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THE PHILIPPINE WOMENS UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND

DIPLOMACY

Criticisms against
Traditional form of
Governance
The United Nations
Patrick C. Agonias, MA-Foreign Service
3/21/2015

This report is to be submitted to Ms. Lilia G. Casanova in partial fulfillment to the course
World and Regional Governance of MA-Foreign Service Graduate Programme for the
Third Trimester, SY 2015-2016

Table of Contents
Introduction ..................................................................................................................... 1
History of the United Nations ....................................................................................... 1
Brief Aim and Structure of the United Nations ............................................................. 1
Criticisms on the United Nations...................................................................................... 1
International Peace and Security ................................................................................. 2
During the Cold War ................................................................................................ 2
Post-Cold War ......................................................................................................... 2
Administrative .............................................................................................................. 3
Scandals and Controversies ........................................................................................ 4
Sexual exploitation of Children by UN Peacekeepers .............................................. 4
Corruption and the UNs Oil for Food Programme ................................................... 4
Conclusion ...................................................................................................................... 5
References...................................................................................................................... 6

Introduction
History of the United Nations1
The United Nations (UN) is an international organization established in 1945 after World
War II. The organization is the successor of a similar organization; the League of
Nations (LoN). The UN replaced the League after the later failed to prevent the outbreak
of World War II. The creation of the United Nations can be traced back to the Atlantic
Charter, a joint declaration of the Allied powers on 14 August 1941. Although it is not a
formal or legal document, the Charter laid out the goals of the Allies on the war and on
the post-war world. This document would subsequently inspire future international
agreements2. On 01 January 1942 the Allies Big Four agreed upon the Declaration by
the United Nations, which became the basis of the modern UN. After the war in 1945,
delegations from the Allied powers negotiated and formulated the creation of the UN at
the Dumbarton Oaks Conference on 07 October. Finally on 25 April that same year, fifty
governments along with a number of non-governmental organizations met in San
Francisco drafted the UN Charter. The organization officially came into existence on 24
October 1945 after the Charter was ratified the Permanent Five (P-5) of the United
Nations Security Council (UNSC).
Brief Aim and Structure of the United Nations3
The four main purpose of the UN are: 1.) To keep peace throughout the world; 2.) To
develop friendly relations among nations; 3.) To help nations work together to improve
the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage
respect for each others rights and freedoms; 4.) To be a center for harmonizing the
actions of nations to achieve these goals. In order to carry out its mandate the UN
system have six main organs, these are: the Security Council, the General Assembly,
the Economic and Social Council, the Secretariat, International Court of Justice and the
Trusteeship Council4.
Criticisms on the United Nations
Ever since the creation of the UN it is faced with several criticisms. Several scholars,
experts and policy makers pointed out several shortcomings of the Organization in
different points of history. Further, they have also observed gaps within the system and
have recommended reforms in order to enhance the efficiency of the Organization.
Below are pressing criticisms to the UN that had implications in the pursuit of its
mandate.

Lynch, C. M. (2014, March 17). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved March 17, 2015, from United Nations (UN) :
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/616264/United-Nations-UN
2
Examples of future agreements inspired by the Atlantic Charter are the Bretton Woods Institutions, and an International
Trade Organization.
3
United Nations. (2009). How the UN Works. Retrieved March 17, 2015, from The United Nations:
http://www.un.org/Overview/uninbrief/about.shtml
4
United Nations. (2015). Main Organs. Retrieved March 17, 2015, from The United Nations:
http://www.un.org/en/sections/about-un/main-organs/index.htm
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International Peace and Security


