The Failing Global Governance

Author Name: Aneeqa Safdar      08 Oct 2019     Global view

Conflicts and wars are the utmost realities of this world. World War II marked the historic transformation of the world order with the establishment of the global governance body, tasked primarily to promote cooperation and prevent future generations from the scourge of war. The United Nations (hereinafter UN), emerged as a successor to the League of Nations, as the latter failed to live up to its promise to prevent conflagrations. However, slowly and gradually, it appears that the UN is also moving towards the same fate.

The United Nations, like all bureaucratic bodies, has effectively failed to adapt to the changing scenario. It has been subjected to ample criticism for its mismanagement, red-tapism and corruption. Nonetheless, it is the structure of the UN that is inherently flawed. The UN’s only democratic organ, the General Assembly, is severely limited in its power. On the contrary, the pentarchy of the enforcement wing - the United Nation Security Council (UNSC), is all too powerful. A single vote of the permanent five of UNSC is worthy to turn down a whole resolution despite fullest support from the rest of the global community. Moreover, the judicial wing, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), itself lacks jurisdiction. The UN has thus become a global embodiment of maladministration, injustice and vested interests.

Under the UN’s watch, the world may have been protected from an all-out global catastrophe, but it has fundamentally fallen short of its primary objective which was to maintain peace. The UN is about to complete 75 years of its operation. The United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) recently held its 74th session under the title ‘Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion.’ Nonetheless, a theme that prevailed substantively was political conflicts; a glimpse of the past indeed.

While the genocides of Rwanda, Srebrenica, Cambodia and Darfur that flagged the UN’s incapacity in the past and still haunts it; the conflicts of Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Sudan, Myanmar, Palestine and Kashmir continue to portray its inefficiency to date. The re-emergence of the Kashmir conflict, the oldest conflict on the UN’s agenda, in 2019, is the prolific example of the UN’s incapability to resolve conflicts. From its initial reference to the UN in 1948, seventy-two years have passed, but the issue continues to lurk in dismay. The Himalayan region has been the major bone of contention between the South Asian neighbours - India and Pakistan, since the partition of the subcontinent. Two regular wars and one high intensity conflict in the form of Kargil (which brought the two closest to the nuclear threshold), have also taken place only because of this dispute.

The Kashmir issue has been raised in the UNSC under the question of threat to international peace and stability multiple times and has secured eleven Security Council resolutions, but the conflict is nowhere near being resolved. There is an observation that the very fact of the possibility of veto keeps resolutions out of discussion in the UNSC. Kashmir has also met the same fate. Since the Russian vetoing of Kashmir Resolution in 1962, the issue has not gathered the support it once held. The scores of resolutions against the Israeli occupation of Palestine which get stopped by the use of veto power by Israel’s key ally, the United States, is another crucial example.

Owing to the fact that that the UN has significantly become a reactive rather than a proactive body, one wonders what kind of catastrophe the UN is waiting for, to wake up from its slumber and play its due role. The situation in Indian Occupied Kashmir (IOK) keeps aggravating whereas the UN has intentionally chosen to remain anchored. The place has become the epitome of oppression as the Hindu nationalist government of Modi has turned the region into the prime human cage marred by a communication blackout and unprecedented human rights violations. It is the most militarised zone in the world with over 900,000 law enforcement and military personnel deployed in an area inhabited by only twelve million people; an ominous flouting of the UN Charter in every sense of the word.

The preview of the misfortune that can take place, and for which the UN also appears to be waiting, was hinted by the Prime Minister of Pakistan, when he addressed the UNGA, in the wake of current Indian actions in IOK. Quoting his exact words, ‘When a nuclear-armed country fights to the end, it will have consequences far beyond borders, it will have consequences for the world’ - an indication of the approaching doom, different from World War 2 in its partaking but much worse in terms of impact. Even if we theorise that the world or ‘We the People, can survive the nuclear winter followed by a fully-fledged nuclear war, as they did the volcanic winter of Toba, one thing that would not be surviving is the United Nations.


The writer is a researcher at Centre for Aerospace and Security Studies (CASS). This article was first published in The Nation . She can be reached at

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