Amidst one of the most violent period of years witnessed in the Middle East we are again reminded of the general ineffectiveness and impotency of the United Nations. While the world sits as silent spectators to the mass destruction of lives, many belonging to children and innocents, the necessity for a functional and result-producing UN is illuminated brighter. The purpose of a United Nations seems good – a committee of nations formed to observe and govern international affairs outside of the realm of the countries actually involved. In a situation where resolution from the inside seems unlikely, such as the Israeli Palestinian conflict, the benefit of having this sort of third-party authority is clear.
The issue appears when the United Nations is put to the task of dealing with real, substantial problems in the world. Acknowledgement of crises and violations of International Law is good, but the world needs a UN that can realistically serve and enforce these standards in real-world situations.
In this article, author Geoffrey Robertson offers eight primary insights to the reasons behind the ineffectiveness of the UN Human Right’s Committee. Many seem minor issues – meetings not frequent enough, no fact-finding capacity, work goes unreported, things that could plausibly be changed easily. What came across as the largest and most significant issue Robertson cites is that there is absolutely no enforcement power available to the UN Human Rights Committee. This came as a large surprise to me, what is the point of holding meetings, organizing rights, and mandating an international law if there is no body to enforce it? It quickly became much more clear to me why many nations will openly defy UN law – because they are often without real consequence of doing so.
Learning this shocked me greatly, and was totally different than what I had imagined the United Nations’ to be capable of. Though this seems clearly ineffectual to me, I am not sure what change would be the best for the world. If the UN should have some military presence, where will it come from? What if Nations defy the UN, should there be consequences further than just being removed from the committee? These questions begin to obscure what I had believed the UN should be and where their power should come from, but, what do you think? I wonder if others were as surprised as I was to learn of this incapability, or if others have suggestions for change that I had not considered.