Empty promises: What has the UN ever done for the Middle East?

Published October 2nd, 2012 - 19:25 GMT

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UN all talk no action, resolutions unimplemented
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Image 1 of 10: All talk, no action: Scores of resolutions remain unenforced, especially for the UN's ME remit. These reams of paper are a great example of UN ineffectuality & promises they can't keep. Ironically, it seems that the world body can teach Arabs a thing or two about the 'inshallah' culture; after all, there were Lebanese involved in setting up camp.

Bosnia UN Srebrenica watershed for peacekeeping 1995
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Image 1 of 10: Serbs slaughtered thousands in Srebrenica under the Dutch UN peacekeepers' watch, making Bosnia’s UN fail-safe more fail than safe: 'Safe areas' became "U.N.-administered ethnic ghettos". Bosnia came to be seen as a crisis point for UN peacekeeping operations, compounding the failure to save lives with the impotence to stop sex trafficking.

The UN compound at Qana was bombed by Israel 1996
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Image 1 of 10: Resolution 425, calling on Israel to pull out of Lebanon, was applied years after the fact, due more to Israeli sense than UN efficiencies. Qana 1996 saw the UN unable to save 100 lives; but they couldn't protect their own multinational forces in the ‘80s. Today, they are impotent in preventing Israeli war planes crossing the Lebanese coastline.

The Palestine Question: A UN failure
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Image 1 of 10: The Arab-Israel conflict has consumed the UN's time and resources ever since the world body opted to bestow Palestinian land to the Zionist enterprise, apropos of nothing. With all the huffing and puffing nothing ever seems to get done about Palestine. The UN Enquiry into Jenin's massacre failed to deliver facts or the bulldozers to justice.

UNESCO Palestine submission success 2011
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Image 1 of 10: Palestine left out in the cold: The Palestinian bid for membership in the UN flopped after they failed at the Security Council's popularity contest. Looking for a place at the table, Mahmoud Abbas has, for the past two years, looked like that guy who just wants to crash a birthday party. "We were friends, remember?" (He wangled a seat at UNESCO.)

UN's Somalia's failed mission
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Image 1 of 10: Epic fail: The UN has had a rough ride through Somalia’s 18-year civil war. Those still remaining in this Horn of Africa nation face violence & a humanitarian crisis. The UN was implicated in more ways than one: both in failing to execute its job of protecting civilians in the '90s US-led operation 'Black Hawk Down'; and in internal corruption.

UN in Sudan fails Darfour
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Image 1 of 10: UN's fumbled mission: Sudan was in the throes of a guerilla war in Darfur when the UN set up a task force (UNMIS) to curb the conflict, and help the countless displaced. With not enough boots on the ground and peacemakers holed up in the barracks while the conflict intensified until recently, the UN looked futile, still talking ‘resolutions’.

UN inspections in Iraq failed the people in the '90s
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Image 1 of 10: Iraq's UN's mission statement to deliver peace & protect was warped. The UN’s sanctions harmed civilians and their solution – an oil for food program in Resolution 986 – failed miserably. In 2003 the UN let down more innocents - its own- in the Canal Hotel Bombing. These deaths could have been avoided if they had acted to stop the conflict.

The UN in Syria: a failure of international intervention
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Image 1 of 10: And while they were sleeping: A bomb went off next door. Just meters from the Damas Rose Hotel in Damascus, Syria, where UN monitors were headquartered, an explosion jolted peacekeepers out of their watchful slumber. While the Free Syrian Army claimed responsibility for the bombing, all eyes were on the UN's role in Syria.

Beyonce stages a show of peace for UN World Humanitarian Day
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Image 1 of 10: Beyonce's UN gig: With World Humanitarian Day hosting agent of peace & women power, (All the Single Ladies) Beyonce, some couldn't help but wonder if the UN was just a big song & dance? As Beyonce strutted her internationally acclaimed booty on stage before a humanitarian backdrop of world suffering, would she sing the world to a better place?

Given the self-professed failure of many UN peace-keeping missions (notoriously Bosnia and Rawanda) people have a hard time remembering the great good done by the UN, and its auxiliary bodies: the World Health Organization, which worked so hard to eradicate polio; the International Court of Justice, which has brought peace of mind, if justice to few; and Goodwill Ambassadors, who sent Angelina Jolie to Syrian refugee camps. Its flaws are easier to fault, but how did this giant beast come to exist, anyway?

On the ashes of the Second World War, the powers left standing on the globe—the United States, the Soviet Union and China, alongside has-beens Britain and France—decided that the structure of the League of Nations hadn’t made things any easier. So they re-invented it, this time calling it the “United Nations”. Lovingly known as the UN, it had a number of issues to deal with. It was a body which was based on the recognition of the sovereignty of each member-state, but most of the people it purported to represent lived at the time in un-free colonies. Even today, the positions and voting records of member nations are decided by horse-trading between the haves and have-nots of this world, more than a free expression of the popular will.

Part of the problem that the Arab public has with the UN has to do with its inability to do very much. When it is constricted by the lack of an international consensus, the body allows the strong to act against the weak: when the US invaded Iraq in 2003, the UN observers in Kuwait stood by. When a two-bit film producer spit in Muslims’ eyes, the body which many in Arab countries turned to for some form of international jurisdiction seemed pointedly incapable of doing very much. Even when the International Court of Justice passed sentence on the Israelis for building their wall on Palestinian land—even getting the court to hear it was a tortuous mission—the body was powerless to implement anything.

Very soon after the UN was created, one of its first bodies was UNRWA, set up to protect Palestinian refugees. Sixty-four years later, however, and UNRWA’s mission has not expanded very much, or managed to change much with the times. One could say that the UN is like a bandaid for a tumour, but that would be insulting to bandaids. 

At the very least, we can say that the UN is not the only ineffectual, intergovernmental body where decisions are made by diplomats at infrequent meetings. Over the course of the convulsions to ripple through Syria during the Arab Spring, the Arab League has joined its more globalist partner. A delegation sent by the body more formally known as the League of Arab States, with headquarters long in place in Cairo, can be seen walking around touristic areas of Damascus and taking in the scenery, but achieving little for the cause of peace in the country, or resolving the conflict. 

Still, we can't blame the UN for everything. A 1975 Resolution (3379), which recognized Zionism as a form of racism, was rescinded in 1991--but only after the Palestinians played a part in brokering this change.

 

Should Arabs spring up against the UN 'inshallah' approach to world peace-keeping?

 

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Absolutely nothing

Hannah (not verified) Thu, 10/04/2012 - 07:58

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