Fixing the UN's main problem begins with acknowledging how many of its member-states are undemocratically governed and effectively unaccountable domestically and internationally

Achieving lasting world peace means facing up to why the UN often fails as a collective-security mechanism


Letter to The Canberra Times 
Saturday, 02 January 2016
(not published)

Harry Davis (Letters, January 2) surely accords undue modern weight to Einstein's 1931 view that the lack of world peace is due to "the craving for power which characterises the governing class in every nation".

While the League of Nations failed utterly, and the UN's record remains chequered, their core principle of collective security remains valid.

It is only the effectiveness of the principle's exercise that remains hamstrung, chiefly due to how some states are still ill-governed and especially since true liberal-democracies ceased constituting a majority of UN members by the mid-1960s.

And while three of the five veto-wielding permanent Security Council members have remained democracies, Russia and mainland China are still highly authoritarian states whose adherence to the UN Charter in particular — and support for a rules-based international system in general — remain ambivalent at best and often worse.

Finally, the UN's systemic failure to fully protect humankind from war and its repercussions is why Australia still needs to invest in our own defence, and to participate in collective defence arrangements with other UN members, as the Charter duly enables.

And, where imperfect UN mechanisms occasionally allow this to occur, why Australia has a notable record of consistently being one of the minority of states to meet its membership obligations in helping enforce the Charter.

Such as reversing North Korea's 1950 invasion of South Korea and Iraq's 1990 conquest of fellow UN member, Kuwait; with the latter being a totally unambiguous case of the collective security principle in action.

Noting the more numerous cases that the UN has been unable to resolve.

Such as Russia's invasions of Hungary in 1956, Czechoslovakia in 1968, Afghanistan in 1979, Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine from 2014; and China's support for North Korea, and conquest of Tibet, in 1950.

And perhaps China's current resort to military action over disputed territories in the South China Sea.

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