Understanding the UNO Effectiveness

Published:  12:47 AM, 09 September 2018 Last Update: 12:50 AM, 09 September 2018

What awaits Rohingya crisis solution?


It has been one year but the Rohingya crisis solution is uncertain. The year has been full of promises and hopes but no significant progresses. Myanmar government has been delaying to implement promises, concocting new conditions, ridiculously blaming Bangladesh etc. 

but has not taken any concrete step towards solving the crisis. When the United Nations Organization (UNO) took attempt to put pressure on Myanmar government, Russia and China vetoed it resulting stalemate. Thus pops up the question of UNO effectiveness to solve the crisis.

Is UNO an effective institution? In the post-WWII era, states came together to establish a common international organization to maintain collective international peace and security, protect international law, protect and promote human rights worldwide, to deal with fundamental threats to international security, and to stop breaking out of any major conflict (Dunne, 2007; Hanhimäki, 2008). 

However, its effectiveness has been a matter of moot. The realist tradition argues it to be an ineffective institution while the liberalist tradition optimistically assesses the UNO to be effective.  

The liberal school believes that international security and order can develop from international organization. According to Immanuel Kant, "Well-functioning international organizations contribute to the formation of peace" (Kantian project in IR, 2004). 

Almost all of the states have thus become its members. UNO has successfully adopted the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, tremendously improved health around the world (e.g., fighting AIDS, eradication of smallpox, improving maternal and child health etc.), meaningfully addressed climate change, environmental concerns and implementation of humanitarian rights around the world irrespective of race, sex, language or religion etc. 

In the post-Cold War era, the UNO became more involved in maintaining international security by mediation between nations and resisting aggression between states. The success of UN peacekeeping missions around the world are well known and praised throughout the world as it succeeded in Africa, Central America, Middle East, Southeast Asia etc. 

The realist tradition, on the other hand, pessimistically views UNO to be ineffective. They argue that the nation states are dominant actors in world stage and international institutions can neither prevent perpetual power struggle between states nor change the anarchical structure of international system (Rittberger, 2006). 

The organization of the Security Council reflects power politics: Russia, China, the United States, Great Britain and France, the permanent members take decisions based on their self-interest. Empowered with veto powers they can block almost any decision making the UN ineffective. Russia and China's veto blocked robust UN intervention to stop the massacres in Syria resulting Syrian crisis (The Economist, 2012). 

The realists further add, "International organizations are used by powerful states to implement their power politics more effectively and to pursue their self-interest" (Rittberger, 2006). Thus, UNO's response has become 'selective'; it intervened in Bosnia, Somalia, Northern Iraq, Libya etc. 

but did not intervene in Sudan, Columbia, Syria, Myanmar etc. Moreover, UNO failed to stop mass-killings in Somalia (1992-1995), Rwanda (1994), Bosnia (1995), Sudan (2003-2006), Sri Lanka (1983-2009) etc., but succeeded in the cases of Korea (1950-1953), Kuwait (1990) etc. 

While from above arguments, both realist and liberalist traditions seem authentic, from below, the effectiveness of the UNO can be seen from a case-specific perspective: in certain case or issue whether the UNO is successful or unsuccessful, whether realist power politics played dominant role over liberalist thought or the liberalist principals triumph over realist logic.

So, what awaits the solution to the Rohingya crisis? As the UN general assembly has urged Myanmar to ensure the return of all refugees and grant full citizenship rights to the Rohingya, it rejected the resolution (Mizzima, December 8, 2017). 

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation forwarded the resolution which received a vote of 122 to 10 with 24 abstentions. 10 countries led by Russia and China vetoed the resolution which blocked UNO's initiative (The Guardian, December 24, 2017). 

The resolution adopted by the UN Human Rights Council, a 47-member body, on Myanmar received vote of 35 to 5 (led by China) with 10 abstentions (FORUM-ASIA, 23 March 2018). The initiative of the Security Council to discuss the issue has also been stalled due to opposition of the Russia and China. 

The realist logic so far has triumph over the liberalist logic. Russia and China have stalled the solution to the Rohingya crisis. When core superpower interest is at stake it makes sense when UNO is stalled, some would argue that is better than outbreak of superpower (or super power-backed) war, but is there any such situation when life of millions of Rohingya people is at stake? The UNO must ask the states who are blocking Rohingya crisis solution to come up with credible explanations. 

The world needs to know why they are supporting Myanmar government which committed torture, rape, massacres resulting in mass deportations of Rohingya population and why the government, especially the key officers, the top suspects of the atrocities, won't be tried and/or held accountable. 

As Myanmar has been strictly adamant and has been denying and delaying everything related to Rohingya crisis solution, Russia and China are the keys to the solution to this problem, be it convincing Myanmar or forcing Myanmar. However, even though forcing may bring short-term solution, but for long-term and lasting solution, it will require more. 

UNO has been the most successful international organization in the world's history and created the most accepted common platform for the leaders of the world for dialogues between and among the states of the world. The leaders must discuss and take initiative to undertake appropriate steps for targeted-trial and punishment who are involved with the crime against Rohingya people and for solving the crisis. 

While international community as well as many South East Asian countries supports the solution, it is blatant truth that if Russia and China don't come forward with genuine intent to solve the crisis and keep backing up Myanmar there won't be any progress let alone solution. Additionally, India's role is also vital to the solution. 

There may be clash of interests but a balance of interests needs to be drawn and some kind of working solution is needed for the sake of humanity. After one year, the Rohingya people are no longer the only sufferers; the people of Bangladesh are also suffering which will worsen with further procrastination of Myanmar. 

So, whatever the way or mechanism is, the UNO shouldn't let Myanmar to kill any more time. The UNO must take immediate steps and succeed to resolve the Rohingya crisis for good.


The writer is Senior Officer, International Programs and Relations, Independent University, Bangladesh. Email: sarwar.minar@gmail.com

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