Emerging World Order in the Post Cold War Era
• The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s has had a dual impact on international relations.
• On the one hand, the Soviet military withdrawal from Eastern Europe and the Third World brought an end to the Cold War, allowed democratization to proceed in many states previously ruled by Marxist dictatorships, and led to significant progress in resolving several Third World conflicts that had become prolonged during the Cold War.
• The reduction in East-West tension also resulted in a great decrease in inter-state conflicts, some of which occurred due to the superpower ideological rivalry during the Cold War.
• On the other hand, however, it would be rather unwise to argue that the world is now at peace. The collapse of the “Soviet Empire” was followed by the emergence, or re- emergence, of many serious conflicts in several areas that had been relatively quiescent during the Cold War.
• Some of these new conflicts have been taking place within the former Soviet Union, such as the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno- Karabakh, and the fighting in Chechnya.
• But some conflicts also erupted or intensified in several countries outside of it and many Third World conflicts in which the superpowers were not deeply involved during the Cold War have persisted after it, like the secessionist movements in Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Sudan.
• Ethnopolitical conflicts aside, there have been other threats to international order that are, indeed, beyond the full control of major powers, even the United States, the victor of the Cold War. The most notable ones include religious militancy, terrorism, North-South conflict, and severe competition over scarce resources.
• Thus, the end of the Cold War can be said to have brought about both stability and instability to international relations.
The International System after the Cold War
• With the collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe and disintegration of the Soviet Union, the bipolar international system dominating the Cold War period disappeared, leaving its place to basically a unipolar system under the leadership of the United States, speaking especially from a military/political point of view.
• Other countries have turned to American military protection. The American influence in the Persian Gulf, Iraq, and the Middle East has increased, in general, where the armed forces of the United States have established a semi-permanent foothold and thousands of soldiers deployed at bases keep a watch on Iran, Syria, and other “potential enemies.”
• From an economic/political point of view, on the other hand, the international system can be said to be multipolar, rather than unipolar. The United States certainly a great economic power, but it is not the only power. There are other power centers, most notably, the European Union, the Organization of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, as well as many nation-states outside of these integrations or organizations.
Basic Trends in International Relations
• Another feature of the post-Cold War era is that since the West has become the victor of the East-West ideological rivalry, Western systems and Western influences, in general, started to dominate the whole world.
• The region of Caucasus was formerly under the Russian sphere of influence. But the United States managed to enter this energy-rich region with some new allies, used to be the part of the Soviet Union, such as Azerbaijan, Ukraine, and Georgia. Although Russia certainly did not want the United States presence in the region, its ability to prevent it has remained limited.
• Likewise, NATO expanded to involve Eastern Europe, a region also used to be under Soviet influence.
• In the same way, the European Union expanded towards Eastern Europe.
• Although the ending of the Cold War clearly increased the willingness of governments to work through the United Nations and other international channels to resolve conflicts and keep peace around the globe, several new threats have emerged in the post-Cold War era that are, indeed, beyond the full control of nation-states, even major powers.
• One of the greatest threats, in this regard, is the prevalence of intra-national conflicts, conflicts occurring within the borders of states. These are mostly ethnically-driven conflicts over self-determination, succession or political dominance.
• Despite contrary expectations, however, a fresh cycle of ethnopolitical movements have re-emerged recently in Eastern Europe (including the Balkans), Central Asia, Africa, and many other parts of the world.
• The post-Cold War period also witnessed the resurgence of North-South economic antagonism. Such confrontation is not new. It has occurred before in international arena. But in accordance with the decline of ideological clashes, it has begun to occupy a more significant agenda in international affairs.
• The new international system in the post-Cold War period has been marked by a seeming contradiction: on the one hand, fragmentation; on the other, growing globalization. This trend will likely to be holding.
• Among major powers, the United States will continue to be the greatest hegemonic power in the short run, but its military and economic power will gradually decline. In the long run, some growing states or integrations will likely to get close to the United States’ power.
• Hence, the international system will possibly gain a multipolar character in the future, though it may take some decades to reach that point. International relations have become truly global in the post-Cold War world.
