EVERY year on the United Nations Day people all over the world pose the same question: Has the United Nations fulfilled its promise? Has it lived up to what the nations of the world expected of it, when the charter of the United Nations came into effect on 24 October?
As a matter of fact, the founding fathers of the United Nations did not have in mind a supra-national, independent body. They never promised a world government with authority of telling individual member countries what they should do or what they should not do.
Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations stipulates that “the organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members.” And the last paragraph of the same article says, “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”
The United Nations was not meant to be a world government. Even in 1945, in the wake of the most horrible war mankind had ever experienced the governments of the world were not prepared to give up their sovereignty in favour of the world body. Here we see the truth, the undeniable but understandable political reality. No government wanted to give an international organization – that is to say other governments – a blank cheque which would entitle that organization to interfere with a country’s domestic jurisdiction.
Therefore, if we don’t like the United Nations for not being what we want it to be, we must not blame the United Nations for our personal wishes or for our lack of knowledge. We could blame those who wrote the Charter, we could blame ourselves for perhaps not having read the Charter more carefully and therefore not knowing the possibilities and the limitations of the United Nations. In no case should we blame the United Nations for the restrictions which are imposed on the organization by its own members.
It is precisely this point on which the Secretary-General of the United Nations Mr Kurt Waldheim had former touch in his annual report to the General Assembly. In introduction to that report he had said: “The history of the United Nations since its foundation has essentially been the story of the search for a working balance between national sovereignty and national interests on the one hand, and international order and the long-term interests of the world community, on the other.”
Well, the world has seen tremendous changes during the past 65 years, mankind has reached the moon; All African countries are free, and now we are calling for a new international economic order, because we have realized the interdependence of all countries. Yet, despite all these changes our political views seem to have become stagnant. We still cling to national sovereignty as if it would solve any problem, and we ignore that, nowadays, most problems are international or at least common to most nations, and that most such problems can be solved only by international cooperation.
It is true that the United Nations cannot force a country to cooperate; it can only try to persuade it but on the other hand – is this not what we want? We all want the world’s problems to be solved in a peaceful way and not by force. As the UN Secretary General and others have pointed out on several occasions, nothing is wrong with the United Nations; it provides machinery for constant and uninterrupted contact and negotiations. What is missing, very often, however, is the political will on the part of governments to make out of this machinery.
Yet, it would be unfair and it would mean to ignore history if we were to overlook the many instances in which the United Nations has been used and is being used. Even in the field of disarmament where achievements are painfully scarce – even in this field some progress has been made and a number of international treaties have been worked out, and are now in force.
The United Nations system has been expanded over the years in an unprecedented way. More and more organizations became specialized agencies of the United Nations and the its activities now branch out into practically every field of our lives, from food to money matters, from health services to the exploitation of the Ocean floor, from political questions to the question of human settlements. Now the whole and truly global problem of our environment has become a concern of the United Nations, because nations have realized that the problems are too big for individual governments. We are seeking to establish a new international economic order because our present system is outdated and no longer works. In short, what the United Nations is doing - patiently and step by step – is trying to establish a completely new structure, for a world order, in which nations can live together under rules and conditions suitable to our times.
Is this nothing but a dream, wishful thinking? Well all changes in history have started as a dream, an idea millions of people in Africa and elsewhere used to dream of independence. Their dream has come true. And when we look at the historic evolution we can have no doubt that also other dreams will come true – the dreams of the people who are not masters in their own country only because their skin has a different colour.
It was a dream not so long ago, that smallpox could be eradicated. In most parts of world this dream has come true. One thing we have to realize though is that dreams do not come true by miracles. We have to work for their realization. This is why the world needs the United Nations.