The history of the United Nations is that of a mixed grill of successes, hardships, and failures. It should be naturally expected that such a cosmopolitan and multilateral institution would face extreme adversity particularly with regard to socio-political and economic matters of global importance that the body has to examine periodically. It is even more difficult given the fact that in most situations, except at the Security Council, Member-nations must agree by consensus, going by the rules that are administered under the guidance of the bureaucrats headed by the UN Secretary-General. And its affairs must be conducted dispassionately. Then consider the diversity and its likely impact on running the organization. The UN conducts its debates in Arabic, English, French, Russian, Chinese and Spanish as its six official languages. Delegates speaking in any of these languages will have their words simultaneously interpreted into all of the others, and attendees are provided with headphones through which they can hear the interpretations.
SUPPORT OF HOST COMMUNITY: The UN in its early years enjoyed what may be called the unalloyed support of host President Franklin Delano Roosevelt who has been described as the architect of the world body, as well as his successor, President Harry S. Truman, the 33rd President of the United States described by Kofi Annan as the builder of the United Nations owing to the massive encouraging support the multilateral organization secured from the two presidents. FD Roosevelt made history as the first, and last, president to win more than two consecutive US presidential elections and was in office for four terms. His successor, President Harry S. Truman gave the United Nations the full support of the United States because he believed in the organization and its objectives. Some people have rated Truman as the most courageous president in U.S history. He popularized and fixed the phrase: ‘’The Buck Stops here’’ on his desk in the Oval Office. He is quoted as stating in his 1953 farewell address that: ”The President — whoever he is — has to decide. ”He can’t pass the buck to anybody. ‘’No one else can do the deciding for him. He is also on record as asserting that ‘’The President is always abused. ‘’If he isn’t, he isn’t doing anything’’ Truman’s enviable support for the UN’s objectives of solidarity and cooperation is reflected in one of his memorable quotes: ‘’You know that being an American is more than a matter of where your parents came from. ‘’It is a belief that all men are created free, and equal, and that everyone deserves an even break.’’ 1.
The United Nations represents the idea of universal morality, superior to the interests of individual nations: Truman witnessed the signing of the charter of the United Nations that was essentially established to preserve peace. In his address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on October 24, 1950, President Truman stated that: ‘’The organization that was brought into being on October 24, 1945, represents our greatest advance toward making that dream a reality. The United Nations was born out of the agony of war– the most terrible war in history. ‘’Those who drew up the charter really had less to do with the creation of the United Nations than the millions who fought and died in that war. We who work to carry out its great principles should always remember that this organization owes its existence to the blood and sacrifice of millions of men and women. It is built out of their hopes for peace and justice. ‘’The United Nations represents the idea of universal morality, superior to the interests of individual nations. Its foundation does not rest upon power or privilege; it rests upon faith. They rest upon the faith of men in human values–upon the belief that men in every land hold the same high ideals and strive toward the same goals for peace and justice.’’ 2.
PREAMBLE — WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED
- to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and
- to 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, and
- to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and
- to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,
AND FOR THESE ENDS
- to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, and
- to unite our strength to maintain international peace and security, and
- to ensure, by the acceptance of principles and the institution of methods, that armed force shall not be used, save in the common interest, and
- to employ international machinery for the promotion of the economic and social advancement of all peoples,
WE HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS – CHARTER … Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations. Intrinsic in the Charter is the articulation of ‘’commitment to uphold human rights of citizens and outlined a broad set of principles relating to achieving ‘higher standards of living’, addressing ‘economic, social, health, and related problems,’ and ‘universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all’’ 3.
THE TEST OF TIME: San Francisco (SFO) California hosted the event that attracted delegates from 50 nations that signed the United Nations Charter, establishing the world body as a means of ‘’saving succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” The Charter was ratified on October 24, and the first U.N. General Assembly met in London on January 10, 1946, with 51 nations in attendance. The global body has since grown phenomenally and has 193 member-nations. The fundamental nature of the key points guiding the operations of the UN system is clearly stated in the UN Charter. 75 years later, the United Nations has so far stood the test of time as the foremost agent of peace and international understanding. It is very hard to predict how the world would have looked like today without the UN.
