The United Nations will today celebrate its annual International Day of Peace. This celebration will be dedicated to sustaining the current period of peace among nations and their citizens.
On the 26th June 1945, the first official UN meeting took place. 50 nations met in San Francisco to create the UN Charter. Around four months later, the UN was open for business. For over 70 years, this Charter has been the foundation for stability worldwide.
The UN has been a vehicle for change ever since it was created. Born out of the ashes from World War 2, it had to be a strong and worthwhile cause to help prevent the world slipping back into chaos once again.
The statistics are there to show the success of the organisation. In the first decade of the 21st century, fewer citizens died due to conflict than in any decade 100 years before. The number of wars have dipped since 1945, with the UN stepping in and ensuring any potential conflicts are not escalated. And we haven’t experienced an interstate war since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The UN’s superb diplomacy skills ensure peace is continued. We have them to thank for this.
One of the UN’s greatest military success stories was the Sierra Leone peacekeeping mission, which lasted from 1999 to 2005. After a destructive civil war tore the country apart, the UN stepped in. They helped the country get back on its feet and introduced a peace settlement.
The post-conflict recovery is regarded as a huge success for the UN, who aided the nation politically and militarily. The wave of UN military action helped scale back the conflict, with the organisation taking a lead role in reintroducing peace. They disarmed 75,000 soldiers, destroyed 42,000 weapons and 1.2 million rounds of ammunition. Sierra Leone has since put its worst days behind them, with the economy growing by over 3% every year since 2002. They couldn’t have done it without the UN.
The UN’s co-operation in Burundi is also cited as a success story for the organisation. After decades of brutal ethnic war, it seemed impossible for Burundi to move on from the savagery and barbarity that had wreaked havoc in the nation. However, as the peace process was slowly set in motion, the UN emerged as the leader of the peace talks, indicating the international support for peace in the nation. They introduced over 5,000 military personnel into the region, aiming to ensure there was a ceasefire and eventual return to normality.
As peace talks commenced, the UN ensured that all sides of the political spectrum were involved, maximising the chances of success. In early 2005, Burundi’s new constitution was approved by over 90% of the population, an overwhelming mandate by any measure. The UN helped implement various progressive reforms to the document, such as ensuring any political party achieving government office is ethnically integrated. While the nation still experiences difficulties, it has not experienced a civil war on the scale they previously had, and likely never will.
It’s not just military success that the UN has experienced, with the organisation delivering victories in numerous areas. The organisation set up tribunals for war leaders Charles Taylor and Slobodan Milosevic, ensuring they would pay for the atrocities they presided over.
In 2012, Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in prisons for the terror that he helped create while President of Liberia. Milosevic passed away before justice could be delivered, although his trial ensured that European dictators knew that they would be prevented from creating such horrors in the future.
Through the UN’s World Food Programme, famine has plummeted, with deaths due to great famines reaching record lows. And the UN’s cultural branch, UNESCO, has helped protect 1,000 world heritage sites, making sure historic and environmental sites are not harmed.
As the UN celebrates the International Day of Peace, we should celebrate the success that the organisation has been. Through its military and diplomacy supremacy, they have ensured nations have been rebuilt, war leaders have been jailed and our culture protected.