United Nations Organization Day

Success and failures


24 October is the United Nations Organization (UNO) Day. This day has been observed since the establishment of the UNO in 1945. It is the largest organization in the world. At present, it has 193 member states. Before the creation of the UNO, 

there existed an     inter­na­tional association of countries to maintain peace and security among the nations in the world. This international association was known as the League of Nations  which was created in January 1920. However, before the creation of this League of Nations, the World War I broke out in 1914 and it continued until November 1918. The global leaders  being apprehensive of and worried about   the massive havoc, destruction, and damages of life and property in the World War I, sat together, talked together, took unanimous decision and founded the League of Nations in order that no  further war or peace breaching activities could occur  to cause such devastation on the globe in future.  However, the League of Nations subsequently failed dismally and miserably to keep world peace and prevent the outbreak of the World War II (1939-1945). For the failures and lack of successes, the global leaders agreed to dissolve the League of Nations and in its place, they unanimously created this UNO which has been struggling and striving to restore and secure the peace and tranquility among its member states.  

However, regarding the UN membership of Bangladesh, it may be recalled that after a few years of the independence of Bangladesh, it became the 136th member state to the UN in September 1974 and since then Bangladesh like other member states to the UNO, has been observing the day with due fervor and solemnity. Bangladesh like previous years observed the day this year too. On this day, different organizations held discussions, rallies and meetings highlighting the importance of the day. Radios and televisions put up and broadcast special programs on the significance of the day. Print media also focused and spotlighted the gravity and weight of the day.

The main purposes, principles and goals of the UNO:  The initial charter lists four purposes and seven principles of the United Nations. The first purpose is to maintain and preserve international peace and security. The second purpose is to encourage nations to be just in their actions towards each other. The third purpose is to help nations cooperate in trying to solve their problems. The fourth purpose is to serve as an agency through which nations can work towards the goals. 

The first principle of the United Nations is that all members have equal rights. Second principle is that all members are expected to carry out their duties under the charter. Third principle is that they agree to principle of setting their disputes peacefully. The forth principle is that they agree not to use force or the threat of force against other nations, except in self-defense. Fifth, members agree to help the UN in every action it takes to carry our purposes of the charter. Sixth, the UNO agrees to act on the principle that nonmember states have the same duties as the member states to preserve world peace and security. And the seventh, the UN accepts the principle of not interfering in the actions of a member nation within its own borders. But these actions must not hurt other nations.  

Organs and some agencies of UNO: The UNO has six major organs to carry on the work of the organization. The organs are: 1.General Assembly, (2) Security Council, (3) Secretariat, (4) Economic and Social Council, (5) International Court of Justice, and (6) Trusteeship Council. Various specialized agencies related to the UN deal with particular problems such as communications, quality  education, food and agriculture, health and labor,  elimination of  poverty, zero hunger, good health and  well being, gender equality, affordable and clean energy, decent work and economic growth industry,  reduced   inequalities, climate action, peace and  justice, infrastructures etc.  The headquarters of the UN is in New York City. The flags of all the member nations fly in front of the United Nations headquarters. 

Official languages: The 193 member nations represent populations around the world that speak hundreds of different languages. However, the U.N. has only six official languages. They are Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. These languages represent the five languages of the original member nations.

Successes and failures of the UNO: In achieving goals and purposes, the UNO has both successes and failures. Some of the successes and failures in war, peace and humanitarian grounds are as follows: 

Some Successes of the UNO: 

Indonesia and the Netherlands dispute: Indonesia had been a Dutch colony before the World War II. The Dutch after the World War II, wanted to regain its control over Indonesia. But Indonesia demanded its independence. As a result, fighting started in 1947 between the Republic of Indonesia and the Netherlands. However, the Security Council of the UNO managed both sides to sign ceasefire. Later, the ceasefire broke, and again fighting broke out. This time also UNO could bring both the parties at the same table and had a negotiation in which the UNO could persuade the Netherlands to agree to the independence of Indonesia. This was a historic success of the UNO. 

India Pakistan war over Kashmir: The two nations had gone to war in 1947 over the region of Kashmir which both claimed. Then the Security Council sent a commission in January in 1948 to try to settle the war. After a year of effort by the UN commission, India and Pakistan agreed to let the people of Kashmir vote on the question, and the two sides approved a ceasefire line in July in 1949. However, again in 1965 war broke out between India and Pakistan over the same issue of Kashmir. This time also the UNO could finally arrange a ceasefire on September 20, 1965. However, the dispute could not be solved permanently. Here, we also find the considerable success of the UNO.

The Iran-Iraq War: In 1980, war broke out between Iran and Iraq on the territorial disputes and other disagreements. The UNO passed several resolutions from 1982 to 1987 for ceasefire but Iran rejected. Finally, the Security Council in 1988 became successful to make Iran agree to sign ceasefire. This is also a success on the part of the UNO.

The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan:  Afghan military leaders in 1978 killed Muhammad Daoud Khan, the President and Prime Minister of Afghanistan and took control of the government  and established communist policies which were supported by the Soviet Union. Many people in Afghanistan opposed the new government vehemently. A number of groups called mujahedin (holy warriors) rebelled against the government. Then in 1979 and 1980, Soviet forces entered Afghanistan to help the Afghan government fight mujahidin. The UN passed resolutions to withdraw Soviet forces. More than 3 million Afghans fled to the neighboring Pakistan and Iran. In 1987, the UN created peace plan and in 1988 all parties reached agreement on the withdrawal of Soviet troops, and the withdrawal of Soviet forces was completed in 1989. Thus, UN could play its successful role.

Peaceful uses of outer space: The UN secretary-general in 1958 called on all nations to agree not to claim territory in outer space. The General Assembly declared in 1963, that outer space should be used to benefit to all people and that no nation could claim any of it. In 1967, over 90 countries signed a treaty reflecting these aims.

Peaceful uses of the seabed:  The member states of the UNO agreed that a large area of seabed should be used only for the benefit of all people. In this connection, the UN worked out a treaty barring the testing or use of nuclear weapons from the seabed beyond a 12 nautical-mile coastal zone. The treaty went into effect in 1972. In 1982, a UN conference approved a draft of a Law of the Sea Treaty which covered many uses of the ocean. The treaty will be effective when 60 nations ratify it. 

Supply and distribution of food: UNO supplied and distributed food to many people of different countries during serious food crisis and assuaged hunger and starvation of the hungry people and saved their life. Food problem is a serious problem in the world and when this problem arose, the World Food Program of UN came forward to address the problem. Thus, UN achieved success in food supply and distribution to hungry people.

Peacekeeping Programs: Earlier UN conducted many peacekeeping missions in order to restore and promote peace in many belligerent countries. Besides, currently UN has at least 16 active peacekeeping missions in different countries like Syria, Kosovo to maintain peace and security.

Protecting children:  UN has special agency to take care of and protect children all over the world. In addition, the agency work to promote and enhance the wellbeing of the children. This agency work to ensure the rights of the children.

Aid to refugees: Refugees are helpless people in the world. Some refugees do not have their hearth and home. They are stateless while others are forcibly driven out from a country by the oppressive government and they have recourse to any other country or state. They live a substandard life. In such a situation, the UN comes up with food, medicine, drinking water, clothes, and other humanitarian assistances for the refugees to save them. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has helped more than 17 million asylum seekers and refugees. This is undoubtedly humanitarian successes.


To be continued


The writer is a former Joint Secretary to the People’s Republic of Bangladesh and regular contributor to Bangladesh Post