EFFORTS OF THE FOUNDING FATHERS: It is easy to recall the melancholy that greeted the efforts of world leaders that worked very hard to put the UN in place to check further scourges of war and promote peace and international understanding. History.com records it that ‘’The idea of the United Nations began to be articulated in August 1941, when U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill signed the Atlantic Charter, which proposed a set of principles for international collaboration in maintaining peace and security. Later that year, Roosevelt coined “United Nations” to describe the nations allied against the Axis powers–Germany, Italy, and Japan. The term was first officially used on January 1, 1942, when representatives of 26 Allied nations met in Washington, D.C., and signed the Declaration by the United Nations, which endorsed the Atlantic Charter and presented the united war aims of the Allies.’’ Despite the failure of the League of Nations in arbitrating the conflicts that led up to World War 11, the Allies as early as 1941 proposed establishing a new international body to maintain peace in the postwar world. 4.
COMPROMISE A MAJOR ISSUE — A RECALL: Tracing the history of events and personalities that worked to evolve the ‘’peace formula,’’ the publication cited above states that: ‘’In October 1943, the major Allied powers–Great Britain, the United States, the USSR, and China–met in Moscow and issued the Moscow Declaration, which officially stated the need for an international organization to replace the League of Nations. That goal was reaffirmed at the Allied conference in Tehran in December 1943, and in August 1944 Great Britain, the United States, the USSR, and China met at the Dumbarton Oaks estate in Washington, D.C., to lay the groundwork for the United Nations. Over seven weeks, the delegates sketched out the form of the world body but often disagreed over issues of membership and voting. ‘’Compromise was reached by the “Big Three”–the United States, Britain, and the USSR–at the Yalta Conference in February 1945, and all countries that had adhered to the 1942 Declaration by the United Nations were invited to the United Nations founding conference. On April 25, 1945, the United Nations Conference on International Organization convened in San Francisco with 50 nations represented. Three months later, during which time Germany had surrendered, the final Charter of the United Nations was unanimously adopted by the delegates’’. The spirit of compromise upon which the body was founded still deserves to be one of the major factors that guide relationships in the organization.
THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY: Nigeria has been elected twice into the coveted position of President of the UN General Assembly twice – late Major-Gen. Joe Garba and incumbent, Prof. Tijjani Bande. This organ of the UN is a leveller. Here, all members – rich and poor; strong or weak are equal. Strong and weak members are entitled to equal votes and the president of the UN General Assembly is rotational. This is the major essence of democracy that the whole world is building. Before arriving at that juncture of history, the UN had in 1945 & 1946 hosted the first meeting of the General Assembly Methodist Central Hall, London, and the Security Council in Church House. The third and sixth General Assembly sessions, in 1948 and 1951, met in the Palais de Chaillot in Paris. 5. Prior to the construction of the current complex, the UN was headquartered at a temporary location at the Sperry Corporation’s offices in Lake Success, New York, an eastern suburb of the city in Nassau County on Long Island, from 1946 to 1952. The imposing United Nations Secretariat Building was the first tall skyscraper in New York City to use a curtain wall. The groundbreaking ceremony for the Secretariat Building occurred on September 14, 1948, and a consortium of four contracting companies from Manhattan and Queens were selected to construct the Secretariat Building as part of a $30 million contract. 6.
SIGNIFICANCE: As reflected in the Charter, the UN was birthed to: ‘’ maintain international peace and security, promote social progress and better standards of life, strengthen international law, and promote the expansion of human rights.’’ It works through its principal organs, which as reflected in the Charter were: the Secretariat, the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Trusteeship Council. It seems to have justified the purpose of its existence considering especially the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded more than ten times to the United Nations and its organizations, or to individual U.N. officials.
