Afghanistan under Taliban control and in the grip of humanitarian crisis, what is the United Nations doing?

 The talk is about 76 years ago i.e. 1945. World War II was about to end. Many countries were ruined and the world wanted peace.

Then representatives of 50 countries together signed a charter and thus the foundation of a new international institution was laid.

It was hoped that this organization would not allow any third war like the First and Second World Wars.


Survivors after the US nuclear attack on Hiroshima, Japan, 1945

 The world today knows it as United Nations (UN) or United Nations.

This information about the UN is given on its official website. 

Today, when the Taliban have forcibly occupied Afghanistan and a serious humanitarian crisis has arisen there, questions are once again being raised about the purpose of the United Nations, under which it was established on October 24, 1945.


If we take a look at Google Trends and other social media platforms, then from common people to intellectuals, diplomats and journalists all are asking this question – Where is the UN?

Where is the United Nations?

To find the answer to this question, let us first look at the recent statements of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres:

• "Neither can we leave the people of Afghanistan, nor should we leave them."

• "The message of the international community to those on the path of war should be clear - seizing power by military force is a sign of your weak intentions."

• "I appeal to the Taliban to stop the violence with immediate effect. I appeal to them to hold further talks with goodwill for Afghanistan and the people of Afghanistan.


 United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres

Guterres called on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) to use "all its means" to end the threat of global terror in Afghanistan and ensure that there are no human rights violations there.

The UN chief called on other countries of the world to accept Afghan refugees and not to deport them to their countries ravaged by war.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Security Council has also held two meetings on the issue of Afghanistan, in which an appeal was made to the Taliban to find a political solution to this conflict and not to allow Afghanistan to become a haven for extremists once again.

Professor Harsh V Pant is the head of the Strategic Studies Program at the Observer Research Foundation, a Delhi-based think tank.

He says, "How paradoxical and ironic is it that the United Nations is appealing to the Taliban. Why would a Taliban that doesn't listen to the armed forces listen to the United Nations' appeal?"

Now the important question here is that why is the UN being forced to appeal again and again instead of taking any concrete action?

The short answer to this in one sentence is that the United Nations is not an independent institution or agency that can make any independent decisions. That is, if the UN is unable to take any concrete steps now, then it is its 'structural problem'.


 Now let us try to understand this structural problem in some detail:

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), which is one of the six most important organs of the United Nations, is responsible for dealing with issues such as international security and peace.

According to the Charter of the United Nations since 1945, there are five permanent members of the UNSC - America, Russia, China, France and Britain. They are also known as P-5.

These five permanent members have 'veto power'. That is, if the UNSC wants to pass a resolution, then it should be stamped by all the permanent members.

This simply means that if any one member uses his veto power while objecting to the motion, then the motion will not be passed.

That is, to take any step or for any action, the United Nations is dependent on its member countries, especially on its five permanent members.

Obviously, this happens on very few occasions when all the permanent members of the UNSC are unanimous on an issue. This is the reason why the Security Council often fails to take concrete steps.

Apart from this, there is another big problem with the United Nations.

Harsh Pant says, “A strange situation arises in front of the UN in matters related to peace and security. All parties involved in the war must agree to the role of the UN."

"If all the parties ask the United Nations to help them to end the war or to establish peace, then it can send peacekeeping forces there. But here also the work of the UN is only 'peacekeeping', not 'peace enforcement' There is a difference between the two. The UN can help restore peace in war-torn areas, not pressurize to ensure peace."

Why can't the UN intervene in Afghanistan?

Now if we talk about Afghanistan in particular, then due to the complexity of the situation there, the intervention of the United Nations becomes more difficult.

In such complex matters, the role of the United Nations becomes 'situational', that is, the situation has to be acted accordingly. The same action cannot be taken in every situation.

Harsh Pant says, "Where there is interference of the world's biggest powers, the role of the United Nations becomes more limited. The case of Afghanistan is also similar."

China and Russia are on the way to approve the same Taliban against whom America has conducted military action in Afghanistan for 20 years.

America's relations with China and Russia are not good, this is also not hidden from anyone.

Professor Pant explains by giving an example, "Suppose that even if a permanent member of the Security Council now wants to bring a resolution against the Taliban, it is almost certain that China and Russia will veto it immediately and the proposal will be automatically rejected. "

How the United Nations becomes ineffective due to the intervention of the world's superpowers, its example is found in history by turning the pages of the Cold War.

Harsh Pant says, "During the Cold War, when Russia and America were fighting an ideological war, the United Nations almost became defunct."


