We, the Peoples of the United Nations vis-a-vis the Concept of National Interest

Forgotten Concept of ‘We, the Peoples of the United Nations’ vis-à-vis the Concept of National Interest

When the idea of formation of UN came to consideration after the failure of League of Nations, it was viewed as something very essential for international security, and achievement of world peace, by providing the heads a common platform to negotiate and solve their problems and to save the world from any further war. But vested interests made United Nations vastly different from the Organization that was sought to be in San Francisco conference more than 60 years ago. Ugly politics have undermined the Preamble - in fact, they have neglected the words and spirit of the UN Charter. Right from the formation of it, the organization structure was made partial .All the Member states were not adequately represented in it. The victors of the Second World War corrupted the UN Charter and even corrupted the work of the UN. Applying double-standards they made the organization primarily serve their best interests rather than serve its mandate as a result other member states realized it and shifted their interest to what Niccolò Machiavelli[1]  called as ‘National interest.’ In context of veto members, they were quite wise beforehand in this context as they were already pursuing it. And gradually multiple changes took place in the political map basically dealing with military strength. 

Even new economic realities since 1945, has highlighted United Nations (UN) to be confronted with a new political dynamic and balance of power. The growing thrust of nations today is only state’s survival only and working for its security. So, they started acquiring new and destructive weapons to save them from colonial dominations and for enjoying their sovereignty. If we consider the military expenditure of various countries, U.S.A expenditure being the superpower in the uni-polar world is the largest in the world i.e.  46.5%[2] . Obviously to counter the power of U.S.A all aspiring new powers of the world will do their best to enhance their resources for the sake of their national interest. Apart from it for the pursuance of more wealth and economic growth and power all the member states have lost the balance of ‘just’ and ‘unjust’. In the grab of attaining it they have forgotten the aims and objectives of United Nations. Thus, it can be remarked United Nations as of today is more of a deceptive name. Whenever it comes to the question of overlapping united national interest as well as national interest of member-state, the nation’s interests of the member-state supersede.

Objective of formation of UN

The great political leaders of the time after the failure of the League of Nations, including Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, convened to develop The Declaration of the United Nations on January 1, 1942. The Declaration was an accord between all nations fighting against the Axis Powers (Germany, Italy, and the Soviet Union), promising not to form any other entangling alliances and that once the war was won, a formal peacekeeping organization, to be called the United Nations, would be officially established to actively take measures that would prevent hostile relations between its member countries. [3] So, it can be well established that the objective of formation of UN was to discuss -"Is war legitimate? Is it illegitimate? Is there enough evidence to warrant an attack? Is there not enough evidence to warrant an attack? What will be the consequences? The costs? What will happen after a war? How will this set off other conflicts? What might be peaceful alternatives? What kind of negotiations are we not thinking of? What are the real intentions for declaring war?"[4]Although it has taken over 50 years of great effort to fulfill that purpose, what the U.N. has become in these last months is the principle forum for the world's effort to wage peace rather than war. Although these discussions did not prevent the United States from proceeding with war in Iraq, the United Nations succeeded in engaging the U.S. in conversation and giving other countries a place to voice their concerns. Thus the power in the U.N. lies in its ability to help the world’s voices coalesce into something much greater. The power of the U.N. lies in its ability to help the world “wage peace”.[5] In simple terms, it can be stated that un is important in the international system primarily as it serves to modify state behavior[6]and in this process Offering veto powers[7] to the most powerful states[8] helps incentivizes the participation of these powerful states, and this ensures the longevity of the UN and its objectives. [9] Secondly, the P5 held unrivaled strategic might through their possession of nuclear weapon technology or imminent nuclear capacity.[10]Article 2(1)[11] is thus in the beginning violated and a vague provision.


Acc to Lass well"Major actors in the world politics are the ones who complete to gain sufficient power to have say in determining what the issues of political power struggle and how the struggle will be played out"[12]

P5 – “With great powers come great responsibility and for vested interests misuse of power by the powerful is most likely”

The credibility of UN depends in large measures, on the effectiveness of its management, the quality of its staff and structure of its administration. Article 17[13], 18[14], 19[15] deals with the financial matters of UN. For peace- keeping operations, the 5 permanent members of the Security Council bears a special responsibility, which requires them to pick up premiums or surcharges absorbing discount granted to less developed countries with low capacity to pay. Such a responsibility arises from their privilege of being entitled to veto rights. [16] But as a consequence of it,the members of the Security Council, when occupying a permanent seat, can generally guarantee that the United Nations takes nοdecisions that are hostile to their national interests. Other members of the council, allowed their brief moment of ineffectual glory, are less fortunate, as are the 180-plus members of the UN General Assembly. There have been, of course, many suggestions for reform of voting protocols in the council and the assembly, but these are variously considered, ignοred, resurrected, reconsidered, modified and then abandoned[17].

