11:21 GMT25 September 2020
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    Birth of United Nations

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    Legacy of War (10)
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    World War II left the world with a broken economy, severed diplomatic ties, no civilian production and a lot of uncertainty. Follow our special series Legacy of War to witness how humanity adapted to the new reality and rebuilt the world from charred foundations.

    World War II left global leaders with a choice. Previously existing political system were no longer working – in fact, it could be argued that it was this system which led to the conflict in the first place. Old colonial powers were no longer the movers and shakers – the Soviet Union and the United States emerged as the new superpowers.

    The League of Nations had proven to be an ineffective global organization as it had failed to prevent global war. In a sense it is ironic, since the League had been founded in 1920 as a result of the Paris Peace Conference, which ended the First World War and its primary mission was maintaining world peace through collective security, disarmament, arbitration of dispute and supervision of various aspects of global affairs. Jack Straw, Great Britain’s Foreign Secretary from 2001 to 2006 said:

    "The League (of Nations) failed because it could not create actions from its words. It could not back diplomacy with the credible threat and, where necessary, the use of force. So small evils went unchecked, tyrants became emboldened, then greater evils were unleashed. At each stage good men and women said 'not now — wait, the evil is not big enough to challenge'. Then, before their eyes, the evil became too big to challenge."

    Failing to stop a new World War, the League of Nations ceased to exit; from its ashes, the United Nations was born. The UN was the spiritual successor the League; it even inherited some of the bodies of the former organization. The structure of the United Nations was different from the League of Nations: its objective was to give a much stronger position to the traditional great powers. This was achieved with the UN Security Council, permanent members of which were the five major allied powers: The Soviet Union, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, and the Republic of China. These members can veto any United Nations Security Council resolution, the only UN decisions that are binding according to international law.

    Arguably, the United Nations had mixed success with its primary peacekeeping objective. One of the latest successes was regulation of the internal Syrian conflict, which was on the brink of becoming an international one. Russia’s President Vladimir Putin highlighted the UN’s role in resolving such conflicts:

    "The United Nations' founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America's consent, the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades. No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage… We need to use the United Nations Security Council and believe that preserving law and order in today’s complex and turbulent world is one of the few ways to keep international relations from sliding into chaos."

    Thus the United Nations remains to be the last hope of the peaceful worlds – created from one of greatest tragedies in human history; it serves as a constant reminder of dangers of unchecked aggression and an entity guiding humanity towards a better collaborative future.

    Legacy of War (10)
    World War II, United Nations
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