UN, Middle East, Israel, and the role of Secretary-General

International relation topic for CSS PMS IAS UPSC:

Role of Secretary-General of UN between the Middle East and Israel.

It is important to note that it becomes a tradition that one of the non-permanent members of UNSC is from the Middle East region and two from Latin America and five countries are from Africa-Asia.

Moreover, till the end of The Cold War, the UNSC was an important organ of the UN. However, during the post -cold war era, UNGA tried to emerge as an important organ due to the skeptical views of her against UNSC. It started to pass the resolutions which were initially rejected by UNSC.In order to unite them, UN Sec. Gen with his duty to maintain the bond of both organs but most of them failed miserably. As seven out of eight UN Sec confronted the War in the Middle Eastern Region

According to the author, the more important issue is the ‘unwillingness’ of five permanent members of the UNSC. The above-mentioned details are actually related to the public face of the UN.

However, the UN agencies(WFP, UNESCO, UNICEF) and incorporated agencies like ‘ILO’ also failed miserably to bring the common ground of all the leaders in collaborative phases in the case of the Arab world( Liberal Regional Perspective). The author tried to trace the connection of UN agencies with the civil population, although, UN agencies failed to bring it with the leaders, they successfully managed it with the civil societies. He further added, the problem being faced by the UN agencies was the ‘lack of support from Security Council, as these agencies worked on a ‘financed’ nature from the members of UN. He mentioned the ‘CWD’ of Syria, they got enough funds as it was in the interests of member states( Realist Perspective) but they got no support in other cases. Due to these factors, the ‘Peace Keeping Policy Makers’ which were basically from Western countries with a lack of coordination failed.

In addition to these, the ‘Political Economy of UN’ was viewed as an extension of ‘Imperialism of British’ by Arab Countries. Even the larger power of the Middle East like Egypt had the same views. He added further that largely because of support Israel was getting made Arab countries more skeptical towards ‘PE’ UN even against ‘MDGs’ and ‘SDGs’.They even accused UN agencies of her role which was responsible for ‘Arab Springs’

To understand this in a more perfect way, it is important to understand the roles of UN Sec. Generals in Arab World one by one:

First Sec. General Trygve Lie, who definitely tried to save the UN. It was the time when WWII was already concluded. The Palestine Mandate was started in 1922 under the banner of the League of Nations. However, leaders like Churchill clearly stated that after the creation of the UN, it could not be viable to continue to take the burden of Palestine. It was an ideal opportunity for Trygve Lie, as it gave administrative control to the UN because UK and the US were not interested in Palestine state as evident from 1974 Resolution. So, Lie was the person who advocated the proposal just to make UN effective. In May 1948 the ‘declaration of creation of state of Isreal was supported by UN. But , the resigning of first ever Sec. General made it worst for UN. In making it ‘better off’ with out making other ‘worse off’ ,although UN tried but the behaviors of powerful states failed her so . In 1949, armistice, Trygve Lie was not successful , it was representative(Count Bernbootte) of UNSC who concluded this. Interestingly , he was appointed by UNSC and not by UN. Sec Gen, which clearly showed the tug of war between two organs.Hence , the first Sec. General failed to bring the solution as it all ended with his resignation.

Secondly , the new Sec. General who was then died in Plane Crash incident.Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld faced the worst issues .Moreover, right from the beginning, he was skeptical towards Israel. In 1956, UN influence as the organization was evident during the Swiss war, when three states attacked Egypt .US and Dag installed first ever ‘Peace Keeping Mission’ with UN Emergency Force(UNEF) which was a success linked with Dag to end the crises. In 1958, US with changed role intervened in Lebanon , UN then convinced US to withdraw from Lebanon. Similarly , UN successfully ensured the withdrawal of UK . UN emerged as successful and influential organization , but it failed to bring the solution of Palestine. In 1960s , interestingly countries(Muslims) refused to support UN(Oriana Fallaci in her book ‘Interview with History’ also mentioned this)

Thirdly , the new Sec. Gen ,U thant who was from Burma .He faced the most difficult experience of Arab world .According to Vijay, U thant was not dynamic as in 1967 during the tension of Arab-Isral and removal of UNEF from the border was vouched which was threatening for UN . U thant successfully convinced the gradual withdrawal which forced Egypt to start naval blockade. Israel attack shuttered the UN peace keeping missions which gave the biggest setback to UN armistice efforts of previous UN Sec.For the first time after the creation of UN, U thant played the most important role which was then regarded as ‘Preventive Diplomacy’ in academic field.But, that episode of 1967 was a blot on U thant and UN.