• Communications are instantaneous, and the world economy operates on all continents simultaneously. A whole set of issues has surfaced that can only be dealt with on a worldwide basis, such as nuclear proliferation, the environment, the population explosion, and economic interdependence.
• In conjunction with increasing international cooperation, inter-state wars have declined and “low politics” gained greater importance in international affairs. The years to come, however, are likely to witness severe competition of major powers on natural resources, particularly, energy resources.
• In this regard, disputes about unfair trade practices and worries about dependence on externally concentrated or monopolistic sources of goods, services and technologies will remain to be addressed.
• But the prospects for collective rules and regulations, rather than unilateral accusations and restrictions, will seem to be improved.
• With the spread of global market economy and rapid expansion of foreign investments, developing countries, though they are cautious about foreign investments, are likely to be doing better in the future.
• But structurally-rooted North-South inequalities will seem to remain as a potential source of international conflict.
• The North-South conflict aside, the post-Cold War world faces several other threats, most notably, ethnically-driven conflicts, religious militancy and terrorism, supported by some revisionist powers.
• These are particularly challenging threats as they are beyond the full control of nation-states, calling for international cooperation if they are to be effectively dealt with.
• Thus, the future of the world will depend on whether major powers, in particular, and the international community, in general, are able to show the will to cooperate on these serious problems.
USA’s hegemony and its resistance
• During the years of the Cold War (1945-91) power was divided between the two groups of countries, and the US and the Soviet Union represented the two ‘camps’ or centres of power in international politics during that period.
The collapse of the Soviet Union left the world with only a single power, the United States of America. Sometimes, the international system dominated by a sole superpower, or hyper-power, is called a ‘unipolar’ system.
This appears to be a misapplication of the idea of ‘pole’ derived from physics. It may be more appropriate to describe an international system with only one centre of power by the term ‘hegemony‘.
• The sudden collapse of the Soviet Union took everyone by surprise. While one of the two superpowers ceased to exist, the other remained with all its powers intact, even enhanced. Thus, it would appear that the US hegemony began in 1991 after Soviet power disappeared from the international scene.
• In August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait, rapidly occupying and subsequently annexing it. After a series of diplomatic attempts failed at convincing Iraq to quit its aggression, the United Nations mandated the liberation of Kuwait by force. For the UN, this was a dramatic decision after years of deadlock during the Cold War. The US President George H.W. Bush hailed the emergence of a ‘new world order’.
• A massive coalition force of 660,000 troops from 34 countries fought against Iraq and defeated it in what came to be known as the First Gulf War.
However, the UN operation, which was called ‘Operation Desert Storm‘, was overwhelmingly American. An American general, Norman Schwarzkopf, led the UN coalition and nearly 75 per cent of the coalition forces were from the US.
Although the Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein, had promised “the mother of all battles”, the Iraqi forces were quickly defeated and forced to withdraw from Kuwait.
• The First Gulf War revealed the vast technological gap that had opened up between the US military capability and that of other states. The highly publicised use of so-called ‘smart bombs’ by the US led some observers to call this a ‘computer war’. Widespread television coverage also made it a ‘video game war’, with viewers around the world watching the destruction of Iraqi forces live on TV in the comfort of their living rooms.
• Despite winning the First Gulf War, George H.W. Bush lost the US presidential elections of 1992 to William Jefferson (Bill) Clinton of the Democratic Party, who had campaigned on domestic rather than foreign policy issues. Bill Clinton won again in 1996 and thus remained the president of the US for eight years.
• The US on occasion did show its readiness to use military power even during the Clinton years. The most important episode occurred in 1999, in response to Yugoslavian actions against the predominantly Albanian population in the province of Kosovo. The air forces of the NATO countries, led by the US, bombarded targets around Yugoslavia for well over two months, forcing the downfall of the government of Slobodan Milosevic and the stationing of a NATO force in Kosovo.
