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Thursday, 7 June 2012

No peace, no stability, no unity – The failure of the UN System


The situation in Syria is rapidly spinning out of control, and even the infamous UN flag is no longer a guarantee for protection. Today, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon admitted that UN observers have been attacked who were investigating in the recent massacre in the village of Masraat al-Kubair.

While the entire western community expresses outraged disgust of this incident, it just reveals a dilemma the UN has been dealing with for several years now: the UN has no political power or importance whatsoever.

What began in San Francisco in 1945, as a project to enforce peace, stability and international unity all over the globe in order to prevent war in the world, is facing an imminent crisis which becomes more and more obvious, regarding the deteriorating security and humanitarian disaster in Syria.

But Syria is not the only case in which the UN proved itself to be incapable of dealing with severe security issues and its attempt for peace keeping. In fact, the list is pretty long.

Take a look into the civil war in former Yugoslavia, in the early 1990s. The UNPROFOR (United Nations Protection Force) proved itself insufficient in peace keeping during the atrocities Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 12 July 1995 UNPROFOR failed to deter the Bosnian Serb attack on Srebrenica because they were not able to sufficiently reinforce the Dutch battalion in place, and the city was overrun. When the dual key practices effectively prevented any serious air support from materialising all the Dutch could do was evacuate the women and children. The Serbs held the Muslim men and massacred thousands of them. The safe area of Zepa also fell to Bosnian Serbs on 25 July the events in Srebrenica led to the Peacekeeping Best Practices Unit (PBPU) report.
UNPROFOR was a failure because it limited itself in its mandate. Even with the obvious genocide in Srebrenica occurring right before their eyes, the UN troops were not entitled to intervene because of UNPROFOR’s limited mandate.

Furthermore, both peace keeping operations in Somalia (UNISOM I and II) until 1995 ended in a total disaster, as it failed to address the root problems of the Somali civil war which remained resolved until today and Somalia turning into a permanent war zone. The international community, especially the US, rapidly withdrew from the conflict after several of their killed soldiers were dragged through the city of Mogadishu in public and in full view of mass media. Embarrassed by this imminent failure, the UN did not bother to implement further peace keeping or even peace enforcing mission in the East African country.

The UN can only be regarded as a permanent stage for global powers – which are still nation states. In the case of Syria a consensus will not be achieved once again, as two of the five permanent members of the Security Council (Russia and China) will veto any resolution of the Security Council to implement sanctions or even launching a peace enforcing operation under UN mandate. And even then, the past has shown that some individual super powers tend to ignore the overall statements of the international community – supported by the UN itself – not to imply military actions.

The attack on UN observers in Syria is an indication proving that the UN as a whole is not doing its job properly; obviously failing to mediate between the Assad regime and the opposition, or even trying to implement a ceasefire between the two adversaries, but brining itself and its staff into the middle of the firing line. Simultaneously, the UN is blamed in public for not caring about the humanitarian disaster currently occurring; or even officially taking significant steps to sanction the Assad regime in an efficient manner. Combined with the distinct positions of the P5 in the Security Council and of other international actors, the UN is facing another utter failure in its original mission to implement peace and stability.

On the 26th of June, the UN will celebrate its 67th anniversary. Since then, the world neither defines itself as a global, nor as a pacified community. In fact, the more regional conflicts remain unsolved, the more the UN system as a whole will be questioned, also regarding the immense funds spent to the UN. From the economic point of view it has to be said: if a system does not achieve the targeted goals, stop spending on it.

Some UN member states might overthink the meaning this system regarding the small return on investment they get from the UN. Syria is just another dead giveaway.

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