Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Failures of the UN

Worldview with Suhasini Haidar | Failures of the UN

A video analysis on the failures of the United Nations in the past one year.

September is UN month, given the UN General Assembly of 193 countries meets beginning September 14 for the 76 year, and over the course of the next week world leaders will address the body. There’s much to dwell upon this year, but three issues where the United nations system appears to have failed quite visibly are: the Fight against Covid, the coup in Myanmar, and now the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan

Fight against Covid

–        WHO failed to see the problem coming, failed to stop the spread of the virus

–        UNSC failed to hold China accountable for its actions, WHO team has not been able to conclude on origins of the virus, or gain access to Chinese labs

–        UN systems failed to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, or hold US and Western countries for failing to share them, or even committing to the WTO appeal

–        4 million dead, fear of more variants of the virus, and no one is responsible


–        UNSC took no action against the Myanmar junta for the coup in February

–        No new sanctions have been announced, nor any punitive actions

–        No UN push for the release of democratically elected leaders

–        This comes on the backs of an already unresolved situation with the Rohingya- about a million in refugee camps in Bangladesh, countless missions by the UN including the Kofi Annan report speaking of genocide, and no action.


–        In August: 3 discussions and 1 resolution on the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, not one contained any binding or punitive language. Each statement has been a watered down version of the previous one, and went from dropping the opposition to an Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan, to

–        UN has failed to instil the idea of a transitional council – as it did in East Timor, and has no role of government formation

–        UNSC has failed to extract assurances on democracy, human rights: women, girls, minorities, and commitment against terrorism: Remember it was the terror attacks in the US on 9/11 that led to a unified UN resolution, and the US strikes on Afghanistan. 20 years after the UN’s’ special session- Taliban back in power, Al Qaeda, other groups still in existence and the very real possibility of a gender crisis, a humanitarian crisis, a refugee crisis growing there.

 Main issues with the UN

–        Power in the hands of a few: P-5 has the veto

–        Deep polarisation between US, UK, France and Russia, China

–        Lack of UNSC reform, as demanded by India

–        Failure of Sanctions: Iran, North Korea

–        Global conflict fatigue: on contributing to operations, humanitarian assistance

–        R2P failure in Libya

 What levers does the UN have for Afghanistan, in the coming month?

–        Membership: Choices before the Accreditation Committee: could suspend, empty seat, allow the previous regime to occupy (Myanmar, Af 1996), and accept the new regime’s appointee with conditions. Sept 14

–        UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) mandate can be renewed and strengthened, so that the UN agencies in Afghanistan are able to function, monitor progress, to bring in supplies unhindered, and to be given protection from harm. Sept 17

–        1988 Sanctions committee- India is the Chair- to review sanctions on travel bans, asset freeze and stopping access to arms against 135 individuals and 5 entities. These include many of the men in positions of power today- including Abdul Ghani Baradar who is leading talks, Sher Mohammad Stanekzai, who met Indian ambassador this week, Sirajuddin Haqqani and the Haqqani network. The committee has to decide on whether to continue sanctions, continue exemptions on sanctions, allow more leniency on travel and funds. Mid-September

–        UNSC :UN Monitoring and Peacekeeping forces to ensure international assistance, evacuations and key programmes for women and children are not hindered

–        R2P – if the UNSC decides that there is an imminent threat to any group of people, then it can consider actions under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which empowers the UNSC to maintain peace in any part of the world.

The real need is for two attributes: Unity and Leadership, both of which seem in short supply at the moment. In a world that is seeing the retrenchment of the US, the aggressive rise of China, and the success of populism, xenophobia and anti-globalisation leaders and forces in various countries of the world, it is hard to see the United Nations in its current form rise to its considerable potential, that was envisaged 76 years ago, and to the Charter adopted in 1945 beginning with the words:

WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small…

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