This is not the first time that the UN collective security system has failed, but today’s failure is particularly perilous in the disorder of the world: the system put in place in 1945 to guarantee peace and international law prove powerless in Ukraine, Gaza and other less publicized crises, such as that of Nagorno-Karabakh. A few predatory states in fierce competition are not sanctioned. This situation recalls the bankruptcy of the League of Nations before the war, but the League of Nations had less ambitious means and objectives.
At the Security Council, the great powers are playing to neutralize each other: Moscow has vetoed all resolutions condemning its aggression in Ukraine. More recently, in October, in the name of Israel’s self-defense, the United States blocked a text calling for humanitarian pauses and condemning violence against civilians in Gaza. China, for its part, is doing everything to hinder Western initiatives and rally the global South behind it.
At the General Assembly, resolutions are voted on but they have no binding nature. Each time, in Washington, Moscow or Beijing, diplomatic pressure is exerted to collect votes. Then each winner boasts of his score: “See all those who support my resolution.” In this game, Russia and China collect points. The Western camp thus lost thirteen votes between March 2022 and February 2023 to condemn the Kremlin on Ukraine.
At the same time, the decisive negotiations do not take place at the Glass Palace in New York, but between regional powers, like the countries of the Caucasus, and among actors who offer themselves as intermediaries, such as Qatar or the Turkey.
Particularly distressing was recently the presidency of the social forum of the UN Human Rights Council entrusted to Iran, a repressive state and war monger if ever there was one. On the other hand, the organization’s agencies continue to work courageously on the front line, such as UNRWA for the Palestinians. Ultimately, it is its humanitarian arms that honor the UN.