The UN, particularly the Security Council has been heavily criticized in handling
international peace and security 5 . It is the primary UN organ that should be able to
prevent and resolve conflicts.
During the Cold War6
However, that was not the case during the Cold War, in which the number of intrastate
conflicts significantly increased. This rise has been attributed to the bipolar international
order at the time, between West; capitalist-democratic and the East; communistsocialist. The two superpowers, the United States and the USSR have fought for
superiority and influence over the other. Although there was no direct confrontation,
instead they fought through proxy wars and thus fueled several intrastate conflicts in
Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. What made the UNSC unable to
prevent these conflicts is because of the two superpowers are part of the P-5 of the
Council. The exercise of their veto powers has led to the failure of passing a number of
ubstantive resolutions. Many observers criticized the UNSC for being held hostage by
these two superpowers; however the Secretariat took on a more active role in conflict
resolution despite the predicament faced by the Council at that time7. The inaction of the
Council led to several deaths of mostly civilians, massive displacement and several
violations to international law.
Post-Cold War
After the Cold War, the UNSC was reinvigorated because it was no longer dictated by
the East and West rivalry. Conflicts still remain nonetheless; oftentimes it is a backlash
of previous proxy wars 8 . Other reasons include ethnic tensions and fragmentation of
states due to the dissolution of the Eastern Bloc. Despite the efforts of the Council, and
the Secretary-Generals call for the aid of regional organizations, many still criticized the
UN for its slow response in intervening on the conflicts. The Council was particularly
blamed for its failure to prevent mass killings in Rwanda (1994), Bosnia (1995) and
Darfur (2003). In addition, there were also operational failures that led to debacles in
Somalia, invasion of Iraq (2002), closing years of the Sri Lankan civil war (2009).
Despite the critiques, there were also those who defended the UN and have pointed the
Organizations success in handling the Cold War, particularly the Cuban Missile Crisis
and in its operations in: Angola, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Haiti 9 . In additions
successive Secretaries-General have initiated and directed peace-keeping policies in
terms of enhancing and improving said polices.

United Nations Security Council. (2015). About. Retrieved February 28, 2015, from United Nations Security Council:
http://www.un.org/en/sc/about/
6
Perry, M., Davis, D. F., Harris, J. G., Von Laue, T. H., & Warren Jr., D. (1989). A History of the World. Boston: Houghton
Mifflin Company.
7
Dag Hammarskjld, UN Secretary-General from 1953-1967, played an active role in resolving conflicts

despite the UNSCs inaction.


8
9

Higgins, R. (1995). Peace and Security Achievements and Failures. European Journal of International Law, 445-46
Ibid
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Administrative
The UNs bureaucracy has also been subject of criticsms and sought for reforms in the
system. The rationale of most of those calling for reform is in order for the Organization
to better adapt in the changing of the times. Several instances have been pointed by
scholars and experts that critiqued the UNs administrative system.
Security Council
The most pressing is the veto system in the Security Council. The failure of the UN to
intervene in various conflicts has been attributed to the use of veto by one of the P-5.
Many view the Council in effect as undemocratic and would pass resolutions should it
meet the geopolitical interests of its permanent members, otherwise it is rejected 10 .
Recently, the Council was further criticized in its handling of Middle Eastern conflicts
such as that in Libya and Syria. Critics in response, proposed reforms to increase the
number of member states in the Council, even suggested whether to increase or
decrease on which states could be granted veto power11. The working method of the
UNSC is also an issue, especially by ambassadors of non-permanent member states in
the Council. The prevalence of a Fait acompli on the formulation of resolutions by
permanent members has triggered reactions from non-permanent member states on the
issue. They have warned that this lack of transparency leads to poor decision making12.
The issue of transparency has also strained the working relations of the Security Council
and the General Assembly as there are sometimes few consultations between the two
organs concerning the Councils resolutions.
The UN Bureaucracy
In terms of carrying out the UNs mandate in an operational level, critics have pointed
out the inefficiency of the UNs bureaucratic system. The US former permanent
representative to the UN Ambassador Richard Holbrooke criticized the UN for its
inefficient and poor coordination system. His sentiments are shared by those inside and
outside of the UN13. They stressed that that there were several overlapping of roles,
duplicated efforts, and poor coordination among management and between agencies.
These critics have attributed operational disasters of the UN such as those in Somalia
(1994), Sri Lanka (2009), the Yugoslav Wars (1991-2001) and the Middle East (1991present) to these inefficiencies. A notable case cited by critics of the UNs inefficiency
was during the closing years of the Sri Lankan civil war. A UN internal report; led by
former UN official Charles Petrie, have criticized its officials for their reluctance in
protecting the lives of innocent civilians caught in between government and rebel
fighting14. The report stated that officials in headquarters failed to instruct their staff on
the ground. Also, the report criticized earlier decision to withdraw most of its staff after
the Sri Lankan government could no longer guarantee their safety15. These types of
cases are one of the major arguments of those calling for reform as the deaths of
civilians could have been prevented if there had been an efficient system in place.
10

