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Is the United Nations running the same risk as its predecessor the League of Nations of being made marginal or even irrelevant? Why or why not?

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  1. Introduction
  2. The League of Nations
    1. It's creation
  3. The League inefficiency and the large range of difficulties it faced
    1. September 1931: Japanese attack on Manchuria
    2. 1934: The case of Ethiopia
  4. The setting up of the UN
  5. The differences between the UN and the League of Nations
    1. The power to veto a decisions
    2. The decisions taken within the Security Council are binding
  6. Significance of post Cold War events like in Somalia
  7. COnclusion
  8. Bibliography

'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. [...]

[...] This ended in the full-scale invasion of Ethiopia by Italy on October The League of Nations has definitively failed in achieving its main goal of preventing war but can also be seen as the first experience of collective security that represents a crucial link between pre1914 international organizations and wartime cooperation essential to the post- Second World War creation of the United Nations. The UN was set up with the idea of being an association of 'peace-loving' nations, who were combining to prevent future aggressions and for others humanitarian purposes. [...]

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