CHALLENGES: It should naturally be expected that there would be concerns and challenges. The most important consideration must be how to resolve issues arising periodically amicably. Even in family units that are microscopic parts of the society, problems arise and disagreements occur. For the past few decades, the United Nations has faced increasing demands for reform of the system. There is the partly resolved and sensitive issue of calls for more permanent members in its security council and the negative reaction of some superpowers to this development. It has also been criticized for alleged efficiency that is costing diminishing financial shore-up for its activities by some leading industrialized countries. There is a huge problem of humanitarian intervention and senseless and avoidable conflicts, particularly in the developing world. The level of global peace, insecurity, and poverty are terrible headaches. For globalization to be meaningful, nations of the world must consider the plight of some nations living in near abject poverty. Globalization and the reengineering process have taken the front row as the UN continues with its indispensable role of fostering international cooperation. The end of the Cold War era has not changed the situation dramatically.
TOWARDS CREATING A NEW WORLD INFORMATION COMMUNICATION ORDER: As the UN marks the 75th anniversary of the signing of its Charter, whose objectives include promoting peace and international understanding, one important issue whose discourse would further assist the global body to move further towards perfection in the New World Information Order (NWICO) It is very apparent that the pattern of global information flow is very disproportionate and requires concrete attention in order to promote understanding and get the world to challenge inequality effectively. The global media surely owe it a duty to correct distortions and misrepresentations. This subject has for several decades remained a contentious issue as the whole world has not come to agree on the concept, the justification, mode of implementation, and its effects in evolving a just and equitable worldwide communication. I once visited the studios of the American Broadcasting Corporation in New-York where I exchanged opinions on this issue. We spoke about conflict and catastrophe news in reporting Africa by the Western media. I agreed to the description of news as an account of an event that obtrudes itself. Many events happen in the developing world, including catastrophe news, but not limited to that. They occur all over the world. I also concurred with the argument that their media are largely commercial stations and, therefore, reserve the right to serve their readers what they want to hear. These grounds cannot be faulted given this reasoning. If the average customer would prefer to read or hear negatives on account of remaining faithful, they reserve the right to serve customers what they want to hear or read. And it is our responsibility in the developing world to also present our own position and possibly report both the positives and negatives as they break in the developed world. The United States government has no Ministry of Information as the information sector is left to the private sector to compete for the management of information. The White House press secretary is responsible for coordinating information management in the executive branch, while the foreign information comes under the supervision of the Secretary of State.
THE NEW WORLD INFORMATION & COMMUNICATION ORDER: William Fore, in his article titled: ‘A New World Order in Communication’ published in ‘’The Christian Century edition of April 14, 1982 p. 442., argues that ‘’First, the basic objective of public communication should be to enable people to participate fully in their own development and that of their nation. ‘’A structure or process which hinders that objective — whether it be political, economic, ideological or social — should be reformed or rejected, because every individual has the right to know; that is, every just society must create and maintain those conditions in which each citizen is able to take part in politics intelligently and as the equal of any other. People must have the technical means both to speak and to listen if they are to participate in the process of governing themselves. Second, government has a role in maintaining the rights of citizenship.’’ Fore went further to assert that ‘’The question of private versus state ownership and control must be secondary to the creation and maintenance of communication structures that facilitate genuine democratization, and that all forms of authoritarianism should be rejected, including domination of the media by economic power groups and elites. ‘’And Third, the Third World nations should be allowed to develop their own collective self-reliance in news, information and entertainment, progressing at a rate and in a manner appropriate to their needs rather than in conformity to the marketplace needs of the industrialized nations.’’ 7.
