By Katie Jain
LONDON (The Guardian) - On October 24, 1945, representatives from over 50 nations came together in San Francisco to deliberate over proposals from China, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States, and ultimately create an organization that would “reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small.” However, this very meeting contradicted itself because, by creating an organization solely founded upon the principles of Western nations and China, without giving significant power to any developing nation, the UN did not take into account the equal rights of small nations.
Though it is presently composed of 193 countries, the only committee in the UN to be able to implement any of their policies is the UN Security Council, which is run by its five permanent members (P5): the US, UK, France, Russia, and China, who in addition have the right to veto any action suggested by another nation. Consequently, issues that do not matter to the P5, such as the Rwandan genocide, are cast aside, and conflicts that are not discarded are addressed mostly because they benefit larger nations.
The UN itself is devoted to the wishes of the nations that started it and the nations that run it, and as such has been used time and time again as a mere tool for Europe, the US, and China. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, when Belgium did not support the presidency of Patrice Lumumba in 1961 because he believed in empowering his nation and uniting Africa, Belgium ambassadors and the CIA tried to assassinate him. However, when he asked for aid from the UN, as an innocent nation leader being persecuted by foreign, more powerful nations, they denied him any help under orders from the US. Even now, in Yemen, according to the delegate from Morocco in the Arab League, “Western nations have indirectly impacted the refugees in Yemen by channeling their influence through other nations and exploiting them to progress their own endeavors in the region.”
Often times, in addition to using the UN, developed nations will enter their own armies into a nation as a form of “aid.” Qatar, from the Arab League, emphasized the problem and fear regarding this, noting:
Something we need to be concerned about is the rate at which Western powers have shown their willingness to intervene militarily in the Middle East, and we have a right to be concerned about being essentially defenseless against a Western Coalition, against Western interests because they don’t always align with what’s best for our countries.
This issue can be seen in numerous nations besides those in the Arab League as well. In Vietnam, the U.S. supported Ngo Dinh Diem of South Korea from 1954-1963, turning a blind eye to his human rights violations and crippling dictatorship for nine years, as having a non-communist leader benefited capitalist nations. Apparently, the Buddhists being oppressed were not their concern until protests started, provoking the global community. In Iran, the CIA and MI6 staged a military coup of Prime Minister Mossadegh in 1954 because he nationalized the oil industry, allowing Iran to profit from it more and weakening the U.S. and Britain’s grasp over the region. They replaced the popular Mossadegh with their own puppet leader, Mohammad Reza Shah, whom many credit as the cause of the 1979 revolution due to his totalitarian and overly-Westernized policies. Finally, the Delegate from Madagascar noted that his nation had faced this struggle as well when, “the Western powers reacted extremely negatively to this increase of solidarity within the island and proceeded to use their leverage in order to force nations to refuse to recognize the new authority in Madagascar.”
Additionally, the delegate from Sierra Leone in the African Union touched on the roots of this issue, referencing colonialism, imperialism, and the Scramble for Africa in the 1800s: “The West formed our nations to their liking, and we’re still suffering the consequences of that.” Though colonialism is considered a thing of the past, this economic and political exploitation is being used in the same way, and as such many have dubbed it “neocolonialism,” or new colonialism. “There’s almost, honestly, a Western arrogance,” said Morocco, “as they feel like they can just come into any country in the Middle East and just assert their dominance and impose their democratic and Western ideals. You can’t do that, and you need to look at the culture of a place you’re going into: historically, which governments have worked and which haven’t.”
Neocolonialism and economic imperialism have affected numerous committees in the UN this weekend. In the Arab League, addressing the refugees in Yemen, delegates worked to find a solution to the US supplying oil and weapons to Saudi Arabia and pitting Arab nations against one another.According to Qatar they do this “because they recognize that once we do have these discussions and are capable of living in entire micro economy, they will lose a lot of power.” The Delegation of the Syrian-Arab Republic added that everyone in the committee chose to, “gradually reduce the amount of influence Saudi Arabia has in the region,” in order to help each other. Furthermore, in DISEC, an issue regarding NGOs arose when it was discovered they, too, were being used for Western exploitation which is, as the Delegation of Turkey said, “absolutely ridiculous and shouldn’t be allowed.”
The UN encourages peace and equality, but has demonstrated a significant lack thereof. In some conferences, delegates are even required to wear “Western” business attire. Not African, not Middle-Eastern, not Asian, but Western. By trying to spread Western ideals and democracy into regions in which the people don’t want it or aren’t ready for it, this organization has even undermined its own purpose. It is time for the UN to change, to become the reliable source it was supposed to be, to begin serving all nations and not merely the richer, Western, imperial ones.