• Another significant US military action during the Clinton years was in response to the bombing of the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar-es- Salaam, Tanzania in 1998. These bombings were attributed to Al-Qaeda, a terrorist organisation strongly influenced by extremist Islamist ideas. Within a few days of this bombing, President Clinton ordered Operation Infinite Reach, a series of cruise missile strikes on Al-Qaeda terrorist targets in Sudan and Afghanistan. The US did not bother about the UN sanction or provisions of international law in this regard. It was alleged that some of the targets were civilian facilities unconnected to terrorism. In retrospect, this was merely the beginning.
• On 11 September 2001, nineteen hijackers hailing from a number of Arab countries took control of four American commercial aircraft shortly after takeoff and flew them into important buildings in the US. One airliner each crashed into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Centre in New York. A third aircraft crashed into the Pentagon building in Arlington, Virginia, where the US Defence Department is headquartered. The fourth aircraft, presumably bound for the Capitol building of the US Congress, came down in a field in Pennsylvania. The attacks have come to be known as “9/11”.
• The attacks killed nearly three thousand persons. In terms of their shocking effect on Americans, they have been compared to the British burning of Washington, DC in 1814 and the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour in 1941. However, in terms of loss of life, 9/11 was the most severe attack on US soil since the founding of the country in 1776.
• The US response to 9/11 was swift and ferocious. Clinton had been succeeded in the US presidency by George W. Bush. Unlike Clinton, Bush had a much harder view of US interests and of the means by which to advance them. As a part of its ‘Global War on Terror’, the US launched ‘Operation Enduring Freedom’ against all those suspected to be behind this attack, mainly Al-Qaeda and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The Taliban regime was easily overthrown, but remnants of the Taliban and Al- Qaeda have remained potent, as is clear from the number of terrorist attacks launched by them against Western targets since.
• The US forces made arrests all over the world, often without the knowledge of the government of the persons being arrested, transported these persons across countries and detained them in secret prisons. Some of them were brought to Guantanamo Bay, a US Naval base in Cuba, where the prisoners did not enjoy the protection of international law or the law of their own country or that of the US. Even the UN representatives were not allowed to meet these prisoners.
• On 19 March 2003, the US launched its invasion of Iraq under the codename ‘Operation Iraqi Freedom’. More than forty other countries joined in the US-led ‘coalition of the willing’ after the UN refused to give its mandate to the invasion. The ostensible purpose of the invasion was to prevent Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Since no evidence of WMD has been unearthed in Iraq, it is speculated that the invasion was motivated by other objectives, such as controlling Iraqi oilfields and installing a regime friendly to the US.
• Although the government of Saddam Hussein fell swiftly, the US has not been able to ‘pacify’ Iraq. Instead, a full-fledged insurgency against US occupation was ignited in Iraq. While the US has lost over 3,000 military personnel in the war, Iraqi casualties are very much higher. It is now widely recognised that the US invasion of Iraq was, in some crucial respects, both a military and political failure.
Resistance to hegemony
• History tells us that empires decline because they decay from within. Similarly, the biggest constraints to American hegemony lie within the heart of hegemony itself. We can identify three constraints on American power. None of these constraints seemed to operate in the years following 9/11. However, it now appears that all three of these constraints are slowly beginning to operate again.
• The first constraint is the institutional architecture of the American state itself. A system of division of powers between the three branches of government, places significant brakes upon the unrestrained and immoderate exercise of America’s military power by the executive branch.
• It is commonly said that the world is entering a multipolar phase in global governance with the “rise of the South” or the increasing powers of emerging economies China, India, Brazil, Russia and South Africa (from hereon, the BRICS) and the strengthening of their relations as seen in the succeeding BRICS Summit since 2011.
• Many believe too that with the economic stagnation in the Eurozone and the US, BRICS countries are gaining more wealth, expertise, consumption power and the political clout to influence and re-arrange the global system to their advantage.
• The lingering economic crisis in the US is also seen as a signal of the beginning of the end of US hegemony and that among the new powers, many think that China is the most likely challenger to US dominance.
UNITED NATIONS ORGANISATION
• The United Nations (UN) is an international organization founded in 1945. It is currently made up of 193 Member States.
• Its mission and work guided by the purposes and principles contained in its founding Charter and implemented by its various organs and specialised agencies.
• Its activities include maintaining international peace and security, protecting human rights, delivering humanitarian aid, promoting sustainable development and upholding international law.
