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United Nation and Challenges UPSC NOTE

 Challenges faced by the current global order, represented by the 

UN system, and the uncertainty surrounding its future (Prelims, Mains)

  • At stake is the post-World War order whose foundations were built even as the Second World War raged on, reflecting a structure that the Allied powers — eventually the victors of that conflict — felt would prevent another global conflagration. 

  • This order is anchored in the United Nations Organisation.

  •  That is the UN itself, along with its specialised agencies, funds and programmes. 

  • The main organisation came into being in January 1942 when the 26 Allied nations signed the Declaration of the United Nations and endorsed the Atlantic Charter of 1941.

  • This charter turn enshrined the war aims of the United States and the United Kingdom

  • This is a system of international relations built to manage great power rivalry as it existed three quarters of a century ago. 

  • In the years since, power and prosperity have flowed and shifted between and from the original signatories and the international community of states has more than quadrupled.

  • The UN was created to stop another global war by upholding the sovereign equality of all nations subscribing to the principle of collective security.

  • Sovereign equality, however, faltered at the doors of the Security Council, with its five Permanent Members of super equals, all of whom were Allied powers, and including of course, two major colonial powers and a third whose imperial ambitions were not quite buried.

  • In negotiations that stretched beyond the 1942 Declaration, the Soviet Union was further drawn into the fold with a 1943 American proposal of enforcing peace.

  • The United Nations Monetary and Financial Conference at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, in July 1944 established the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (or the World Bank) and, in 1947.

  •  The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) which was succeeded by the World Trade Organization in 1995

  • Together, this financial and trade architecture sought to create a shared international economic order that would not repeat the mistakes of the 1920s and 1930s, plan post-War reconstruction and liberalise global trade.

  • Overall, the UN system, which rests on a series of international treaties that are now firmly embedded in international law, smoothened the conduct of international relations, albeit in an image that favoured the original signatories of the UN Charter. 

  • Decolonisation, the Cold War, and the breakup of the Soviet Union brought challenges to this dispensation. 

  • But no matter how the developing world, including former colonies, grouped, they could not overcome the veto at the Security Council or the voting structures of the Bretton Woods Institutions. 

  • China, of course, found itself perched in the strange position of being a rule maker in one body but a rule taker in the other.

  • Rising powers responded with alternatives. 

  • The Non-Aligned Movement tried a more equal approach and moral force for political and social problems, only to have its shortcomings exposed in the 1962 India-China war

  • The G-77 attempted to group together to gain more heft in trade negotiations, but the very disparate needs of an unwieldy group resulted in a laundry list of demands that defied successful negotiation

  • Smaller, more homogenous groupings fared somewhat better.

  • The 2020s, however, are dealing body blows to the system from within. 

  • COVID-19 shut down borders, for people, for goods, for vaccines, thereby undermining the promise of a shared global prosperity based on ever greater cooperation

  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine revealed the hypocrisy of one of the super equal rule-makers refusing to follow the rules

  • And, finally, the war in Gaza has exposed the fault lines between the developed and developing worlds; between the guilt over the Holocaust and the recognition of the Nakba; and between the

need of the great powers to support the UN and its organisations and the expediency of questioning the legitimacy and effectiveness of the organisation when support for Israel demands it. 

  • Most importantly, this conflict tests the commitment of several of the Permanent Members to the bedrock of the UN system — a commitment to human rights and the genocide convention. 

  • As West Asia teeters at the precipice, the UN is being marginalised by the very players that established it.

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United Nation and Challenges UPSC NOTE
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