The Irish Times view on the UN at 75: ‘Our best prospect for peace’

For all its noble ambitions, the UN remains rooted in great-power politics through the vetoes of permanent members of the Security Council

At 75, the UN, for all its noble ambitions, remains rooted in great-power politics through the vetoes of permanent members of the Security Council. Photograph: Ludovic Marin / AFP  via Getty Images

At 75, the UN, for all its noble ambitions, remains rooted in great-power politics through the vetoes of permanent members of the Security Council. Photograph: Ludovic Marin / AFP via Getty Images

 

Addressing an event to mark the UN’s 75th anniversary on Monday, President Higgins emphasised once again the UN’s centrality to Ireland’s foreign policy and this country’s determination to uphold its place in the international legal and collective security order. “The UN remains our best prospect for peace, for united action on issues we share,” he said, warning that “the UN and its agencies continue to be under attack, be it through underfunding, withdrawal of support, or the often-explicit promotion of a theory of interests by the most powerful as an alternative to the multilateralism which the Charter of the UN demands.”

Perhaps Ireland was a little too peace-loving during the war … the definition of a peace-loving country was that it should have declared war

The charter was signed on June 26th, 1945, in San Francisco, at the 45-state United Nations Conference on International Organisation, ostensibly a gathering of the world’s “peace loving nations” but, in fact, of the second World War Allies. Ireland was excluded because of this State’s wartime neutrality – as one Indian delegate explained wryly in supporting Ireland’s membership, “perhaps Ireland was a little too peace-loving during the war … the definition of a peace-loving country was that it should have declared war”. Ireland’s membership would be vetoed by the Soviet Union for 10 years, when it joined with other neutrals like Portugal and former Axis-sympathetic powers Italy and Spain. It is perhaps 65 years we should be celebrating.

President Michael D Higgins. Photograph: Frank Miller
President Michael D Higgins. File photograph: Frank Miller

Since that crucial, and more than symbolic, broadening of the UN, it would be hard to point to a more committed member than Ireland. It has served on the Security Council, has often put its troops at the UN’s disposal for peacekeeing, has worked hard in the UN disarmament process, and championed support for developing nations. Above all it has embraced the multilateralism at its core as the alternative to great-power politics and military alliances.

At 75, however, the UN, for all its noble ambitions, remains rooted in those great-power politics through the vetoes of permanent members of the Security Council. Now is the time to turn the UN into a real vehicle for “we the peoples…”

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