Since January 2020, the United Nations (UN) began celebrating the 75th anniversary of its existence. Founded in 1945, the organisation has held its high in upholding human rights, canvassing for education for all, ensuring socio-political and economic equalities and initiating dialogues at all levels towards creating a more human and humane society. What is more, “The world needs solidarity” campaign by the body with the hashtag #UN75 underscores the importance it places on global solidarity. This piece aims at critically evaluating its activities to juxtapose its strides and challenges in entrenching global peace with particular reference to Africa.
In the area of human rights violations like gender inequalities and migration, the UN made history when it signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its charter on December 10, 1948. This declaration mandated signatory states to commit to implementing measures which uphold fundamental rights and ensure every human being enjoys his or her fundamental human rights. This it has been able to achieve through the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the High Commission for Refugees and its other 156 special organisations.
Despite pushing the frontiers of qualitative education, adequate health and other giant strides through its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the UN has not successfully ended arms deal in Africa as well as escalating violent conflicts amidst the stealing of its resources by developed nations. Because of this and other complicit mannerisms, the body has come under heavy criticism. For example, in a December 2016 tweet shortly before his inauguration, US President, Donald Trump derisively described the UN as a “club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.” The dysfunctional relationship between the US and the UN-led to the former’s “disengagement from key international conventions such as the global climate agreement and the global compact on migration, a reduction in US financial contributions to international peacekeeping missions, and its withdrawal from both the United Nations Cultural Organisation UNESCO and the UN Human Rights Council.” Trump has also threatened to make good his promise of withdrawing financial support to the WHO.
On its failed role in ending bloodbath in Africa, experts have blamed the inability of the body to fly above its potentials due to obsolete structures in the UN Security Council (UNSC) which gives US, Russia, China, UK and France veto power. This way, they are able to block any decision with a single vote without providing any reason for doing so. This way, it becomes impossible for the General Assembly to decide by a two-thirds majority. This is why the five permanent members of the UNSC continue to block reform efforts. Despite this challenge, Recently, Mexico, India, Ireland, Kenya and Norway won seats on the UNSC. This is a commendable feat given that this is the most powerful body in the world.
More so, commentators have opined that the growing violent conflicts in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Asia and South America demonstrate that the organisation’s efforts at ending these crises are anachronistic. Little wonder, countries like India, Brazil, Japan and Germany have called for urgent reforms. Regrettably, some countries that have a penchant for human rights abuses are not only elected to Human Rights Councils but are even given a Chair to act on such Committees. The UN Peace Mission in Rwanda failed in 1994 as the body withdraw and could stop the genocide of Tutsi by the Hutus. Scandalously, the Ministry of Defence in Belgium would later confirm the supply of arms to Hutu extremists in Kigali. Similar massacres before its watch took place in Srebrenica and Bosnia in 1995.
In an opinion titled “Africa: The UN Has Failed Civilians” written by Tharanga Yakupitiyage and published by All Africa on 24 May 2019, the writer alleged that: “Despite the United Nations Security Council’s task of protecting civilians, millions around the world are still being displaced and killed with little to no accountability for perpetrators.” For instance, in what can be described as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, the US-led coalition allegedly killed more than 1,600 civilians in the Syrian city of Raqqa for four months in 2017. Also, the Saudi-led coalition, helped by arms from the US, UK and France were said to have injured and killed scores of civilians and deliberately blocked food aid in Yemen. Last year, the UN itself acknowledged that “more than 22,8000 civilians were killed or injured in 2018 alone across just six countries: Afghanistan, Iraq, Mali, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.”