Paul, J. A. (1995, February). Veto Analysis. Retrieved March 15, 2015, from Global Policy Forum :
https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/185-general/41128-veto-analysis.html
11
Ibid
12
Ibid
13
Fasulo, L. (2004). An Insider's Guide to the United Nations . New Haven: Yale University Press.
14
Burke, J. (2012, November 12). UN report damns failings during Sri Lankan civil war climax. Retrieved March 14, 2015,
from The Guardian: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/14/report-damns-un-sri-lank
15
Ibid
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Scandals and Controversies


The UN has been criticized on notable scandals and controversies that prompted the
Secretariat to implement immediate reforms in the Organization.
Sexual exploitation of Children by UN Peacekeepers
The most controversial of these scandals are the sexual abuse to children by UN
personnel. The results of a groundbreaking UN study in 1996 have shown that 6 out of
12 countries at the time of report that after the arrival of peacekeeping troops has
been associated with a rapid rise in child prostitution16. This was observed in former
peacekeeping operations in Bosnia and Kosovo; and the most recent in Haiti and Sudan.
Although, defenders of the UN argued that the scandal should not implicate all the
participants of the operation by the actions of a few offenders. However, many still
criticize the UN for doing more harm to the populace that they are mandated to protect.
Corruption and the UNs Oil for Food Programme
In relation to UN personnel conduct, the Organization has been criticized for corruption.
An instance where the UN was criticized for corruption and mismanagement was the Oilfor-Food Programme of 1995. It was established under UNSC Resolution 986. The aim
of the programme was to make a mechanism wherein Iraqs oil exports would finance
food and other necessities for its populations, since the country was under economic
sanctions at the time17. It was heavily criticized because it was linked to widespread
corruption and abuse. It has been reported that profits were skimmed and were illegally
diverted to the Saddam regime in Iraq, corporate businesses and UN officials 18 . A
commission was established to investigate the programme led by former US Federal
Reserve Chairman, Paul Volcker. The investigation into the scandal led to the conviction
of mostly businessmen in the oil industry and two UN officials19. The commission final
report proposed several reforms to the UN. In response to the fallout of the scandal the
UN Secretary-General at that time, Kofi Annan has taken the following steps:
established a new UN ethics office, created a new whistleblower policy and won
approval from the UNGA to make internal audits available to member states upon
request20. Despite the reforms, experts are emphasizing that the lessons learned from
the scandal should inform future sanctions programmes and policies on corruption of the
UN.

16

Machel, G. (1996). PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS OF CHILDREN. New York: United Nations.
Otterman, S. (2005, October 28). IRAQ: Oil for Food Scandal. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from Council on Foreign
Relations: http://www.cfr.org/iraq/iraq-oil-food-scandal/p7631
18
The Economist. (2008, March 13). The UN's oil-for-food scandal: Rolling up the culprits. Retrieved 14 March, 2015,
from The Economist: http://www.economist.com/node/10853611
19
The two UN officials convicted in the scandal are Mr. Yakovlev, UN procurement official and Benon Sevan, head of the
Oil for Food Programme.
20
McMahon, R. (Ed.). (2006, May 11). The Impact of the UN Oil-for-Food Scandal. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from
Council on Foreign Relations: http://www.cfr.org/international-organizations-and-alliances/impact-un-oil--foodscandal/p10675
17

