Gökhan Albayrak, PhD, assistant professor at the Kırklareli University, Turkey.
The main purpose of the United Nations, which was established after the Second World War, was to ensure international peace and security. The United Nations, in its nearly 80-year life, brought the value of human rights to international law and created a great basis for the institutionalization of human rights. But this does not change the fact that the main task of the United Nations is the maintenance of peace and security. It has been seen for a long time that Security Council, the soft spot of the United Nations, can be easily paralyzed by the veto power of its five permanent members (USA, UK, France, Russia and China). This was seen in the Korean War when the Organization was only five years old. After the intervention to the conflict with the resolutions of the Security Council in the Korean War, the Soviet Union returned to its seat in the Council and vetoed a series of decisions that needed to be taken. Then, in November 1950, the General Assembly adopted the Uniting for Peace resolution. During the Cold War, the Security Council was largely dysfunctional.
By the beginning of 2022, on the 80th anniversary of the Declaration by United Nations (1 January 1942), we are assisting at Russia’s attack on Ukraine. Since 2011, the Syrian problem continues to take lives and the Security Council failed in the Syrian issue. In these days when the Ukrainian territory began to be invaded by the Russian armies, the United Nations Security Council was again ineffective and Russia dramatically presided over the Security Council’s meeting on the situation in Ukraine.
The Soft Spot of the United Nations and the Mortality of Organizations
The Security Council remains inactive in many important crises, and when it makes a decision, there are many problems in the legal control of the decisions it takes (for example, there are important deficiencies in the issue of how to provide legal control if the Security Council’s sanction decision violates a jus cogens norm or human rights rules). The Security Council has been the focus of criticism many times, both for its inaction (e.g. on the Syrian issue) and for its overaction (e.g. its famous “legislative power” after September 11 attacks). Although there have been various reform proposals regarding the Security Council over the years, the difficulty (or almost impossibility) of reforming the system is obvious.
Social organizations develop from the moment they are established, they adapt to the environment. People fix the broken aspects of their organizations, they reform them when necessary. Sometimes they destroy them and put a new one in their place. Sometimes their creations disappear autochthonously with the effect of time. States are the most complex organizations. For example, the Mongol, Roman and Ottoman empires, which were the mighty powers of the time, were destroyed and other powers took their place. The same is true for universal organizations.
The League of Nations could not prevent the Second World War due to its structural deficiencies and disappeared. When the League of Nations Covenant was signed, it was not thought to last 25 years. In the Covenant of the League of Nations, there was no provision for the termination of the organization’s existence. After the war, the Assembly of the League of Nations was able to end the existence of the League with the decision taken at its meeting on April 18, 1946. Although the legality of the decision taken on this issue is a matter of debate, it should be possible for a human-made organization to terminate itself. In the Advisory Opinion of the International Status of South West Africa of the International Court of Justice on the self-termination of the League of Nations, Judge Read stated:
“Mortality is an essential attribute of human organization. In the field of municipal law, it is possible to provide, by legislation, for supervised liquidation, but, in international law, there is no super-State or supreme legislative authority. In the case of an international organization, and in the absence of express provisions in its charter, a legal power of liquidation arises by necessary implication. Under the Covenant, the Assembly, representing all of the Members, was clearly justified in proceeding upon the assumption that this power to liquidate could be exercised by it, and by no other organ or agency of the League.”
Although there is no liquidation clause in the Covenant of the League of Nations, it may be more logical to understand the Assembly’s termination of the organization not as the termination of the legal existence of the Covenant, but as the termination of the organization’s existence. It is possible to think the same about the United Nations. There is no provision in the United Nations Charter regarding the dissolution of the organization. But in conformity with thesis of the inherent powers of organizations, hypothetically it is possible for the United Nations to follow the example of the League of Nations.
Some international organizations include denunciation provisions in their founding treaties (such as the European Space Agency). Some international organizations are established on a temporary basis (such as the European Coal and Steel Community). And some international organizations become dysfunctional and become abolished (such as the Western European Union). In other words, it is possible to see in these examples that international organizations are also mortal. Whether it is necessary to accept all members for an international organization to end its existence is an issue that needs to be discussed. However, it should be noted that the establishment of new organizations can render old organizations desuete in a short period of time.
Forcing the Reform
The United Nations has undoubtedly made a tremendous contribution to the development of international law. However, the United Nations, which is ineffective in maintaining international peace and security, is not a sacred structure. Much ink has been spilled on the reform of the United Nations, but the idea of establishing a new universal peace organization has not developed. Humanity, which always has the idea of doing better, should also be able to develop ideas about the establishment of brand-new universal organizations. The contributions of international lawyers to these ideas are very important. Theoretically, it is not necessary to break out of the Third World War for the establishment of a new universal organization. If the Reform is not possible, perhaps the Re-creation may be considered. New norms can change or replace old norms. New organizations may turn old organizations into an unnecessary entity. Perhaps in the distant future the United Nations General Assembly may write its own will in favor of a new organization if no effective structural reform takes place.
It is obvious that reforming the United Nations system is a necessity to prevent this from happening. This can be noted that the contemplation on a new peace organization is likely to be a factor that facilitates the realization of the reform of the United Nations. Thinking on a possible new universal peace organization may create international community pressure on the five permanent members. In addition, thinking about the structure of the new organization can be a guide for the content of the proposed reform. The leading role in this regard can be the joint initiatives of the states, as well as organizations such as the European Union, the Council of Europe, the African Union, the Organization of American States and Association of Southeast Asian Nations. The contributions of international non-governmental organizations would also be beneficial.