'The League is dead, long live the United Nations!' This is with these words that Lord Robert
Cecil, one of the architects of the League of Nations, commented on the dissolution of the
organization, in the spring 1946, expressing the apparent readiness to write the League off as a failure and to regard the UN as a brand new organization with a new look on world problems of peace and security. Established on 24th October 1945 by 51 countries as an outcome of the initiatives taken by the United States, the USSR, Great-Britain and China, it had, according to its Charter, four purposes: to maintain international peace and security, to develop friendly relations among nations, to cooperate in solving international problems and in promoting respect for human rights and to be a centre for harmonizing the actions of nations . Still there after sixty years of existence, the UN can, therefore be seen as a successful organization, but some recent events, for instance the Anglo-American intervention in Iraq without the approval of the Security Council, ask the question of its current efficiency and relevance. Is it, like the League, running the risk of being made marginal or
irrelevant? As A.Leroy Bennett explains 'the success of modern International organizations is most
often judged on the basis of their handling of disputes and their utility in avoiding wars' . This is why I will mostly focus on this peace maintenance and security issues when dealing with the subject.
[...] Then, the UN is as well characterised by the absence of its own army. Indeed, the 'blue helmets' that represent its armed force are constituted of member states' contingents and therefore depend on their will to supply troops. This can have terrible consequences like when the Belgian 'blue helmets' withdrew in 1994, in Rwanda, right in the middle of the genocide. But the UN, also face difficulties linked with the structural differences it implemented to distinguish itself from the League. [...]
[...] Another criticism usually used against the League was that it had upheld treaties, most of all the Treaty of Versailles, which many members saw unfair, then 'the function envisaged for the League was not so much to keep peace, but to keep a specific peace, to legitimize and stabilize a particular world settlement based upon victory' Finally, the organization also had a slow decision-making process problem related to its structural difficulties. Indeed, the Covenant set up an Assembly of all member states and a Council, which gathered nine members among which five permanent (Great-Britain, France, Italy, Japan, Germany), but all of the members could veto decisions and all economics sanctions had to be decided in assembly by unanimous vote which often blocked any decision procedure. [...]
[...] But for all of them, the League was built on idealist norms, reflects of the nineteenth-century liberalism, which emphasized the existence of collective interests leading to the natural seek for peace and avoidance of wars, whereas the UN recognize the strong possibility of wars to occur as a result of the inevitability of tension between states' interests. Therefore, contrary to the League, who thought possible and tried to eliminate wars, the UN simply looks for greater effectiveness when dealing with conflicting situations. [...]
[...] Moreover, the UN is considered as having developing an awareness of the importance of nonEuropean peoples in world affairs that the League did not, providing the new organization a real universalist status. ' Whereas the League had not represented a decisive break with the tradition of European-focused international politics, the new system was directed toward the problems of a world in which Europe would appear in drastically shrunken, and Asia and Africa in greatly enlarged, proportions ' . This aspect became particularly striking during the decolonization when the organization appeared as a true platform for anti-colonialist and independence movements. [...]
[...] Today, the UN can not be considered to be marginal since we have seen that the US tried the most they could to obtain a resolution from the Security Council before leading a coalition to Iraq in 2003, or even irrelevant, but it has to try to adopt some reforms in order to better reflect the current international political stage and to define more precisely its sphere of activity, notably solving the key problem of intervention within nation-states. BIBLIOGRAPHY °Archer, C (1993), International Organizations, Routledge,2nd Ed, London °Claude, I (1964), Swords into Ploughshares, University [...]
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