United Nations & World Terrorism

When a terrorist group attacks any other group of people it is often equivalent to an act of war, one group of people makes it clear that they will use whatever means necessary to change or eradicate the lives of another group. The terrorists are lashing out against someone or some group because of some provocation. Sometimes the cause of a terrorist organization is just but their methods rarely are. The terrorists are breaking the peace. This is something that states, ideally as representatives of the people, have to deal with. There will always be people who disagree with governments and it is the government's job to provide peaceful ways for problems to be expressed.. But sometimes even with fairly elected governments, terrorism is still a problem. And when this terrorism begins to spill over borders and one group of people is attacking another in a different country there is a new group that is expected to, and should, become involved: The United Nations.

The United Nations is an organization founded following the second World War. It's purpose of existence was to prevent another world war from breaking out. The preamble to the United Nations charter states that the UN intends to,

"save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small, and to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained, and to promote social progress and better standards of life in larger freedom,"

This, and the rest of the charter, states that the organization exists to prevent internationals conflicts and the suffering that is inherent in these conflicts. At the same time the Charter states that at no point is the UN allowed to violate the sovereignty of any nation. Therefore the United Nations can only begin to deal with acts of terrorism once they have crossed international borders. With the Rwandan genocide, the United Nations was able to set up refugee camps in the countries surrounding Rwanda, but it was powerless to take action within the small country. The protection of sovereignty ensures that countries are able to deal with problems the way they see best, but sometimes lives would be saved and peace would be obtained more promptly if an international organization, such as the United Nations, helped.

Other international organizations, like NATO, are able to intervene in internal situations, like Kosovo, because they are a defense organization that is not required to respect the sovereignty of other nations according to its charter. However, all countries and international organizations, are required to keep the Security Council informed when engaged in international conflicts. This allows the Security Council to provide a forum for discussion and hopeful resolution of a crises. One of the most disturbing events in any conflict is when both sides refuse to air their differences in front of the United Nations, lessening the chance for a quick peace.

But when there is an international conflict the United Nations can be and is expected to be involved. Yet, even when terrorism does fall into the scope of the United Nations there is often little that can be done beyond passing resolutions with strong words but few teeth. Every country involved in a conflict must be willing to obey the resolutions of the United Nations if the organization is to have any effect. This is why the UN has been so ineffective in the conflict between the Israelis and the Lebanese, Syrians, and Iranians, in South Lebanon. It took Israel more than two decades to agree to comply to Resolution 425 and neither the Syrians nor the Iranians will admit their true roles in the region. By not cooperating these countries hamper the ability of the international community to respond. Israel is also helped by the fact that it has the United States as its prime supporter. The veto system has helped the Security Council remain intact and active but it often prevents the United Nations from acting the way the majority of the international community would like it to.

The United Nations is relevant when discussing international terrorism. However, in the pursuit of peace the UN is not always able to do "the right thing." Instead, the United Nations must follow a path that stresses containment of conflict rather than speedy resolution of conflict. This path leads the world away from another war but often leaves helpless people with little hope of escaping bloody conflicts. The United Nations is only as powerful as its members. If the Security Council refuses to act on a matter then the United Nations as a whole will have little room to respond, and if individual countries refuse to work with the UN to achieve peace then there is little the organization can do.

        Related Links

Rwanda Report - United Nations Report on Rwanda
Rwanda Report By Sec. Gen. - Response to Rwanda Report by the Secretary General of the United Nations.
Press Release - General Assembly's AD HOC committee on terrorism discusses possible high level conference.
Press Release - GA delays action on resolution condemning Israel.
Press Release - Peace efforts will fail without Syrian, Lebanese participation, Israel tells GA.
Press Release - SC Calls for immediate end to hostilities in Lebanon.
Press Briefing - Press conference on Lebanon.
Press Release - SC extends force in Lebanon until 31 July.
Press Release - SC Welcomes announcement of Israel's intent to withdrawal from Lebanon.