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Conclusion
The UN as an international organization since its inception is not without its flaws. Over
the years, the Organization has shown that there still a lot of room for improvements on
its practice of world governance. The criticisms presented have implications on how the
Organization operates internally, and how it works with different governments. Although
oftentimes, the UN is depicted as an outdated institution, it still remains as the premier
multilateral organization that addresses pressing international issues. Experts and
scholars that have pointed out the short-comings of the UN are essential as these are
sources on which specific areas the Organization should improve on. A concrete
example on how critics have improved the Organization and contributed to the reform
process was on the administration issues. Theyre insights through commissions, reports
and works have prompted the Secretaries-General to implement immediate reforms to
the system. Criticisms on the UNSC are always present as peace and security issues
are constantly changing with the times. Although there were modest reforms in the past,
future reforms to the Council are difficult to put forward because of the political nature of
the Council. However, there is an opening to propose new reforms in light of new
security challenges such as terrorism/asymmetric and cyber warfare and the new
concept of non-traditional security issues. Overall these criticisms on traditional world
governance can further improve the UN in the future. The reforms proposed by critics
that are being implemented, be it short or long term, would still strengthen the
Organization in its pursuit of fulfilling its mandates.

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References
Bertrand, M. (1995). The UN as an Organization: A Critique of its Functioning. European
Journal of International Law, 349-359.
Burke, J. (2012, November 12). UN report damns failings during Sri Lankan civil war
climax. Retrieved March 14, 2015, from The Guardian:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/14/report-damns-un-sri-lanka
Fasulo, L. (2004). An Insider's Guide to the United Nations . New Haven: Yale University
Press.
Higgins, R. (1995). Peace and Security Achievements and Failures. European Journal of
International Law, 445-460.
Luck, E. C. (2003). Reforming the United Nations: Lessons from a History in Progress.
Waterloo: Academic Council on the United Nations System.
Lynch, C. M. (2014, March 17). Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved March 17, 2015,
from United Nations (UN) :
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/616264/United-Nations-UN
Machel, G. (1996). PROMOTION AND PROTECTION OF THE RIGHTS OF
CHILDREN. New York: United Nations.
McMahon, R. (Ed.). (2006, May 11). The Impact of the UN Oil-for-Food Scandal.
Retrieved March 14, 2015, from Council on Foreign Relations:
http://www.cfr.org/international-organizations-and-alliances/impact-un-oil--foodscandal/p10675
Otterman, S. (2005, October 28). IRAQ: Oil for Food Scandal. Retrieved March 14,
2015, from Council on Foreign Relations: http://www.cfr.org/iraq/iraq-oil-foodscandal/p7631
Patrick, S. M. (2011, August 16). Remembering the Atlantic Charter. Retrieved March
19, 2015, from Council on Foreign Relations:
http://blogs.cfr.org/patrick/2011/08/16/remembering-the-atlantic-charter/
Paul, J. A. (1995, February). Veto Analysis. Retrieved March 15, 2015, from Global
Policy Forum : https://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/185general/41128-veto-analysis.html
Perry, M., Davis, D. F., Harris, J. G., Von Laue, T. H., & Warren Jr., D. (1989). A History
of the World. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Price, R. M., & Zachner, M. W. (Eds.). (2004). The United Nations and Global Security.
New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
The Economist. (2008, March 13). The UN's oil-for-food scandal: Rolling up the culprits.
Retrieved 14 March, 2015, from The Economist:
http://www.economist.com/node/10853611
United Nations. (2009). How the UN Works. Retrieved March 17, 2015, from The United
Nations: http://www.un.org/Overview/uninbrief/about.shtml
United Nations. (2015). Main Organs. Retrieved March 17, 2015, from The United
Nations: http://www.un.org/en/sections/about-un/main-organs/index.html
United Nations Security Council. (2015). About. Retrieved February 28, 2015, from
United Nations Security Council: http://www.un.org/en/sc/about/

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