The concept of an international governing body started long before the UN came into existence. The League of Nations was an important chapter in the history of the UN. However, World War Two eroded its significance and there came a need for change. The UN came into existence on 24 October, 1945 upon ratification of the Charter by the five permanent members of the Security Council namely France, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States and by a majority of the other 46 signatories.

The UN consists of five primary administrative bodies primarily the Security Council, the General Assembly, the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat and the International Court of Justice. There are a number of additional bodies like the WHO and the UNICEF.

The UN’s peace – keeping successes include the Korean War (1950-53) and the authorization of intervention in Iraq after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Its first failure was the outbreak of the Cold War. This called for renewed peace – keeping efforts. The failures, however, had only just begun. The UN has been severely criticized for having failed to prevent the Rwandan Genocide, deliver food to the starving in Somalia, intervene in the Second Congo War, prevent the Srebrenica massacre and implement appropriate measures related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The UN is active in encouraging disarmament. Arms regulations were included in the UN charter of 1945. The advent of nuclear weapons nevertheless came just weeks after the charter and nullified the connotation of it.

While politically, the UN’s impact has been debated endlessly, it has been of undoubted assistance on the social and economic fronts. Its World Food Program feeds more than 100 million people a year in 80 countries and the office of the High Commissioner for Refugees ahs projects in over 116 countries. The UN’s Millennium Development goals and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) are in lieu with the changing world order of progress and development. The WHO, UN-AIDS and related organizations have helped spread health awareness and in combating diseases.

A common belief is that the UN is an extension of the power of the United States. The US supports the UN financially by taking on 25 per cent of its expenses and that too after a ceiling was imposed on the financial aid that could be given, as compared to 0.01 per cent paid by some countries. Without support from the US today, the UN could collapse. A number of other countries take on big chunks of the financial bill. India is not one of the major financial providers. With India now pressing for a permanent seat, this is a common argument against it. Countries like Australia finance the UN in a much bigger way and are yet not permanent members. However, the UN was definitely not meant to be a society of rich countries who can buy their way into representation. The largest democracy in the world and a growing superpower needs representation by virtue of its stance in the world today.

The Veto power that the members of the Security Council have is another grey area. An extremely flawed concept that leads to power games and politicization of vital issues.Removal of this Veto power is being talked about as in many cases it prevents the General Assembly from being able to reach a consensus.

The UN is capable of being an extremely powerful organization, provided that its power is respected. There are innumerable cases of countries not adhering to the UN. The UN is a step towards reaching universal equality and towards the formation of a world government. The entire concept is brilliant as long as measures are taken to keep the organization effective. The League of Nations was a mistake of the past that should never occur with the UN. It is a common saying after all, that history keeps repeating itself unless we learn from it.

Vandana Sebastian

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