 Then what is the relevance of the United Nations?

What is its relevance when the United Nations, regarded as the 'Guardians of Peace', fails in its basic objective of bringing peace to the world?

This question, which has been asked on many occasions, is being asked once again. Memes that describe the UN as 'useless' are being shared on social media and it is being strongly criticized amid the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.


 Some such memes are being widely shared on social media

Pinaki Chakraborty, who has served as ambassador to countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Britain, justifies the criticism of the United Nations.

He told the BBC, "It is true that the United Nations has not been able to do much to restore peace in Afghanistan. Therefore these criticisms cannot be justified."

"To be honest, the UN is dying a slow death," he says.

However, he also reiterates that the United Nations is ultimately made up of its member states and works according to them. In such a situation, if anyone is the 'real culprit' of not maintaining peace, then they are the five permanent members of the UN.

Pinaki Chakraborty emphasizes on reforms in the structure of the United Nations and the Security Council.

He says, "Today even in 2021, there are the same five members of the Security Council as they were in 1945. There is a difference between the world at that time and the world of today. Now the power has shifted, the power of other countries in international politics The role has expanded and new countries have emerged, so the absence of any change in the UNSC is its biggest drawback.

Chakraborty says, "The situation in Afghanistan shows that it is time to reform the Security Council. Without any change it is becoming like a 'dinosaur'. Without structural changes, the United Nations is vested in the 'P-5' countries." Will continue to revolve around selfishness and agenda."


 Afghanistan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Ghulam M. Isakzai during a meeting of the Security Council

Reform in UNSC is also a thorn in the side

This is not the first time that there has been talk of structural reforms in the United Nations and the Security Council and giving a platform to other countries.

There are many countries like Germany, Japan and India which have been given strong arguments in favor of getting a permanent seat in the UNSC. But the structure of the United Nations also comes in the way of implementing this change or reform.

For any change in the UNSC, it is necessary for its permanent members to agree, that is, the same problem is seen in the face of it here and there.

Although the permanent members of the Security Council do a lot of verbal advocacy of reforms in it, but they are not able to come together on which reforms should be.

Pinaki Chakraborty says, "It cannot be denied that the permanent members of the UNSC do not want to make room for other countries. They want to maintain their monopoly there."

Apart from the demand for new countries to get a place in the Security Council, there has also been criticism of the veto power of its permanent members.

A section of foreign policy experts calls veto power the "most undemocratic part" of the United Nations.

Critics believe that due to veto power, the United Nations is unable to act against its permanent members and their allies even in situations like war crimes and crimes against humanity - as is happening in the case of Afghanistan now.

Will the condition of the UN be the same as that of the League of Nations?

Seeing the boundaries of the United Nations and the way it works, it is feared that its condition may not be like the 'League of Nations'.

NDTV journalist Akshay Dongre tweeted, "United Nations is the new League of Nations. It just has more members."

The League of Nations was the predecessor organization of the United Nations. It was the first such organization in the world formed with the cooperation of many countries whose purpose was to prevent war and to establish peace.

It was established in the year 1920 after the Paris Peace Conference, after which the First World War ended.

Although despite the League of Nations, World War II took place. That is, it is obvious that it failed in its purpose.

The biggest reason behind the failure of the League of Nations is said to be its structural weakness. It could also take any action only if its members were unanimous.

Even at the present time, there is hardly any issue on which all the members of the Security Council are unanimous. This is the reason why it is feared that the outcome of the United Nations may not be like the League of Nations.

 Did the UN do nothing in Afghanistan?

It would also not be fair to say that the United Nations has not done any work in Afghanistan.

The UN may not have directly intervened in political interference or conflict prevention, but its various agencies have done a lot to provide humanitarian aid in Afghanistan.

Whether it is to provide medical treatment, to do education work for girls or to arrange rehabilitation for the families affected by violence.

But at the same time it is also important to understand that the continuing war and violence in a country also has a bad effect on the humanitarian aid received from the United Nations.

For example, the UN agencies in Afghanistan are currently operating with very few staff.

Although the Taliban has assured that there will be no attack on the relief and rescue agencies, but how much this confidence can be sustained in the coming times, it will have to wait.

As far as the direct intervention of the United Nations in Afghanistan is concerned, in present times it is not possible without the political will of the permanent members.

Overall, if we talk about the role of the United Nations in the Afghanistan crisis, then it can be understood from a comment by the then Secretary General Kofi Annan in the year 1997.

He said, "It can be said that ... the role of the United Nations in Afghanistan is little more than a reason for not taking any concrete action."