Unipolar World

The bipolar structure that shaped the security relations b/w the major powers for half a century has collapsed. It became evident with the fall of Berlin wall, in December 1989.Unipolar world emerged and U.S.A became a super power[18]although at present it can be accepted as a view economies of other countries like china, India are emerging fast. But they can only be compared with the U.S.A if join hands with one another. U.S.A have strong command on United Nations mainly because of the fact of veto power[19] with it, the headquarters of UN situated in its territory[20],unipolar world, payer of largest share to UNO, unlimited power to U.S.A president [21] , due to globalization its cultural influence is seen all over etc. For Instance Hegemony of U.S.A can be determined from d fact that after 9/11  U.S,A responded with classic  military strength by bombing Afghanistan to dislodge  the Taliban govt.Then turned its attention to Iraq, which it alleged to have WMD and close ties  with Al-queada and launched attack on March,2003.[22]

National Interest ‘I’ violating ‘We, the Peoples of the United Nations’

National interest of a Country is given a far better place than the norms of U.N.O since its formation causing violation of “ We” and the main violator as of now is U.S.A.

The United States humiliates the United Nations in many ways—by violating international law when acting under a nominal UN mandate, by dictating who will be the secretary-general and hold other leading posts, by refusing to pay its dues on time, by unilaterally insistingοn a dues reassessment and by making it transparently obvious that the United Nations acts at the behest of Washington. Such violations cannot be considered in detail here but the following examples can be noted:[23]

The waging of a war against Ιraq that violated many elements of international law: for example, bombing of civilian targets and the use of weapons of mass destructiοn (i.e., fuel–air explosives, huge bombs which create massive fireballs incinerating everything within hundreds of yards).[25]. Despite the fact that a majority of United Nations members disagreed with their proposed course of action, the United States pursued their itinerary and declared war on Iraq. In the light of this and other recent events it can easily be argued the U.N. no longer has any power. Thus, the States withdrawing its resolution from the UN and moving on with the "disarming of Saddam Hussein" robs from the international community the chance to act in a strengthening fashion and maintain the "united" in "United Nations". Furthermore, the U.S. ignored the Security General's warning and proceeded to launch an attack on Iraq with the help of the "coalition of the willing". This statement clearly diminishes the UN's status because it sends out the message that a permanent member of the organization doubts the UN's peace keeping efforts. It is a poor example of international diplomacy because in case of future confrontations, other nations might be tempted to adopt this "direct invasion" method rather than wait for a complete and unbiased report completed by a trusted organization.[26]

The refusal to refer the US/North Korea nuclear dispute to the World Court, thus violating Article 17 of the Ιnternational Αtomic Εnergy Αgency Statute.[28]

[22]‘World Poliics in the 21st century (Houghton Mifflin Company, U.S.A 2009)46

[23]Supranote 18

[24] Id

[25] Id

[27] Supranote 25

[28] Id

[29] Id

[30] Id

[31] Id

[32] Id

[33] UN Charter

[34]“The national interest, often referred to by the French expression raison d'État (English: reason of the State), is a country's goals and ambitions whether economic, military, or cultural. The concept is an important one in international relations where pursuit of the national interest is the foundation of the realist school.” , National Interest ‘Available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National Interest

[35]“National security is recognized as the sum total of all the fundamental interests of a state. Under traditional thinking, national security was confined to relationship among states dealing with such issues as deterrence, balance of power and military strategy. Thus, all member –states are working very hard to acquire more and more military strength so that it act as deterrence and no country declare to act on it” ,‘ Avialable at  http://www.banglaemb-paris.org/plugins/p2_news/printarticle.php?p2_articleid=40’

[36]Realism in international relations theory ‘Available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Realism_in_international_relations_theory

[37]“Rank 1-10 Observations: The United States (GFP formula value of 0.184) remains the undisputed leader of our list thanks to their staying "active" in global hotspots, showcasing the world's largest navy and continuing to poor in gobs of money into defense. Our formula sees China edge out Russia but only by the slimmest of margins (0.238 versus 0.241 respectively) with an edge in available manpower and financial capital. France (0.636) and Germany (0.672) are relative equals for the most part but the GFP formula gives a slight edge to France thanks to an aircraft carrier and capable navy as well as a bump in defense spending. Brazil (0.756) is the most powerful South American country on the list thanks to available manpower and a capable navy. Japan (0.920) is a "sleeper" power that sneaks into the top ten with a good navy, strong logistical infrastructure and capital”/’Available at www.globalfirepower.com’

[38]UN at a Glance ‘available at http://www.un.org/en/aboutun/index.shtml

[39]UN Reform: Addressing the Reality of American Power/ Geoff Simons ‘Available at http://www.worlddialogue.org/content.php?id=474

[40] Supranote 32

[41]Chuck Hagel quotes/’Available at http://thinkexist.com/search/searchquotation.asp?search=un&page=3’

Priya Gupta, the author is a Student of VI SEM (B.A.LLB (Hons.)) School of legal Studies, G.N.D.U Regional Campus,  Jalandhar. She can be contacted at priya26gupta@yahoo.co.in.The paper is subject to copyright.


Priya Gupta 
on 11 January 2012
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