The United Nations was established in 1945 after World War Two to try to stop such a war from ever happening again. Its Charter says the objectives are to maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations amongst nations, to eliminate poverty and to protect human rights.
Peacekeeping is one of the most important functions of the United Nations. There are 15 ongoing operations across the globe. They have to be authorised by the UN Security Council (United States, Russia, China, United Kingdom and France).
Unfortunately, several US presidents (Nixon, George W. Bush, probably Trump) have been contemptuous of the United Nations. They have preferred to rely on US military strength. The Russians have been no better, exerting their veto when it suited them.
Nor have UN operations always had successful outcomes. And sometimes UN peacekeepers – the ‘Blue Helmets’, drawn from many contributing countries – have behaved badly themselves.
Nevertheless, the presence of UN peacekeeping troops has generally helped to calm situations. Peacekeeping can only take place with the consent of parties involved in a conflict. The UN is not equipped to put down high-intensity fighting.
Some UN operations have been literally to keep warring parties apart in conflicts between states or in civil wars. Other missions have been more sophisticated. For example, the war in Kosovo between Serbs and Albanians happened nearly twenty years ago yet there is still simmering tension in the region. UN police and civilians are helping to keep a lid on things.
On the other side of the world, Haiti has a history of poverty, political instability and natural disasters. A current UN operation aims to improve its justice system and its prisons and to protect the human rights of ordinary people.
The United Nations Association UNA-UK is an independent organisation which exists to support the United Nations itself; to encourage Britain to back UN operations; to advocate dialogue not warfare; and to trumpet the many useful activities which the UN carries out, not just peacekeeping.
For more information and to join UNA-UK, please consult their website www.una.org.uk.
David G Evans.
(Article originally published in the Gloucestershire Echo 18/01/2018)