Fourthly the new Sec. General Kurt Waldhein who was from Austria , clearly foresee the avenge of 1967 .He advised Golda Maire for permanent solution, but Golda’s saying that “Arabs are getting used to status quo and peace will be there in few years” rejected the Kurt’s opinion.The lost role of UN was re-emerged again in Dec 1973 . After 1949, UN managed to bring leaders on the table as (No Talk is no Option) .With that , UN disengagements of observer force, and the emergence force which was taken back by U Thant was again brought back as UNEF-2 at the borders. In 1978, Israel attacked southern areas of Lebanon ,Kurt successfully managed a peacekeeping mission and installed the UN interim force in Lebanon. With that , the lost prestige was regained. However, Kurt failed when Iraq attacked Iran as he was failed to gain support from permanent members of the UNSC. However, the lost glory faced less setbacks and regained an important position in the Arab World.

Fifthly , the new Sec. Gen Javier Pérez de Cuéllar who was a Peruvian Diplomat and non-western was the reason of less influential role of UN . The least important role ever played by UN Sec. General was by Javier Perez. According to the author, the Javier was not even within the reach of cameras during important conferences . In 1982, Israel once again invaded Lebanon . Parez provided the solution with one more peacekeeping mission in Beirut which was categorically refused by US. In his end years, Iraq invaded Kuwait and he failed to bring ‘ preventive diplomacy’ .

The next Sec. General Boutros Boutros-Ghali who was from Egypt said , it is impossible to solve Middle East crises. He further added , for Israel “UN is a war machine” . He coined the idea of ‘UN-Israel Peace Treaty’ as neighboring countries lacks the will to abide by the rules. He aimed this to increase the role of UN against the ‘role of UN’ which can’t be a party to any negotiation directly with any party. In 1990s, US openly proposed solutions in Middle East to increase her influence over UN.In this context , to make UN more influential he proposed above mentioned solution. ‘Camp David Accord’ was a US backed effort . In his reign ,these three episodes changed the role in such extent that US vetoed his second term; firstly ,deputation of 400 Palestinians to Lebanon, he went against this; secondly , massacre of 29 Palestinian in Hebron ,he confronted this;thirdly, Israel attacked upon the compounds of UN in Lebanon , he highlighted that . Even his idea was novel but faced clashes with nation system(P5) .

Lastly, Sec. General KOFI A. ANNAN of Ghana in 1997 till 2006 and Ban Ki Moon . Kofi A. Annan understood the situation of ‘Clash of Interest’ between UN and US . Former Sec. Gen which was considered as most successful in Middle East as in 1998 , he went Baghdad to convince Saddam to let IAEA inspection which was concluded successfully. Secondly, he coined the idea of ‘Quartet’ and brought four powers onboard including the US, Russia, EU. Due to this, Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005. Although he had few accolades he faced certain failures like Iraq War, as the UN couldn’t stop the US to invade Iraq. Kofi A. Anna said, “If you are the fire brigade, you don’t ask who started the fire”.For the first time, UN agencies got the chance to collaborate with the US as he viewed it as precedence for UN agencies.

Ban Ki-Moon as Sec. General tried to emerge as prominent and active. He was unconventional Sec . as he tried to increase the prestige of the UN.
He had larger exposure due to his services for the western organization. In 2012 of Israel operations in Ghaza and against Hamas for which he neutralized the situation. He was the only Sec. Gen who used to have open public speech. During his reign, he openly supported Arab Springs and asked leaders of Arab regimes to resign. His timely management of ISIS was his successful venture. He advocated the ISSG group led by the US and Russia. Secondly, the facilitation of Lebyian peace was a successful venture. However, he failed in Yemen Crisis. Overall he was vibrant and pro-active Sec. General of UN.


After understanding the roles of above mentioned Sec. Generals, UN, being peacemaking body failed miserably but being peacekeeping body it was successful with more than fifty missions. European Sec. Generals of the UN played a pro-active role in the Middle East. However, the other five failed miserably in the Middle East.Thirdly, 17% contribution out of the total was invested in the Middle East from 1945 till 2016. Fourthly, it is the worst-performing region in terms of MDGs and SDGs due to a lack of cooperation on the part of governments. Lastly, personal powers of diplomatic persuasion, as the UN lacks own military and financial power and with the only task of coordination to take on, was due to personal persuasion.
Written by Sir Zeeshan

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