1.1 BACKGROUNDNations have diverse security interests. Conflicts between these interests, when not resolved, could undermine international peace and security. Hence, over the years, there was the need to have a multinational or global body that would serve as a forum for the resolution of security interests of all nations, big and small, rich and poor, and thus guarantee international peace and security.
However, within such a body, each nation seeks to maximize its interests.Towards the end of World War I, President Woodrow Wilson of the United States proposed in January 1918 the “Fourteen Points” that set out the war aims of his government. The last point was the creation of a general association of nations under specific covenants for the purpose of affording mutual guarantees of political independence and territorial integrity to great and small states alike. President Wilson’s ideas resulted in the creation of the League of Nations. At the peak of World War II, President Roosevelt of the US proposed the Atlantic Charter, the first open statement of principles about the post-World War II world. The Charter was signed on the 1st January 1942 by the 26 governments then at war with the Axis powers. Roosevelt suggested to Churchill that the Charter be named the ‘Declaration by United Nations’.
The three Allied powers (United Kingdom, US and Soviet Union) later met in Moscow and Tehran in 1943. This was followed by the Dumbarton Oaks Conference with China in attendance. It was at this conference that the governing principles of the United Nations were formulated and the name ‘United Nations’ was adopted.The foundation conference of the United Nations was held at San Francisco by the governments that had declared war on the Axis powers before 1st March 1945.
On 25 June 1945, the 50 nations attending the conference approved the draft Charter which was signed on 26 June 1945, thereby establishing the United Nations (UN). It became effective on 24 October 1945 after ratification by a majority of the signatories. Poland signed the Charter later to become the 51st founding member. From its inception to the end of the 1980s, the UN was dominated by superpower rivalry between the US and the Soviet Union. Throughoutthat period, the US exerted preponderant influence within the world body.
Presently, this influence still exists.Article 24 of the UN Charter confers on the Security Council primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security. The Security Council has five permanent members, namely China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States (the P-5). There are also ten non-permanent members. During the Cold War era, issues brought to the Security Council for resolution were always seen from the perspectives of the two super powers (US and Soviet Union) which resulted in the abuse of the veto power, by the P-5.
They agreed easily only on issues that did not directly affect their interests or those of their close allies. From the privileged position of a P-5 member, the US influences the Security Council’s decisions. Consequently, the Security Council cannot pass a resolution against any of the P-5, effectively making them infallible. The appointment of the UN Secretary General is on the recommendation of the Security Council, thus making it impossible to appoint anybody who does not meet P-5 approval.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the resultant loss of its superpower status is the precipitant cause of the significant transformation in the structure of power and influence in the world order. The present status of the US as the only superpower has expanded its influence both within the United Nations and beyond. The UN has helped to prevent large-scale wars of the magnitude of World Wars I and II.
However, the organisation has not been able to prevent inter and intra state wars, which may be directly linked to the influence of the super powers during the Cold War.Nations cherish their sovereignty jealously. However, through membership of the UN, member nations willingly accepted to cede part of their sovereignty to the world body by virtue of Article 25 of the Charter which stipulates that “the members of the UN agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council in accordance with the present Charter”. Security Council resolutions are thus, obligatory on member states. The influence of the US on the Security Council causes smaller nations to feel unimportant. As such the Security Council has become an instrument of Washington’s foreign policy and the steering wheel of American policies of world leadership.
This state of affairs attracted the researcher’s interest.