History of UN Foundation
• The forerunner of the United Nations was the League of Nations, an organization conceived in circumstances of the First World War, and established in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles “to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security.”
• The International Labour Organization (ILO) was also created in 1919 under the Treaty of Versailles as an affiliated agency of the League.
United Nations Conference on International Organization (1945)
• Conference held in San Francisco (USA), was attended by representatives of 50 countries and signed the United Nations Charter.
• The UN Charter of 1945 is the foundational treaty of the United Nations, as an inter-governmental organization.
• The main organs of the UN are
o the General Assembly
o the Security Council
o the Economic and Social Council
o the Trusteeship Council
o the International Court of Justice
o the UN Secretariat
• All the 6 were established in 1945 when the UN was founded.
1. General Assembly
• The General Assembly is the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the UN.
• All 193 Member States of the UN are represented in the General Assembly, making it the only UN body with universal representation.
• Each year, in September, the full UN membership meets in the General Assembly Hall in New York for the annual General Assembly session, and general debate, which many heads of state attend and address.
• Decisions on important questions, such as those on peace and security, admission of new members and budgetary matters, require a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly.
• Decisions on other questions are by simple majority.
• The President of the General Assembly is elected each year by assembly to serve a one-year term of office.
2. Security Council
• It has primary responsibility, under the UN Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security.
• The Security Council is made up of fifteen member states, consisting of five permanent members—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—and ten non-permanent members elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly on a regional basis.
• “Veto power” refers to the power of the permanent member to veto (Reject) any resolution of Security Council.
o The unconditional veto possessed by the five governments has been seen as the most undemocratic character of the UN.
3. Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
• It is the principal body for coordination, policy review, policy dialogue and recommendations on economic, social and environmental issues, as well as implementation of internationally agreed development goals.
• It has 54 Members, elected by the General Assembly for overlapping three-year terms.
• It is the United Nations’ central platform for reflection, debate, and innovative thinking on sustainable development.
• Each year, ECOSOC structures its work around an annual theme of global importance to sustainable development. This ensures focused attention, among ECOSOC’s array of partners, and throughout the UN development system.
• It coordinates the work of the 14 UN specialized agencies, ten functional commissions and five regional commissions, receives reports from nine UN funds and programmes and issues policy recommendations to the UN system and to Member States.
4. Trusteeship Council
• It was established in 1945 by the UN Charter, under Chapter XIII.
• Trust territory is a non-self-governing territory placed under an administrative authority by the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations.
• United Nations trust territories were the successors of the remaining League of Nations mandates, and came into being when the League of Nations ceased to exist in 1946.
• It had to provide international supervision for 11 Trust Territories that had been placed under the administration of seven Member States, and ensure that adequate steps were taken to prepare the Territories for self-government and independence.
• By 1994, all Trust Territories had attained self-government or independence. The Trusteeship Council suspended operation on 1 November 1994.
5. International Court of Justice (ICJ)
• The International Court of Justice is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations. It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.
• The ICJ is the successor of the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ), which was established by the League of Nations in 1920.
• The Secretariat comprises the Secretary-General and tens of thousands of international UN staff members who carry out the day-to-day work of the UN as mandated by the General Assembly and the Organization’s other principal organs.
• The Secretary-General is chief administrative officer of the Organization, appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council for a five-year, renewable term.
• UN staff members are recruited internationally and locally, and work in duty stations and on peacekeeping missions all around the world.
Funds and Programmes
• The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), originally known as the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, was created by the United Nations General Assembly in 1946, to provide emergency food and healthcare to children and mothers in countries that had been devastated by World War II.
• UNICEF relies on contributions from governments and private donors.
• Its headquarters are in New York, USA.
• The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, is the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.
• Its mission is to deliver a world where every pregnancy is wanted, ‘every childbirth is safe’ and every young person’s potential is fulfilled.
• The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the UN’s global development network.
• UNDP was established in 1965 by the General Assembly of the United Nations.
• It provides expert advice, training and grants support to developing countries, with increasing emphasis on assistance to the least developed countries.
