In spite of the failures, setbacks and shortcomings, the achievements of the U.N., in regard to its major aims, have not been insignificant. When this world body was formed formally on 24th October, 1945, it set itself the following aims and objectives:
(i) To maintain international peace and security through collective efforts for the prevention of threats to peace and for the suppression of aggression.
(ii) To bring about peaceful resolution of settlement of international disputes.
(iii) To promote the process of self-determination of peoples or decolonisation.
(iv) To help achieve international co-operation in social, economic, cultural and human fields. It also aims at disarmament and the establishment of New International Economy.
The membership of U.N. is open to all peace-loving countries who believe in the above aims and objectives of the organisation. It has been divided into six main organs for its smooth functioning and obtaining of the above objects. These organs include—
(i) General Assembly
(ii) Security Council
(iv) Economic and Social Council.
(v) Trusteeship Council, and
(VI) International Court of Justice.
It is the main responsibility of the Security Council to maintain peace and security in the world. It has 15 members, out of which the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia are permanent members. The other ten non-permanent members are selected by the General Assembly, by two-third majority for a period of two years. It is presided over on a monthly basis by its member states, in alphabetical order. Each member has one vote but on vital issues all 5 permanent members must vote ‘yes’ if the resolution is to be passed. Since each permanent member-state has a veto power, no decision can be taken and implemented unless passed unanimously. Whenever there is a complaint before it, the Council tries to settle the matter through negotiations between the concerned member states. If this does not succeed, the Council can take other appropriate measures, including dispatch of U.N. troops, which are supplied by the member-states to remove the aggression and maintain peace and security in the given region.
Many times, the veto power of the permanent members of the Council has been a hurdle in the constructive, impartial and effective approach to crucial problems. Moreover, the permanent membership being limited to the 5 state members cannot be justified at all. To make it more representative and democratic, countries like India, Mexico, and Japan, etc. should be given permanent berths and the number of non- permanent members should be increased considerably. Its present structure makes it, more or less, a club of the few exclusive nations, resulting in a sure tilt in their favour. It has been successful in matters where the interests of none of these powers have been directly or indirectly involved. Due to this defective structural and operational design, the Council has failed many times to resolve a conflict and exercise its moral authority against the aggressor.
It failed to play a positive and desired role in the Cuban crisis (1962), the Hungarian crisis (1956), the long-drawn out Vietnam War, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Burundi, Rwanda, and Iraq etc. But at the same time its successful action in Korea (1950), its success in the withdrawal of foreign forces from Suez Canal (1956), its installation of the U.N. forces in the Gaza Strip and the Gulf of Aquaba (1957), and implementation of ceasefire in Kashmir (1948), etc. should not be lost sight of. Obviously, its achievements in respect of its peace-keeping operations have been of a mixed type and it cannot be denied that the U.N. has been a centre of quiet diplomacy and exchange of views to resolve tension among the member nations to some extent. But there is no room for complacency and desirable structural and operational changes must be effected to make it a more effective instrument of harmony, peace, co-operation and genuine disarmament.
Recently, the peacekeeping of the U.N. has been under much pressure because the U.S.A. has cut its contribution to the U.N. peacekeeping operations. And the U.S. President is helpless in the matter because he cannot send his forces on such missions without the consent of the Congress. The U.S.-initiated peace operations in Somalia failed only because they lacked the full backing of the Congress. Moreover, the U.S. was also not willing to let other nations run the operations. The U.S. contributes about 32% of the costs of the U.N. peacekeeping operations and it has been proposed to be slashed down to 25%, while the Congress wants to bring it further down to 20%.
But it is heartening to note that Japan, who is next to America in contributing towards the cost of U.N. peacekeeping operations, now wants to play a more prominent role in the matter, and it is willing to dispatch its troops for the purpose.
The U.N. has been a means and an instrument to maintain peace and harmony and to avoid conflicts, but it is not an end in itself. Without this instrument the world would not have been as orderly and peaceful as it is today. It has certainly contained many small conflagrations from flaring up and becoming big. Within its limitations, and the circumspection imposed by the personal interests of its permanent members of the Security Council, the U.N. has been instrumental in eliminating the Cold War and the prospects of a third world war. Gradually, in the wake of the end of Cold War, the U.N. is moving to the centre stage and increasingly playing a significant role, directly or indirectly, in shaping events of the world to promote peace, harmony and protection of human rights.