UNESCO & NWICO: Reports of Noble laureate, Sean MacBride’s Commission signed on by UNESCO on the New World Information Communication Order was based on the consideration of the concept of the Third World to promote the principles of justice, equity, and development through global communications. The report indicates that in 1956, the leaders of most of the former colonies met in Bandung and organized a “non-aligned” movement, which is a third force to act as a buffer between proponents of capitalism (First World) and those of communism (Second World) This Third World group pressed immediately for new economic independence from both First and Second Worlds. The United Nations was their forum. In May 1974 the UN General Assembly adopted a Declaration of the Establishment of a New International Information Order. This served as an encouragement and impetus for the non-aligned nations to press for changes in the areas of news and information. The body, therefore, called for the development of a New International Information Order (NIIO), asserting that the Western concept of a “free-flow” of information, like freedom of the seas, free markets, and free trade, in fact, conceals the real nature of neo-imperial control.
In 1976, UNESCO’s then Director-General, Amadou-Mahtar M’Bow, an African, was authorized to appoint an International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems. MacBride Report was a 1980 UNESCO publication written by the International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems, chaired by MacBride. Among other problems, the report identified were concentration of the media, commercialization of the media, and unequal access to information and communication. The commission called for the democratization of communication and strengthening of national media to avoid dependence on external sources. However, the report was viewed by some world powers as an attack on the freedom of the press. For this reason, Britain in 1997, and the United States, in 2003, pulled out of UNESCO and later rejoined. United States has finally pulled out of UNESCO and recently, the World Health Organisation. It would profit the world if the United Nations could evolve the means of getting the United States back into those affiliates of the UN. From another perspective, the MacBride Commission recommendations requiring the licensing of journalists was considered by its critics as prior censorship and ran directly counter to basic US law on the freedom of expression. There were also accusations of corruption at the highest level of UNESCO leadership in Paris. 8.
Arising from the foregoing, UNESCO explained that it was motivated by the framework of ‘The New World Information Communication Order (NWICO) based on some very salient factors that have the potential of promoting the flow of information between the developed and developing nations. ‘’These include the democratization of information flow from north to south and vice versa; decolonization for self-determination, national independence, and cultural identity; de-monopolization, which involves limiting the extent of activities of transnational communication companies; and development, which entails suitable national communication policy, adequate infrastructure, journalism education, and regional cooperation. 9. An expert in behavioural communication, Prof. Alfred Opubor who conducted an extensive study on global information flow advocated for a Pan-African Radio and Television Channel or Network as a major contribution to the emergence of the new Africa brand image. Its mandate will be, among other things, to correct the imbalance in information flow, a step he believed would promote greater peace and new world information order.
THE WAY FORWARD — WE MUST REASON TOGETHER: Politics could be described as a vocation that allows the citizenry to govern a society in accordance with established norms and values. It is also played in the UN corridor. Political culture varies from one nation to another. Without political awareness and skill, the world might face the inevitable prospect of becoming immersed in bureaucratic conflicts, parochial politics, and destructive power struggles, that greatly retard organizational initiative, innovation, morale, and performance.’’ Kotter, (1985) This is why the General Assembly is in place to moderate most of the issues brought before it with the possibility of referring thorny problems to other organs of the UN. As the UN celebrates this milestone, the organization that is calling from inputs and comments must continue to encourage its members that cause conflicts in all parts of the world to stem the tide of these ugly developments. Resolution of conflicts and crises form part of the daily chores that are choking up the global body. The fact has come to be appreciated that it is better to anticipate and nip in the bud the prospective problem than to start managing problems. Conflicts are evidently associated with underdevelopment. Issues joined together include poor leadership culture, poor political culture, and pattern of governance, lack of commitment to set goals and aspirations, corruption, lack of clear understanding of the importance of visioning and long-range planning, ignorance, and lack of political will.
