Section 16. United Nations Undergoing Transformation


1. New development of U.N. functions


(1) New functions

Needless to say, the United Nations was born as an organization primarily aimed at maintaining international peace and stability. Its basic character prescribed in the U.N. Charter still remains unchanged. However, a look at the concrete functions of the United Nations in its actual operations for the maintenance of international peace and security shows that its functions have changed considerably from what they were initially intended for.

When the United Nations was established in 1945, its major functions were planned as (i) the maintenance of international peace and security by establishing an international collective security system with compulsory sanctions by the Security Council as the axis and (ii) the promotion of the welfare of mankind and the laying of a foundation for lasting peace through promotion of international cooperation.

The U.N. Charter envisaged the former as the primary function of the United Nations, and the latter was expected to play the role of creating a foundation of the former. 'The major premise of the former function as an international collective security system was cooperation among the five permanent members of the Security Council which were major members of the Allied Powers in World War II, especially cooperation between the United States and the Soviet Union. However, this major premise collapsed from the outset of the United Nations, and the planned function was practically paralyzed because it became almost impossible for the Security Council to take compulsory sanctions because of the exercise of the veto power of the permanent members. As a result, the security of various countries of the world came to be determined outside of the United Nations mainly by the balance of military power among the major countries. This reality basically remains unchanged even today when there are moves toward detente.

In contrast with this major function which was originally envisaged by the U.N. Charter but became paralyzed without being realized, other functions which were not considered as primary ones in maintaining peace and security at the time of formation of the United Nations have shown notable development. Such functions are (i) the prevention of an expansion of local conflicts and the promotion of the peaceful settlement of such conflicts through "peace-keeping operations" and (ii) the elimination of the causes of such conflicts through the promotion of international cooperation.

(2) Significance of "peace-keeping operations"

"Peace-keeping operations" do not have a clear basis in the U.N. Charter, but it is a concept which became accepted through the activities of U.N. forces in the Suez area, the Congo and Cyprus and of various kinds of U.N. supervisory missions in Palestine, Kashmir, Lebanon and West Irian. The purpose of such operations is to perform a police function, such as supervision of cease-fires and the maintenance of peace, in accordance with the resolutions of the Security Council or of the General Assembly, with the consent of the parties to the dispute and with the voluntary cooperation of member states. Although activities of this kind cannot be undertaken when they run counter to the basic interests of major military powers, they are effective to cope with local conflicts in which the basic interests of the big powers are not involved, In fact, the United Nations several times prevented the expansion and recurrence of local conflicts and promoted peaceful settlements of such conflicts by dispatching various kinds of U.N. forces and U.N. supervisory missions. As has already been mentioned, the core of the security of the world today lies in the balance of military power between the major powers that exists outside the United Nations. On the other hand, it is clear from the incessant occurrence of local conflicts that world peace cannot be assured by the balance of military power between the major powers alone, and herein lies the significance and importance of the peace-keeping operations of the United Nations today.

(3) Significance of promotion of international cooperation

"Promotion of international cooperation" means the process of realizing international cooperation among the member countries through the organs of the United Nations. More concretely, it means consideration of problems by the U.N. General Assembly, the Security Council and the specialized agencies acting in concert with the General Assembly, and the voluntary observance by the member countries of the resolutions, though their nature is advisory, adopted by the "majority." This function premised on the voluntary cooperation of the member states was envisaged even at the time of the establishment of the United Nations. Its importance has increased to an extent which is almost incomparable with the original expectation, because problems that cannot be solved without cooperation and adjustment on an international level have greatly increased on account of the growth and diversification of international relations caused by the rapid progress of science and technology, the expansion of the world economy and the termination of the cold war between East and West.

The problems brought before the United Nations and those which are being dealt with by the United Nations through international cooperation are very diverse, including world peace, arms limitations, the liberation of colonies, aid for the developing countries, human rights, population, narcotics, culture, hijacking, space, oceans and environment. It is no exaggeration to say that these problems cover the entire field of human activities. The important thing is that complicated interests of various countries are adjusted and compromises as the common denominator of the international community are arrived at through considerations of these problems. It goes without saying that the adjustment of interests through mutual concessions itself has the meaning of eliminating causes of international conflicts and serves as the process of settling conflicts in a peaceful manner. In this context, the promotion of international cooperation is directly related to the maintenance of world peace. The significance of the North-South problem (see the next chapter), which has gained in importance year after year, can be understood in this context. It must not be overlooked that the sense of international solidarity is being fostered through the process of adjusting interest. (See "Development of  'Frontier Diplomacy'" in Section 18.)

Amid the "multipolarization" of the structural aspect of international relations, which has become increasingly recognized in recent years (see 2 below), the meshes of the net of international relations have been expanding further in various directions across differences of social systems, and the United Nations' role in promoting international cooperation is increasing.


2. Multipolarization and fluidization of international relations revolving around the United Nations


(1) Limitations on influence of the United States and the Soviet Union

As mentioned above, there has been a new development of the functions of the United Nations. On the other hand, there have been changes in various forces revolving around the United Nations. There is the growing understanding that the world in recent years has been shifting from the bipolar structure centering around the United States and the Soviet Union to a multipolar structure, under which many countries, including the United States and the Soviet Union, mutually exercise their influence and that the trend in international relations is moving toward greater fluidity. Similar changes have occurred in the United Nations which is called a mirror that reflects the international community.

