Product of the League of Nations, the United Nations is an intergovernmental organization that prides itself on three fundamental principles; sovereign equality of member states, international problems fall within jurisdiction of the United Nations, and to maintain international peace and security (Mingst, Karen A.). Along with a broadened view of human security, the UN was able to prosper off the successes of the League of Nations while also improving as to not make the same mistakes. The United Nations can be categorized as an international governmental organization, which is an organization composed primarily of sovereign states, or other intergovernmental organizations”, usually established by a treaty or agreement (Union of International Associations).
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Being said, the United Nations falls in the international institution unit of analysis; just one of the acting units in the internal system. The international system is a concept of interacting units, and in the case of political science, these acting units are states, individuals and international institutions. Liberals believe that this international system operates in three ways; complex interdependence and multilateralism, liberal international order, and neo-liberalism. In relation to the United Nations, this paper will focus on liberal national order and how it has explained the success of international institutions, such as the United Nations.
Since the formation of the United Nations, it has been successful in keeping peace and reducing conflict between states. Peacekeeping can be broken down into two categories; traditional and complex. In traditional peacekeeping, multilateral institutions seek to contain conflicts through third-party military force. Traditional peacekeeping operations that have been successful have stopped conflict from happening between two states, and at the disputants invitation only. Such operations include UNEF I, the First UN Emergency Force, was established to supervise the end to conflict. This included the withdrawal of troops from France, Israel and the United Kingdom from Egypt territory. They also were able to act as a “buffer” between the conflicting Egyptian and Israeli forces, overall sending 3,378 troops over during November 1956 to June 1967 (FIRST UNITED NATIONS EMERGENCY FORCE (UNEF I)). Complex peacekeeping is another form of peacekeeping performed by the United Nations. It can be defined as activities respond to civil war and ethnonationalist conflicts within states that may not have requested assistance through the use of military and nonmilitary functions (Mingst, Karen A.). An example of complex peacekeeping would be the UNPROFOR operation (UNPROFOR). From February 1992 to December 1995, 35,599 troops and 4,632 civilians were involved in the operation in former Yugoslavia. The United Nations says that it was initially established in Croatia to ensure demilitarization of designated areas, and later extended to Bosnia and Herzegovina to support the delivery of humanitarian relief, monitor “no fly zones” and “safe areas”. Bosnia, Herzegovina and Macedonia were also later added to the mandate (FIRST UNITED NATIONS EMERGENCY FORCE (UNEF I)). Overall, the these United Nations operations proved to be successful in keeping peace in both traditional and complex peacekeeping by preventing future possible conflict from occurring. According to The Telegraph, “the number of people dying in conflicts has declined rapidly since 1945- worldwide, fewer people died in conflict in the first decade of the 21st century than any decade of the 20th” thanks to the United Nations’ goal of peacekeeping (Spencer).
The United Nations also strives to keep peace and reduce conflict through enforcement. As authorized in Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations, the Security Council is authorized to intervene in times if need with respect to threats to the peace, breaches of the peace, and acts of aggression (Chapter VII). The Security Council may use economic sanctions and military force to prevent or stop the threats to peace or acts of aggression. However, this method has only been put into action twice in all of the United Nations’ history due to the prefered peacekeeping route. The first success was that of the disarmament provisions overseen by the U.S. Special Commission for the Disarmament of Iraq and the International Atomic Energy Agency, and the economic sanctions against Iraq in the 1990s (Mingst, Karen A.). Taking military action had also been another form of enforcement by the United Nations, with the Gulf War being one of the enforcement actions under Chapter VII. Here, the Security Council authorized direct military action by the multi-national coalition, specifically instructing to use all means necessary (Mingst, Karen A.).
From the success of United Nations, an international institution, the idea of liberal international order can be opened up. As one of the liberal explanations of the system, liberal national order can be defined as the order brought through the liberal economic, political, and security institutions. Liberal international order can also be described as an acknowledged order and not patterned behavior or interconnections (Mingst, Karen A.). This order is under a dominant power or hegemon, which is necessary to maintain stability. Once under the control of Britain after the second world war, the international system had been in tension and Britain could not contain the order. Thankfully, America stepped in and took the reigns; based on liberal international institutions, it was able to implement rules and principles instead of dictating. Although America is the dominant power, it limits the right to self govern to facilitate cooperation, and rarely forces other states to govern and act in their image. I believe that the United States has acted as hegemon and was able to lead the United Nations to success from creation in facilitating cooperation among countries. However, increased cooperation in recent times has only occurred due to the United States reducing its role in the United Nations. In this paper I plan on explaining why the United States has reduced its role in the United Nations so that cooperation is possible between countries.
The United Nations describes the Security Council having “primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security.” The Security Council is consisted of 15 members, one of which being the U.S., and is allotted one vote each. From these 15 decisions can the Security Council act upon aggressive states or threats to peace (United Nations Security Council). From the definition of Liberal International Order, we can concur that America is the current hegemon. This allows for America to spearhead actions of the United Nations, especially the goals of maintaining peace and reducing conflict, as well as having a a seat of the United Nations Security Council.
Without the United States, the United Nations would have not been successful as it had been. This claim goes for all peacekeeping and conflict reducing operations. As acting hegemon in the international system, it was only natural for the United States to take lead on keeping international order. At its creation after World War II, President Franklin Roosevelt “envisioned the UN as the centerpiece of a post-war system of collective security backed by the power of the United States and its victorious allies” (For the Common Good: The U.S. Role in The United Nations). The strong involvement of the United States is shown through contributing 40 percent of the United Nations budget and establishing the headquarters in New York City. These actions made by the United States was to “underline the centrality of this special relationship and the shift of the locus of world power from the “old” world to the “new.” (For the Common Good: The U.S. Role in The United Nations). So in return, norms and ideas of the United States was shared among equally powerful states, which included “goals of conflict prevention, respect for human rights, national self-determination, international cooperation, tolerance, and economic and social progress” (For the Common Good: The U.S. Role in The United Nations).