WHY NATIONS FAIL– ANALOGIES: It is also important to note that the ever-increasing gap between the advanced and developing worlds is contributing to the failures being recorded by several nations. Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson, in their publication: ‘’Why Nations Fail’’ submit that it is man-made political and economic institutions that underlie economic success (or lack of it). Korea is a case in point. ‘’A remarkably homogeneous nation, yet the people of North Korea are among the poorest on earth, while their brothers and sisters in South Korea are among the richest. ‘’The south forged a society that created incentives, rewarded innovation, and allowed everyone to participate in economic opportunities. The economic success thus spurred was sustained because the government became accountable and responsive to citizens and the great mass of people. Sadly, the people of the north have endured decades of famine, political repression, and very different economic institutions—with no end in sight. The differences between the Koreas are due to the politics that created these completely different institutional trajectories.’’ Another analogy is the case of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Not too long ago, the United Arab Emirates was desert land. Today, Dubai has become one of the toasts of fun-seekers and businessmen and women all over the world. This development just didn’t occur suddenly. It is a product of planning, resilience, diligence, and foresight of the leadership, with the support of the people. These successful societies apply the policy of visioning and long-range planning, to aid the sheer commitment and dedication of their leaders. We need not go into the case of the transformation of Singapore that is widely known.
The two analogies drawn above are cases of development through transformational leadership. It is to be noted that many leaders lay claim to running a transformational style in an increasingly globalized world. In other words, their leadership, as structured, “Tends to motivate the people for goal achievements, focusing the group on the final desired outcome or goal attainment. ‘’The transformational leader is highly visible and uses chains of command to get the job done” (J.M. Burns, Leadership) Information management also plays a key role in ensuring the success of the servant-leader. On his part, R.K. Greenleaf (1977) argues that ‘’Leadership is driven by a sort of talent which is found in all classes of any society, irrespective of age and gender.
PIX BELOW: TRYGVE LIE – First UN Secretary-General
P ‘’Leadership facilitates goal accomplishment by giving its team members what they need in order to be productive” ‘’Servant-leaders are more prominent in the public service because of the operational principles and policies that drive the system.’’
TAKING CARE OF THE FUTURE: In different parts of the world that have recorded avoidable and senseless conflicts particularly in the developing world, these thoughtless disturbances have resulted in deep-rooted and congenital hatred among the various contending sides. If the truth is told, scourges of poverty and disease are products of irresponsible conduct of the elite class that constitutes the formidable part of our population with strong and suffocating influence in their societies. One could argue reasonably that the journey to development in the developing world has been negatively impacted by these conflicts. Generally, it is believed that the future may very well depend on the ability of the political leadership of these countries to evolve workable systems that would guarantee sustainable and viable cultures of governance and democracy. It is particularly disturbing that stupid acts would continue to impede development, democracy, and governance is some parts of the world.
CONFLICTS MAKE NO SENSE: As far back as 1963, President John F. Kennedy had spoken about the need for global peace. In the American University address, Kennedy spoke of ‘’peace because of the new face of war. ‘’Total war makes no sense in an age where great powers can maintain large and relatively invulnerable nuclear forces and refuse to surrender without resort to those forces. ‘’It makes no sense in an age where a single nuclear weapon contains almost ten times the explosive force delivered by all the allied air forces in the Second World War. ”It makes no sense in an age when the deadly poisons produced by a nuclear exchange would be carried by wind and water and soil and seed to the far corners of the globe and to generations yet unborn.’’
Pix Below: NELSON MANDELA in prison – Looking forward to the future with hope.
PEACE, JUSTICE & DEVELOPMENT: It is possible to talk about peace every day but achieve little results. Why? Rigoberta Menchu, a 1992 Nobel Peace Prize winner asserts that: ‘’Peace cannot exist without justice, justice cannot exist without fairness, fairness cannot exist without development, development cannot exist without democracy, democracy cannot exist without respect for the identity and worth of cultures and peoples.’’ An affirmation of the fact that the United Nations has done well is reflected in the number of times the body its officials have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The first UN Secretary-General Mr. Trygve Lie led the way. Ralph Bunche, a suave diplomat followed suit in 1950; Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees won the coveted prize twice in 1954 & 1984; the UN Peacekeeping forces in 1998; and the United Nations and Kofi Annan jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001. The second UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold, a deeply respected figure got a posthumous Nobel Peace Prize.
