What use is the UN if it can’t help Syria?

January 3, 2017

The United Nations was supposed to be an institution of global order, a new Magna Carta for the world. “We, the peoples of the United Nations”, said its charter, were “determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind”. Instead, it has become an incompetent, bloated and corrupt organization and the Security Council shown to be the same kind of feckless and embarrassing “pillar of world peace” that the League of Nations was.

For all the deference it is paid and the aura of saintliness that surrounds it, the UN has stumbled through history spending vast quantities of other people’s money, wasting the lives of other people’s soldiers, prolonging conflicts, and dashing hopes wherever it has tread. The latest example is Syria, and it is one of the very worst.¬†Since Bashar Assad first sent his troops to put down demonstrations by 10 to 15-year old boys in the southern border town of Daraa in 2011, an estimated half a million civilians have been killed and a similar number injured. Refugees in the millions have fled to the comparative safety of camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, while millions of others have migrated to the Balkans, Greece, Italy, and countries further West.

Meanwhile, the UN has “done what it can in a difficult situation” — the usual explanation for the organization’s fundamental ineptitude. If the members refuse to cooperate, well then the Security Council’s “hands are tied”. Precisely. So the UN mostly watches as member states massacre thousands of civilians, member states use their aircract to bomb hospitals and humanitarian convoys, and member states drop “prohibited” chemical weapons on defenceless city dwellers including women and children.

The other thing the UN does is talk, a lot. On Syria, since 2011 the Security Council has held 62 meetings and considered 18 resolutions, six of which were vetoed. The President of the Council has issued 11 Statements, the Secretary General has submitted 78 reports, the Sanctions Committee has circulated 12 Documents, “interested parties” have submitted 56 Letters, and Security Council staff have published 43 Press Statements. There have also been numerous General Assembly resolutions “condemning”, “demanding”, “calling for ” and the like, as well as pronouncements by the Human Rights Council and other UN organs.

While we’re on the subject, we should note that between 2006 and 2015 the Human Rights Council condemned Syria 17 times — and Israel 62 times.

Perhaps someone should inquire why the current Canadian government is so desperate to win a temporary (two-year) seat on the Security Council, and what it would do if it ever got the seat. No doubt meet and draft and demand would be part of it.

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The feature image is of diplomats gathering for another UN Security Council meeting on Syria.

The mission of the Vimy Report is to inject new information that will raise the quality of public discussion on security and defence issues, to do so with impact, and thereby to educate and influence the ultimate decision-makers: citizens and their elected representatives.

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