Seventy years ago, the United Nations was formed. It began in the aftermath of World War II. The League of Nations, which had been founded after World War I, had failed. The League was supposed to promote peace and had 58 member nations. At the dawn of World War II, Germany and Japan withdrew from it, and there was no international peace organization.
When the United Nations formed after World War II, it had many of the same goals of the League. But due to contributing military forces, it has more of an ability to end conflicts. Obviously, there are still horrible wars and killings. The United Nations did not stop Vietnam or the killings in Cambodia or Rwanda. There have been millions killed in South Sudan, too. However, if it were not for the United Nations, how many more people would have lost their lives? We know that due to World War II and conflicts due to the war, between 40 and 80 million people were killed or starved. There was a world concern to make sure this kind of carnage did not happen again. The United Nations was formed to end this kind of mass killing and death.
South Sudan is a good example of the work of the United Nations. Wherever you go in South Sudan, there are soldiers from all over the world, working together. When the roads are impassible either due to conflict or rain (most roads are dirt), the United Nations is there with air transport. When commercial airlines don't fly, it is the United Nations that is bringing humanitarian workers and health-care professionals to the area. The United Nations makes sure that there are safe places to go for people fleeing the conflict. There might not be much else, but there is safety.
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Many people criticize the United Nations because they think that somehow there will be a world government, and nations and communities will lose their sovereignty. They have filled the talk-radio airwaves with conspiracy theories that the black helicopters are patrolling from the United Nations and will take over to form one-world government. For those of us who are journalists at the United Nations, we know that could never happen. It is hard to get member nations to often agree, let alone run one-world government.
Despite disagreements and often lack of dues payments by member nations, 70 years ago this week, the U.N. Charter was ratified by the nations that are now permanent members of the Security Council. The U.N. Charter has the same power as a treaty and has lasted 70 years. Some parts of the United Nations Charter have real teeth and, though it is difficult to get agreement on issues such as sanctions, when they happen, the Security Council carries a large impact.
The U.N. Charter gives the power to the Security Council to mediate disputes, and it can impose economic, diplomatic and military sanctions as well as authorize military force. Despots and dictators are afraid of those sanctions and do what they can to avoid them. The International Criminal Court in The Hague is one example. Although the United States is not a signatory to the criminal court in The Hague, it is the only court in the world where the really bad guys can be brought to justice. It was begun by what is known as the "Rome Statue" and runs the court. Some people have been brought to justice, while others, such as Sudan's Omar al-Bashir, have avoided and evaded the reach of the court.
The United Nations is far from perfect, just like human beings are not perfect. It is the best that can be achieved. The secretary general said in his remarks for the 70th anniversary this week: "Every day, the United Nations feeds the hungry and shelters those driven from their homes. The United Nations vaccinates children who would otherwise die from preventable diseases. The United Nations defends human rights for all, regardless of race, religion, nationality, gender or sexual orientation. Our peacekeepers are on the frontlines of conflict; our mediators bring warriors to the peace table; our relief workers brave treacherous environments to deliver life-saving assistance.
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The United Nations works for the entire human family of seven billion people and cares for the earth, our one and only home."
There are many disagreements, from who should have sanctions to the reality of climate change, but one thing is for sure: The carnage that we saw because of World War II has not taken place because of the work of the United Nations.
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