In the time period between 1948 and until the Cold War, American foreign policy had focused on one thing only; taking down the Soviet Union and ending communism. This was the start of the United State’s problems with cooperating with the other members of the Security Council, which the Soviet Union was a part of due to their power as a state. With the focus of the United Nations on abolishing communism, the goals of the founders had withered away. However, throughout this time the United States was able to lead the United Nations to success; the formation of functional, humanitarian, and development agencies, flourishing international financial institutions, undertook efforts to promote social, environmental, and economic development on a globally, and assisted with the decolonization of Africa and Asia, which brought new states into the international system (For the Common Good: The U.S. Role in The United Nations). The efforts that the United States had not been involved in still reflected the country’s values and principles, demonstrating the effect the United States had on the international group.
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With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United Nations was able to function without complete oversight by the United States. And as a rational view by anyone, the United States was not liable to completely oversee international peace. There has been a slow retraction of United States involvement in the United Nations, but as acting hegemon, it is not realistic for the United States to not stay involved in regional crisis. According to Social Studies, “the political, economic, and military reach of this country is now so great that its citizens, firms, diplomats, soldiers, and investments are a presence throughout the world.” (For the Common Good: The U.S. Role in The United Nations)). The seat on the Security Council also still allows for the United States to continue their influence over peacekeeping and intervention operations in the United Nations. Although still involved, the reduced role of the United States in the United Nations has only led to cooperation. The recent withdrawal from the United Nations Humanitarian Rights Council is an example in which the United State’s agenda did not match that of the United Nations’. The United States, as you may know, recently declared Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. However, the international institution had not agreed to their views. The most important factor in deciding a state’s sovereignty is if all other states recognize it as sovereign. In Jerusalem’s case, it is not considered a legitimate capital in Israel by the international community. Rep. Eliot Engel, the ranking Democratic member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, said “The UN Human Rights Council has always been a problem. Instead of focusing on real human-rights issues, the council has used its time and resources to bully Israel and question Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign state,” (Dwyer). From this drawback of the United States, the Human Rights Council is able to shift its focus from the United States agenda to the agenda agreed upon by the 47 members of the council. Although as Americans we believe that the United Nations is in the wrong in this situation, it only leads to increased cooperation between the other countries part of the council and allows for the United States to complete their own agenda effectively.
Neo-liberals would argue that the drawback of the United States in the United Nations would not have affected the international institution at all. In fact, they believe that the hegemon is not necessary for the international institution to function. This is theory could be possible with the pattern of continued success the United Nations is experiencing without the hegemonic power of the United States. With the United States out of the Human Rights council, BBC believes that rather than everyone following the United States’ lead “there is expected to be more discussion of reform and of the tricky Israel issue” (Foulkes). The United Nations has also showed success of independence from the United States financially, now only paying 25 percent of the regular budget and 30 percent of peacekeeping costs (For the Common Good: The U.S. Role in The United Nations).
I believe that without the United States’ hegemonic position the United Nations would not be where it is today. There needed to be a powerful leader in international order, and the United States was able to fill that role through funding and policy guidance. However, the current retraction of hold over the United Nations by the United States has allowed for cooperation between other nations. Although the United States has no other choice to be involved in conflict due to the hegemonic position, stepping back from the United Nations will allow for both the international community and the United States to achieve their desired policy making goals. The future of continued cooperation in the United Nations will still lie with the United States, but as long as the country does not push their political agenda on every state, then increased cooperation will develop between those involved in the international community.
- “Chapter VII.” United Nations, United Nations, www.un.org/en/sections/un-charter/chapter-vii/.
- Dwyer, Colin. “U.S. Announces Its Withdrawal From U.N. Human Rights Council.” NPR, NPR, 19 June 2018, www.npr.org/2018/06/19/621435225/u-s-announces-its-withdrawal-from-u-n-s-human-rights-council.
- “FIRST UNITED NATIONS EMERGENCY FORCE (UNEF I).” United Nations, United Nations, peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/past/unefi.htm.
- “For the Common Good:The U.S. Role in The United Nations.” For the Common Good: The U.S. Role in the United Nations, www.socialstudies.org/sites/default/files/publications/se/5807/580702.html.
- Foulkes, Imogen. “Why Did the US Leave the UN Human Rights Council?” BBC News, BBC, 20 June 2018, www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-44552304.
- Mingst, Karen A., et al. Essentials of International Relations. W.W. Norton Et Company, 2019.
- Spencer, Richard. “UN at 70: Five Greatest Successes and Failures.” The Telegraph, Telegraph Media Group, 15 Sept. 2015, www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/switzerland/11700969/UN-at-70-Five-greatest-successes-and-failures.html.
- “Union of International Associations.” What Is an Intergovernmental Organization (IGO)? | Union of International Associations, uia.org/faq/yb3.
- “United Nations Security Council |.” United Nations, United Nations, www.un.org/securitycouncil/.
- “United States Promotes Performance and Accountability in UN Peacekeeping.” U.S. Department of State, U.S. Department of State, blogs.state.gov/stories/2019/03/29/en/united-states-promotes-performance-and-accountability-un-peacekeeping.
- “UNPROFOR.” United Nations, United Nations, peacekeeping.un.org/en/mission/past/unprof_p.htm.
- “What Is the Liberal International Order?” The German Marshall Fund of the United States, 2 Jan. 2019, www.gmfus.org/publications/what-liberal-international-order.
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