“Wars are less deadly than they once were and national mortality rates have continued to decline even during conflicts, due to smaller- scale fighting and better health care” (Wars Are Less Deadly Now: Report, The United Nations).
I refer to the report and commentary on conflicts and wars by the United Nations (UN), in the article “Wars Less Deadly Now” (January 22, 2010).
It is perfectly understandable that such studies and research would provide valuable evaluation on the progression and development of the multitude of peacekeeping operations; and of course, enhance the capacities of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). Statistically, while less lives have been lost, the UN should continue to rehabilitate nations and prevent the outbreak of tensions; and ultimately work by the mantra that one life lost is one life too many.
Putting aside the genocides in Rwanda and Bosnia from the previous decade; still, it is more than fair to observe that the UN has been realistically marginalised and hugely ineffective over the past years. Despite the disproportionate increase in the issues that demand focus – from terrorism to nuclear proliferation – the administration has been big on rhetoric and under-performing on paper. Protocols, declarations and resolutions have been slighted, and the world is unfortunately miles away from accomplishing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Human rights abuses remain unabated, and the world is becoming increasingly polarised and segregated along different lines.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as the figurehead and representative of the organisation and the international community, has been considerably inconsequential and ineffectual over the years of his appointment. It is undeniable that no momentous mistakes have been committed – yet. However, with the onslaught of a plethora of disasters and crises – from the international financial meltdown to the perpetual climate change debacle – when global leadership was sorely needed, the Secretary-General had been largely silent and overshadowed. Needless to say, this aspect of stewardship has to be substantially picked up.
There have been calls over the years from individuals, groups and nations for the UN to reform its administrative and bureaucratic structure and approaches. While such overhauls might prove unfeasible due to inherent weaknesses and a largely partisan international community, the UN must carry out its commitments dutifully and recognise the imperative to maintain its relevance.
A version of this article was published in My Paper.