not been successful in finding a permanent solution.
  • The UN was successful in negotiating a ceasefire between Iran and Iraq who have been at war for eight years.
  • UN action in gulf war (1991) was impressive. UN forces drove out Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.

Failures of UN as peacekeepers:

  • UN was unsuccessful in resolving the Palestine issue. And was unable to prevent Israel-Arab wars of 1948-49, 1967 and 1973.
  • Due to Russian non-cooperation in Hungarian crisis (1956) UN failed miserably.
  • During the civil war in Congo (1960-64) UN was brought close to bankruptcy as USSR, France and Belgium refused to pay their contribution for UN operations.
  • Again in 1968, a situation similar to Hungary emerged in Czechoslovakia. USSR again refused to cooperate and UN failed.
  • In Somalia and Bosnia was opponent parties or at least one party were not looking for ceasefire UN failed to maintain peace.
  • In 2003 the USA and Britain overthrew Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain without UN approval, thus undermining UN authority.

So we can easily infer from these facts that on the political fronts Un has its ups and down. the UN was unsuccessful in most cases when at least one superpower was involved. Secondly, when parties in conflicts were not eager for peace.
The UN mostly came into headlines for its peacekeeping and mediating roles. However, now the majority of the UN work is concerned with the social, economic and humanitarian sector. UN has been quite successful in this non-political field. Some of its successes are:

  • General Assembly in 1948 adopted a 30-point Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It did not stop there, later the Human Rights commission produced a Declaration of Rights of Children in 1959.
  • International Labour Organisation has been able to improve the conditions of workers worldwide.
  • World Health Organisation played a very important role in eliminating and controlling many epidemics.
  • UNECIF has been working towards improving health and living standards of children.
  • Financial institutions like IMF and WB has been doing great work toward improving the economic and financial situations of under-developed and developing economies.

In all these non-political and developmental works the achievements of UN and its agencies has been remarkable.

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