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The tragedy of a toothless UN

What is so galling about this body that has the potential to deliver global justice on a fairly egalitarian basis, is that it generally identifies what should be done — then cannot do it because the US is all-powerful, writes ROGER McKENZIE

THE UN is about as useful as a chocolate fireguard. Like many people or organisations who can be condemned in this way, it’s not entirely the fault of the UN.
Just to be clear, I level this criticism as someone who really values what the UN should be able to do if it was only allowed.
But the problem is that the UN was never built to be a strong voice and to make any real difference. It has always been about doing the bidding of the US.
The UN is supposed to be a place where the nations of the world can come together and speak and act in one voice. When it speaks the world is meant to sit up and take notice — and the organisation, as a result of this, should be treated with at least the pretence of respect.
The slaughter taking place in Gaza has underlined that the UN and its charter are completely meaningless — that is unless the US says so.
The US support for the genocide taking place in Gaza and Israel’s continual flouting of international law — including its outrageous attack on the Iranian consulate in Damascus — is all the testament you need to understand the utter impotence of the UN.
The UN can do nothing about stopping Israel in its slaughter of at least 33,000 Palestinians. Indeed, the world body faced insults and accusations of xenophobia for even suggesting that Israel should halt its attacks.
Nobody in the UN felt particularly able to criticise Israel for its flagrant breach of international law in attacking the Iranian consulate in Damascus.
Neither could they call out the rank hypocrisy of Israel claiming it was the Iranians who were responsible, through its retaliation, for escalating the already tense situation in the region.
The UN has skin in the game in Gaza — with close to 200 of its staff killed in the war that began after the October 7 attack by Hamas during which some 1,200 people were killed.
A handful of UN staff, working for the Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), have been accused by Israel of being involved in the October 7 attack without a shred of evidence to back up the claim.
Aid workers from the UN have faced a nonstop bombardment from the Israelis while working to assist the Palestinians in school buildings, hospitals and food centres.
All the while barely an acknowledgement from Israel and no apology I have heard for killing all those UN staff. Neither has there been a word of reprimand from the imperial high command in the White House. Of course, we get the occasional episode of crocodile tears but generally, there is nothing.
Public pressure eventually forced the UN security council to vote on March 25 for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The first time such a resolution did not face a veto for one reason or another.
It wasn’t that ambitious. They simply said that the ceasefire should last the remainder of Ramadan. When the resolution passed there were two weeks left of the Muslim holy month.
From the outset, it was clear that Israel had no intention of abiding by the usually binding ruling of the council. But once again, the UN was hamstrung when hours after the vote, the US, who abstained, made it clear that as far as it was concerned the decision was not mandatory and so could not be enforced.
Any independent observer knows that resolutions of the council are legally binding. It was not one of the sometimes-used alternative of a non-binding presidential statement.
At least all pretence has been removed. Resolutions of the council are only binding when the US says they are. This renders the security council completely impotent.
Decisions of the general assembly, where all nations have one vote, have no legal force and are ignored. Its decisions may well carry the weight of world opinion, but it is the US that decides things and certainly not the combined forces of these predominantly “darker nations.”
Every year, nations vote, with just a handful against, for the lifting of the arbitrary and illegal sanctions the US has imposed on Cuba for more than six decades. Every year it is simply ignored.
The main objectives of the world body are to maintain international peace, promote the well-being of the people of the world and to foster international co-operation. Well, that’s gone well, hasn’t it?
On the plus side, the UN knows how to organise a mean conference. The annual Conferences of the Parties (COP) summit on the climate emergency are very well-organised set pieces. But it’s really difficult to find very many of the promises made at these events, that have been kept.
The fact that each of the last 10 months has recorded their warmest-ever temperatures, the ice caps are melting at record speeds and we are seeing more extreme weather incidents than ever before means we are clearly not on the right track.
The basic problem is that the UN simply had no teeth to enforce agreements made under its name. So, as Lenin once asked: “What is to be done?”
We certainly need a UN, but it is in need of urgent life-saving surgery. Part of this must be a massive democratisation.
I’ve been around long enough to know that countries will not simply allow the UN to tell them what to do. Neither do I believe that the UN or any of its member states should interfere in the domestic affairs of another country.
This is usually a recipe for the US and its posse to use its interference as an excuse to pursue their own self-interests — such as securing the flow of oil or uranium etc.
I just want to see the decisions of the majority of the world listened to and carried out. I think we are way beyond the time that it is okay for colonial powers led by the US to effectively still be ruling the world roost.
It’s time for a new day. I would begin by moving the headquarters of the UN away from the belly of the beast in New York City into the global South. I think this is more than symbolic. It relocates the centre of world diplomacy to where most people on the planet live.
Next, decisions of the general assembly should be binding. If the UN project is a genuine attempt to unite the nations of the world in one clear voice then it makes complete sense to me that the votes of the majority of the world should count for something.
The security council should have more permanent seats for the global South.

How is it that India, the country with the largest population in the world, at more than 1.43 billion, does not have a permanent seat on the council? How is it possible that not a single country from Africa or South America has permanent seats? This can no longer be justified. In fact, it never really could.

The old imperial order must be swept aside, and a new UN put in place that works in the interests of the people of the world and not just a clique of “wannabe again” colonial powers.
Enough is enough. It’s time for a radical rethink of the UN.


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