• UNDP is central to the United Nations Sustainable Development Group (UNSDG), a network that spans 165 countries and unites the 40 UN funds, programmes, specialized agencies and other bodies working to advance the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
• The United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment) is a global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system.
• It was founded by UN General Assembly as a result of the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment (Stockholm Conference) in June 1972.
• Since its founding, the UNEP has played a key role for the development of multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs).
• The secretariats for the following nine MEAs are currently hosted by UNEP:
o Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
o Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
o Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS)
o Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer
o Minamata Convention on Mercury
o Basel Convention on the Control of Trans-boundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal
o Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
o Rotterdam Convention on the Prior Informed Consent Procedure for Certain Hazardous Chemicals and Pesticides in International Trade.
• United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future.
• Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all.
• It was established in 1978 as an outcome of the First UN Conference on Human Settlements and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat I) in Vancouver, Canada, in 1976.
• 3rd United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III) was held in 2016 in Quito, Ecuador. It elaborated on Goal-11 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG): “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.
• World Food Programme (WFP) is the leading humanitarian organization saving lives and changing lives, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience.
• The WFP was established in 1963 by the FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organization) and the United Nations General Assembly.
UN Specialized Agencies
• The UN specialized agencies are autonomous organizations working with the United Nations. All were brought into relationship with the UN through negotiated agreements.
• Some existed even before the First World War. Some were associated with the League of Nations. Others were created almost simultaneously with the UN. Others were created by the UN to meet emerging needs.
• Food and Agriculture Organisation is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.
• It is headquartered in Rome, Italy.
• FAO is also a source of knowledge and information, and helps developing countries in transition modernize and improve agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices, ensuring good nutrition and food security for all.
• The International Labour Organization (ILO) is a United Nations agency whose mandate is to advance social justice and promote decent work by setting international labour standards.
• It sets international labour standards, promotes rights at work and encourages decent employment opportunities, the enhancement of social protection and the strengthening of dialogue on work-related issues.
• As an agency of the League of Nations, it was created in 1919, as part of the Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I.
• The Organization won the Nobel Peace Prize on its 50th anniversary in 1969 for pursuing decent work and justice for workers.
• UN Monetary and Financial Conference (1944, also called Bretton Woods Conference), Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, United States was held to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the conclusion of World War II.
• It resulted in foundation of International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 1945.
• UN Monetary and Financial Conference (1944, also called Bretton Woods Conference), was held to regulate the international monetary and financial order after the conclusion of World War II.
• It resulted in foundation of IBRD in 1945. IBRD is the founding institution of World Bank.
• The International Maritime Organization (IMO) – is the United Nations specialized agency with responsibility for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine and atmospheric pollution by ships.
• International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) that is responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies (ICT).
• It is the oldest among all the specialised agencies of UN. It was founded in 1865 and based in Geneva, Switzerland.
• It allocates global radio spectrum and satellite orbits, develop the technical standards that ensure networks and technologies seamlessly interconnect, and strive to improve access to ICTs to underserved communities worldwide.
• United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) was founded in 1945 to develop the “intellectual and moral solidarity of mankind” as a means of building lasting peace.
• It is headquartered in Paris (France).
• By promoting cultural heritage and the equal dignity of all cultures, UNESCO strengthens bonds among nations.
• The World Health Organization (WHO) is the United Nations’ specialized agency for health.
• It was established in 1948, and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
• It is an inter-governmental organization and works in collaboration with its Member States usually through the Ministries of Health.
• The World Health Organization (WHO) is responsible for providing leadership on global health matters, shaping the health research agenda, setting norms and standards, providing evidence-based policy options, providing technical support to countries, and monitoring and assessing health trends.
• The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was created in 1950, during the aftermath of the Second World War, to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes.
• In 1954, UNHCR won the Nobel Peace Prize for its ground-breaking work in Europe.
• The start of the 21st century has seen UNHCR help with major refugee crises in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
• It also uses its expertise to help many internally displaced by conflict and expanded its role in helping stateless people.
• United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) is the main economic and social development centre of the UN in the region, headquartered in Bangkok (Thailand) in 1947.