SECRETARIES-GENERAL & COMMITMENT TO GLOBAL PEACE: The UN and its secretaries-general have consistently worked for global peace. For instance, U Thant, a Burmese diplomat and the third Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1961 to 1971 instituted an award to promote global peace. The prize was first awarded in 1982, and beneficiaries included individuals and organizations that have pursued the lofty ideals of Secretary-General U Thant in addition to implementing those ideals in the tireless pursuit of world peace. It is for this salient reason that succeeding UN Secretaries-General have worked tirelessly for global peace, even at the end of their tenures. ‘The Peace Meditation’award instituted by U-Thant has been conferred on global leaders like Nelson Mandela, Mikael Gorbachev, Pope John Paul 11, Mother Teresa, Javier Perez de Cuellar, Kurt Waldheim, Desmond Tutu, Dada Vaswani, and Swami Satchidananda. Former UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs & Special Adviser of Africa, Nigeria’s Prof. Ibrahim Gambari won the 2017 edition of the prize.
PIX BELOW: Dag Hammarskjöld – Swedish economist and diplomat who served as the second Secretary-General of the United Nations from age 47 years in 1953, – the youngest person to have held the post. He died in a plane crash in 1961.
MOVING FORWARD: Member-nations of the United Nations must be made to realize that the whole world looks up to the UN for guidance, intervention, leadership, and culture of peace and international understanding. Representatives of nations and organizations that form the system must view issues from the global perspective while presenting the positions of their governments. There will never be a day that the whole world or the whole of the organization will agree on issues without dissenting opinions on steps to be taken. We must always expect disagreements. But it is important for the global community as represented to conduct the affairs of the UN with certain virtues like understanding, peaceful thoughts, forthrightness, commitment, and dedication to the common cause, in addition to an excellent spirit that places the interests of humanity all other considerations.
PLEA FOR A UNITED UNITED NATIONS – THE LABOUR OF HEROES PAST & CONSENSUS: A united world and progressive UN are very important. Let’s give thought to the efforts of our heroes past – people like U.S. Presidents F.D. Roosevelt & Harry Truman and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and others who laboured hard for global peace. Let us remember how in October 1943, the major Allied powers–Great Britain, the United States, the USSR, and China–met in Moscow and issued the Moscow Declaration that paved way for the transformation of the League of Nations to the UN. The Tehran 1943 reaffirmed that decision and in 1944 Great Britain, the United States, the USSR, and China met at the Dumbarton Oaks estate in Washington, D.C., to lay the groundwork for the United Nations. Thereafter, the three powerful nations the United States, Britain, and the USSR reached a consensus that birthed the United Nations founding conference. There is nothing to suggest that CONSENSUS that was employed at the conception stage can no longer work for a more peaceful world. The UN might have faltered at any stage of its 75-year journey. That is human.
In the words of famed Nelson Mandela, the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner: ’’The greatest glory in living is not in falling, but in rising every time we fall’’. So, let the UN march forward with the understanding and support of the whole world on whose behalf the United Nations is serving humanity.
Congratulations United Nations! Congratulations, Member-States!! Congratulations!!! the global community.
- Brainy Quotes
- White House Speeches
- UN Charter, UN Records
- History.com(https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/u-n-charter-signed; Accessed: June 29, 2020; Publisher A&E; Television Networks; 2010)
- United Nations Visitors’ Centre
- Turtle Bay Blog, Foreign Policy; foreignpolicy.com,
- (William Fore, in his article titled: ‘A New World Order in Communication’ published in ‘’The Christian Century edition of April 14, 1982 p. 442)
- (Yushkiavitshus, Henrikas (2003-01-01). “UNESCO welcomes back U.S.A)
- (Carlsson: 2005: 197)