DISPUTES and crises in the contemporary world threaten international peace. There are civil wars in Bosnia, Somalia, Rwanda and Yemen, and there is the nuclear crisis in North Korea.
The United Nations tries to settle these disputes, however it has many major weaknesses which I would like to outline: In the Security Council, a unanimous vote of the five permanent members (the US, Britain, Russia, France and China) is required to settle international problems.
Yet the great powers rarely hold a common view regarding important issues.
Consequently, the frequent use of the veto often causes a deadlock and this prevents the council from enforcing peace.
The UN has no permanent armed forces. The Security Council has to invite members to supply troops whenever a crisis emerges.
It cannot perform the function of mediation once both sides of a dispute reject UN approaches. The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOS), the Trusteeship Council and the International Court of Justice, have no power to enforce decisions.
Some members may refuse to help finance the UN's peace-keeping operations if they feel such operations are encroaching on their vested interests. This can lead to the UN suffering from a shortage of funds.
Yet, these nations do not have any penalties imposed on them.
The UN cannot interfere with the internal affairs of a country. This means it cannot be as effective as it would wish in curbing abuses of government or human rights. For instance, some countries have violated human rights, but remain unaffected by the condemnation of the international community.
The June 4 massacre in China, in 1989, is a concrete example. Also, for many years, the white minority government of South Africa remained unmoved by the UN's criticism of apartheid.
Members of the UN usually take individual action without consulting the UN. The self interest of individual nations, means that ultimately, the UN is unlikely to achieve much.
Even though the Cold War is over, nations still fight other nations and within countries, there are still outbreaks of civil war. The most recent example of this is in Rwanda.
The UN seems unable to do anything about this.
The UN's role as a peace-keeping organisation is largely symbolic.
It has too many weaknesses to be able to be more effective.
If in the future some conflict brings the world to the brink of World War III, I doubt if the United Nations will be able to do much about this.
TSANG KIN-YIP Quarry Bay