• It responds to the development needs and priorities of the region through its convening authority, economic and social analysis, normative standard-setting and technical assistance.
UN Contribution to World
Peace and Security
Maintaining Peace and Security: By sending peacekeeping and observer missions to the world’s trouble spots over the past six decades, the United Nations has been able to restore calm, allowing many countries to recover from conflict.
Preventing Nuclear Proliferation: For over five decades, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has served as the world’s nuclear inspector. IAEA experts work to verify that safeguarded nuclear material is used only for peaceful purposes. To date, the Agency has safeguards agreements with more than 180 States.
Supporting Disarmament: UN treaties are the legal backbone of disarmament efforts:
o the Chemical Weapons Convention-1997 has been ratified by 190 States
o the Mine-Ban Convention-1997 by 162
o the Arms Trade Treaty-2014 by 69.
Preventing genocide: The United Nations brought about the first-ever treaty to combat genocide—acts committed with the intent to destroy a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.
o The 1948 Genocide Convention has been ratified by 146 States, which commits to prevent and punish actions of genocide in war and in peacetime. The UN tribunals for Yugoslavia and Rwanda, as well as UN-supported courts in Cambodia, have put would-be genocide perpetrators on notice that such crimes would no longer be tolerated.
• Promoting Development: Since 2000, promoting living standards and human skills and potential throughout the world have been guided by the Millennium Development Goals.
• The UN Development Programme (UNDP) supports more than 4,800 projects to reduce poverty, promote good governance, address crises and preserve the environment.
• The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) works in more than 150 countries, primarily on child protection, immunization, girls’ education and emergency aid.
• The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) helps developing countries make the most of their trade opportunities.
• The World Bank provides developing countries with loans and grants, and has supported more than 12,000 projects in more than 170 countries since 1947.
• Alleviating Rural Poverty: The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) provides low-interest loans and grants to very poor rural people.
• Focusing on African Development: Africa continues to be a high priority for the United Nations. The continent receives 36 per cent of UN system expenditures for development, the largest share among the world’s regions. All UN agencies have special programmes to benefit Africa.
• Promoting Women’s Well-being: UN Women is the UN organization dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
• Fighting Hunger: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) leads global efforts to defeat hunger. FAO also helps developing countries to modernize and improve agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices in ways that conserve natural resources and improve nutrition.
• Commitment in Support of Children: UNICEF has pioneered to provide vaccines and other aid desperately needed by children caught in armed conflict. The Convention on the Rights of the Child-1989 has become law in nearly all countries.
• Tourism: The World Tourism Organization is the UN agency responsible for the promotion of responsible, sustainable and universally accessible tourism.
• Global Think Tank: The United Nations is at the forefront of research that seeks solutions to global problems.
• Preserving Historic, Cultural, Architectural and Natural Sites: The UNESCO has helped 137 countries to protect ancient monuments and historic, cultural and natural sites.
• It has negotiated international conventions to preserve cultural property, cultural diversity and outstanding cultural and natural sites. More than 1,000 such sites have been designated as having exceptional universal value – as World Heritage Sites.
Taking the lead on global issues:
• The first United Nations conference on the environment (Stockholm, 1972) helped to alert world public opinion on the dangers faced by our planet, triggering action by governments.
• The first world conference on women (Mexico City, 1985) put women’s right, equality and progress on the global agenda.
• Other landmark events include the first international conference on human rights (Teheran, 1968), the first world population conference (Bucharest, 1974) and the first world climate conference (Geneva, 1979).
• Those events brought together experts and policymakers, as well as activists, from around the world, prompting sustained global action. Regular follow-up conferences have helped to sustain the momentum.
• UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
• It has helped to enact dozens of legally binding agreements on political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights.
• UN human rights bodies have focused world attention on cases of torture, disappearance, arbitrary detention and other violations.
• Fostering Democracy: The UN promotes and strengthens democratic institutions and practices around the world, including by helping people in many countries to participate in free and fair elections.
• In the 1990s, the UN organized or observed landmark elections in Cambodia, El Salvador, South Africa, Mozambique and Timor-Leste.