The influence of the United States, which was overwhelming in the United Nations in the past, has gradually declined because of the rise of the Third World. In recent years, it has become increasingly difficult for the United States to command a majority in the Security Council and the General Assembly, and, at times, even resolutions cosponsored by the United States and the Soviet Union have been defeated by the opposition of the nonaligned countries. The influence of the Soviet Union,. which has tried to promote a "diplomacy of the majority" favorable to its own interests by winning the support of the nonaligned countries on political problems which have a coloring of the East-West confrontation and are ideologically in opposition to the United States, is approaching its limits. This fact has become particularly clear as a result of the emergence of the People's Republic of China as its opponent.

(2) The rise of the third force

On the other hand, it seems that the foundation for the unity of the nonaligned countries, which became a third force against the camps led by the United States and the Soviet Union during the cold war, has been weakened as a natural consequence of the peaceful coexistence between the United States and the Soviet Union and also as a result of the phenomenon of multipolarization in recent years. Of a total of 132 U.N. member states, nearly 100 centering around the nonaligned countries are generally known as the "third force." Many of them have common features such as that (i) they became independent after World War II, (ii) they are former colonies, (iii) politically, they follow a nonalignment policy, (iv) economically, they are have-nots and, (v) regionally, they belong to Asia and Africa. Because of their common interests, they constitute a force in the United Nations as the nonaligned group, as the 77-country group or as the A.A. group. However, their unity demonstrates strong power only in the field of economic and social development, which is a vital issue to them.

Amid this situation in which there is no supreme power, such forces as the Scandinavian countries, the ASEAN countries, the expanded EC countries and Japan are making independent moves.

(3) Moves of major forces

The following were the moves of the major forces at the 27th U.N. General Assembly (and in the U.N. Security Council)in 1972.

(A) United States

As mentioned above, it has become increasingly difficult for the United States to win majority support in the United Nations. It seems that, in this situation, the United States intends to base its United Nations diplomacy on fairness and justice, determined to risk becoming isolated as a minority in some cases. Concretely, the United States exercised its veto power in the Security Council over the Middle East issue (in September 1972) for the second time since its participation in the United Nations after its first veto in March 1970 (over the Southern Rhodesian issue). It can be mentioned as an epoch-making event. At the 27th General Assembly, it became isolated from the majority over other problems because it made its attitude very clear, It insisted to the last on the adoption of its draft resolution on international terrorism which was the toughest proposal of all. It became the sole opponent of satellites for direct TV broadcasting and of establishing the U.N. Environment Program Secretariat in Kenya, and abstained alone from voting on the problem of establishing the special committee of the World Disarmament Conference. On the other hand, it would be premature to think that the United States is nothing more than a mere member of the United Nations simply because its relative influence in the United Nations has declined. It can be said that the United States can exercise its influence to a considerable extent over problems which it considers of basic importance to its interests with the support of countries friendly to the United States centering on the Western European group. Such case was the reduction by 25 per cent of its financial contribution to the United Nations.

(B) Soviet Union

The Soviet Union managed to maintain a position favorable to itself in discussions of some political problems, such as the holding of the World Disarmament Conference, the renunciation of the use of force and the permanent prohibition of the use of nuclear weapons, by obtaining majority support centering around the nonaligned countries. However, it seems that the impact of these problems on international politics has been rapidly decreasing as a result of the liquidation of the cold war structure, and it should be noted that many of the countries that supported the Soviet Union did so as a matter of courtesy from the standpoint that to do so did not have any vital effect on their national interests.

Basically, the Soviet Union's position is inevitably passive toward cooperation in economic and social development in which the third force has a much greater interest in reality. In this context, the Soviet Union has been insisting that the United Nations be made a forum mainly intended for politics. However, it does not seem easy to realize this for the reasons mentioned above. In the political field, China's participation in the United Nations has made the position of the Soviet Union more difficult in that it had so far been able to expect the support of the nonaligned countries as a matter of course. A typical example of such a case was the problem of admitting Bangladesh to the United Nations, for which the Soviet Union showed great enthusiasm, but which was rejected by the veto exercised by China (in the Security Council in August 1972).

(C) People's Republic of China

China attracted attention because it was expected to carry out a positive diplomatic stance in the United Nations in order to assume the leadership of the smaller countries. However, it generally acted with prudence and did not take any particularly positive moves on the occasion of the 26th General Assembly in 1971, although it assumed a stern attitude toward the Soviet Union.

(D) Nonaligned group

As mentioned above, the group of nonaligned countries, which once had a positive reason for its being a force against the U.S.-Soviet confrontation and also a common foundation for unity, has been unable to maintain the kind of unity it had in the past, and the interests of its members became divided on some problems as a result of the elimination of the cold war structure and the decline of India, Egypt and Ghana which used to hold the leadership. The Korean problem, the Cambodian problem and the problem of reviewing the U.N. Charter provided typical examples. On the problem of international terrorism, it was noteworthy that the Arab countries' effective influence on Africa failed to affect the Latin American countries and the East Asian countries. In the economic field, nearly 100 developing countries (most countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America centering around the nonaligned countries) are united as the "group of 77" to coordinate problems of economic and social development among themselves. They constitute a force with great influence on such matters as decision-making. It merits special mention that their interests and influence have expanded beyond problems of pure social and economic development to include such problems as the holding of the U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea and the establishment of the U.N. Environment Secretariat.

Today, there are various forces in the United Nations and they are exerting their influence on one another. Relations among these forces are not uniform, and the formation of "a majority" becomes more complicated as problems handled by the United Nations become more diversified. In this context, the discussions at the 27th General Assembly last year showed that these forces were not only multipolar but also fluid.


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