Chronologically, the Bretton Woods institutions were born over a year before the UN. However conceptually, the UN is the mother of all international institutions so, let’s begin with the mother. With the Charter adopted in June 1945, the UN began functioning in October, with 51members. These now number 193. The goals of the UN, spelt out in its charter, are:
- To keep World Peace.
- To help countries get along.
- To improve living conditions.
- To make the world a better place.
Actually, only the first and third of the above are tangible goals. The other two are vague, intangible ones.
Readers might recall that I began this series with Rousseau’s Social Contract, which most other political scientists agree with. We need to revisit Rousseau’s work in this context. This contract postulates that mankind voluntarily gives up its inalienable rights to the state on the condition that the state guarantees the protection of these rights of its citizens. Inalienable. The word means those that “can’t be taken away or given away”.
Then why should mankind voluntarily cede these rights to the state? I can only infer that, due to its experiences without state control, mankind concluded that it needed an organization to “control” its citizens even in the exercise of their own inalienable rights. Did the same fears apply to the UN? I fear so.
Think of the UN as a global state; all member states as its citizens with the same inalienable rights as mankind. Should these citizens [states] of the UN be left uncontrolled? If they are, would they not run rife as individual humankind did, forcing states to be formed to [control and] protect them? And, therefore, should we not give these citizen [states] a governance body, before it becomes necessary due to citizens [states] going crazy?
I fear it was some such process of reasoning which preceded the creation of the UN. The six principal organs of the UN are: the General Assembly, UNGA; the UN Secretariat; the International Court of Justice, ICJ; the UN Security Council, UNSC; the UN Economic and Social Council, UNESCO; and the UN Trusteeship Council. Among the responsibilities of the UNGA, it is clearly mentioned that its functions include making recommendations to the UNSC but, it is not a parliament.
The actual governing body of the UN, is its most powerful organ; the UNSC, with fifteen members [a cabinet?]. This is the organ responsible for maintaining peace and security all over the globe. It is also the sole organ that can pass compulsory resolutions and enforce these resolutions with peace-making and peace-enforcement missions.
But, like all governments, this governing body is also controlled by the elite [lest the UNSC run amok]; elite states in this case. These were [then] known as the “Big Four” or “The Four Policemen” of the world: US, USSR, UK, and China. These four decided to add France to their numbers and bestowed on themselves the power of Veto; the final power that rendered these five member states all-powerful and unimpeachable.
Now, they could, not only adopt compulsory resolutions, any one of them could now also veto any resolution; which made them beyond censure. The remaining ten members of the UNSC are not merely un-empowered, they are also temporary, serving a mere two-year term. But, fortunately, they are elected by the UNGA; a little more democratic. Otherwise, there “selection” could also have been at the whim of the elite.
[Among the elite too there is also the elite of the elite; the crème de la crème; the US. How that works; will also be discussed subsequently, under Bretton Woods Institutions].
And so came into being, in 1945, a Global Governing Body. It had a non-parliament of (s)elected representatives of member states, a cabinet [the UNSC] which could pass globally compulsory resolutions for all members and was empowered [by the UN Charter] to enforce peace as well. What it didn’t have was a military with which to enforce its will. For this military, it was dependent on the willing cooperation and contribution [to UN missions].
Everything was in place, duly defanged, well “controlled” by those who actually “knew” what was good for the collective body, just like every government of every state. The only difference was a) that this governing body was meant to make a fool of member states, not its peoples; the latter were left at the mercy of their governments. And b) that it was new. Empowered but, had never yet tested its power. Without a military and, therefore, under confident of exercising its authority.
It would take time to learn that the use of “soft” power could be, at least as effective, if not more, than hard power; and, that military missions, created under [overtly] commendable causes could be employed to fulfil covert purposes as well. The UN’s record of success in its two principal goals i.e. to prevent conflict and improve living conditions, is quite miserable. Fratricide continues in all four corners. Inter-state and intra-state wars continue and the poor are as miserable as ever. But, then that is what the global political economy thrives on and, [perhaps] could it be; the covert goal of the UN?