• More recently, the UN has provided crucial assistance in elections in Afghanistan, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Nepal, Sierra Leone and Sudan.
• Ending Apartheid in South Africa: By imposing measures ranging from an arms embargo to a convention against segregated sporting events, the United Nations was a major factor in bringing about the downfall of the apartheid system.
• In 1994, elections in which all South Africans were allowed to participate on an equal basis led to the establishment of a multiracial Government.
• Promoting Women’s Rights: The 1979 UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, ratified by 189 countries, has helped to promote the rights of women worldwide.
• The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which brings together 2,000 leading climate change scientists, issues comprehensive scientific assessments every five or six years.
• UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) provides foundation for UN members to negotiate agreements to reduce emissions that contribute to climate change and help countries adapt to its effects.
• Global Environment Facility, which brings together 10 UN agencies, funds projects in developing countries.
• Protecting the Ozone Layer: The UNEP and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) have been instrumental in highlighting the damage caused to Earth’s ozone layer.
• Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer-1985 provided the framework necessary to create regulatory measures for international reductions in the production of chlorofluorocarbons. Convention provided foundation for Montreal protocol.
• The Montreal Protocol-1987 is an international environmental agreement with universal ratification to protect the earth’s ozone layer by eliminating use of ozone depleting substances (ODS) such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons.
• Kigali amendment (to the Montreal Protocol)-2016: was adopted to phase down production and consumption of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) worldwide.
• Prosecuting War Criminals: By prosecuting and convicting war criminals, the UN tribunals established for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda have helped to expand international humanitarian and international criminal law dealing with genocide and other violations of international law.
• The International Criminal Court is an independent permanent court that investigates and prosecutes persons accused of the most serious international crimes—genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes—if national authorities are unwilling or unable to do so.
Helping to Resolve Major International Disputes:
• By delivering judgments and advisory opinions, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) has helped to settle international disputes involving territorial questions, maritime boundaries, diplomatic relations, State responsibility, the treatment of aliens and the use of force, among others.
Combating International Crime:
• The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) works with countries and organizations to counter transnational organized crime by providing legal and technical assistance to fight corruption, money-laundering, drug trafficking and smuggling of migrants, as well as by strengthening criminal justice systems.
• It has played a key role in brokering and implementing relevant international Treaties, such as the UN Convention against Corruption-2005 and the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime-2003.
• It works to reduce the supply of and demand for illicit drugs under the three main UN conventions on drug control:
o Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs of 1961 (amended 1972),
o Convention on Psychotropic Substances-1971,
o the United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances-1988
• Assisting refugees: Refugees fleeing persecution, violence and war have received aid from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
• UNHCR seeks long-term or “durable” solutions by helping refugees repatriate to their homelands, if conditions warrant, or by helping them to integrate in their countries of asylum or to resettle in third countries.
• Refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced persons, mostly women and children, are receiving food, shelter, medical aid, education, and repatriation assistance from the UN.
• Aiding Palestinian Refugees: UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), a relief and human development agency, has assisted four generations of Palestinian refugees with education, health care, social services, microfinance and emergency aid.
• Reducing the Effects of Natural Disasters: The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) has helped to spare millions of people from the calamitous effects of natural and man-made disasters.
• Its early warning system, which includes thousands of surface monitors, as well as satellites, has made it possible to predict with greater accuracy weather-related disasters, has provided information on the dispersal of oil spills and chemical and nuclear leaks and has predicted long-term droughts.
• Providing Food to the Neediest: The World Food Programme (WFP) is fighting hunger worldwide, delivering food assistance in emergencies and working with communities to improve nutrition and build resilience.
• Promoting Reproductive and Maternal Health: United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) is promoting the right of individuals to make their own decisions on the number and spacing of their children through voluntary family planning programmes.
• Responding to HIV/AIDS: United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) coordinates global action against an epidemic that affects some 35 million people.
• Wiping Out Polio: Poliomyelitis has been eliminated from all but three countries—Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan—as a result of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative.
• Eradicating Smallpox: A 13-year effort by the World Health Organization (WHO) resulted in smallpox being declared officially eradicated from the planet in 1980