Is Peace Possible in the UN System?

24.01.2024

Israel’s attacks on Palestine have been ongoing for more than three months. In this 75-year war, Israel is increasingly violating international law. It is widely believed that Israel has committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. Many human rights organizations, such as the Amnesty Organization, have written reports to this regard. As a matter of fact, the only practical resolution adopted at the UN since October 7 has been a short humanitarian pause. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ words, his wait at the Rafah border crossing or his urgent convening of the Security Council have been in vain. Because contrary to what should be the case, some members of the UN have more sanctioning power than the UN itself. This calls into question the UN system’s capacity to maintain peace and security, to govern justly and to solve problems.

The UN is not the only organization whose capabilities have been called into question in recent days. Many other organizations as well as the system of a supranational organization such as the European Union have been subjected to criticism. And this criticism is coming not only from outside but also from the European Parliament and some EU member states themselves. Decision-makers in Spain, Belgium, Portugal and many other states have made statements that Israel’s crimes should not be shared. The EU cannot be ‘united’ on the Palestinian issue.

The problem of the ineffectiveness of international organizations, which this latest stage of the Israeli-Palestinian war has made many people and decision-makers reconsider, also necessitates a look at recent history. Indeed, right after the system of ‘Great States’ that started in 1815 and ended in 1919, the system of ‘International Organizations’ that we are in today started with the establishment of the League of Nations. In this respect, evaluating the UN or any other organization on its own may fall short of seeing the whole. Therefore, the failures of the League of Nations and its eventual collapse were, in fact, one of the biggest cracks in this system. The League of Nations process and its fate can provide a good vision for understanding and predicting all the problems that the UN has been involved in and caused.

Looking at the reasons for the League of Nations’s failure, some fundamental issues emerge. The first was the question of the League of Nations’s mandate. Although the League of Nations was entrusted with the task of maintaining world peace, it was not equipped with the necessary powers. So much so that it could not even take binding decisions. In this context, Italy’s attacks on Ethiopia and its subsequent occupation could even be considered as the end of the League of Nations. In that process, the League of Nations decided to embargo Italy and asked Britain to close the Suez Canal, but Britain did not comply with this decision. The League of Nations was an institution with no sanctioning power and limited powers.

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