In 1945 the long awaited sound of silence fell over the globe as World War II acted out its conclusion. The allies; those who had managed to claim victory from all the bloodshed began to discuss the infrastructure of the new world. From the failed ashes of the League of Nations the United Nations grew in its place. The key function of this new global diplomatic force was simple; prevent WWIII. To achieve this goal State sovereignty gained untouchable status and 5 nations were granted permanent seats to the newly formed Security Council.
This system, which has been questioned and analysed for decades has thus far achieved its aim. The thought of WWIII seems more likely to be a bizarre Hollywood movie than reality. The UN should be commended for this great achievement, but at what cost has it come?
The genocide in Rwanda saw the loss of countless lives that could have been saved if the UN had not been so protective of State sovereignty. Instead of acting to save the people of Rwanda the UN debated the exact definition of genocide before intervening. Cambodian’s too suffered greatly while the world stood by and watched. The UN only intervened after the Vietnamese had acted to remove Pol Pot. Yet somehow feel they had legitimacy to conduct the trails of Pol Pot’s former party members.
Having worked with refugees form Burma, I am all too aware of the torture, ethnic cleansing and genocide suffered by those who reside within her boarders. I had the life changing experience of meeting a survivor from Auschwitz, the stories he told me echoed those of some of the refugees form Burma who fled the country in 2012. Burmese authorities are aware that a political face lift every 20 years will prevent any breach of their State sovereignty. Furthermore China would veto any proposed intervention.
Now we face the very real danger that Kim Jung Un may have developed nuclear weapons. North Korean’s are denied basic human rights and the dictator who controls their tortured existence is in possession of weapons capable of killing millions. Again State sovereignty and protection from China mean that the UN has little recourse but to tell North Korea it’s a very naughty boy. I fear that Japanese ashes may be scattered into the Pacific Ocean before the UN take serious action against North Korea.
We may rest easy that WWIII is a long way off, if ever it becomes a reality. But people suffering from their own governments will continue to be subject to genocide and ethnic cleansing. North Korea will continue to provoke and threaten the globe. The UN has done much good and kept us in a relatively peaceful world. I would never wish for an end to the UN or that State sovereignty decline in its importance in international laws and norms. But the UN must now define when State sovereignty is lost, when a state no longer cares for but rather tortures its own people. It’s time for the UN to remind itself of its own opening line, not regarding governments or States but rather; ‘We the people of the United Nations’.
Interact UK – http://interact-uk.org.uk