United Nations in Resolving International Disputes

The United Nations was founded in October 24, 1945, and had 192 Member States, the Articles of Association is mainly the "UN Charter", which is to maintain international peace and in security, the development of friendly relations between countries, promote international cooperation and coordination of national actions. It has a total of five major organs: the United Nations General Assembly, Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, International Court of Justice and the Secretariat, all agencies are to perform their functions under the provisions of the Charter.

It has always been a controversial topic that whether the United Nations plays an important role in international affairs, this essay agrees that the United Nations is indeed an effective institution, it plays an irreplaceable role in dealing with many international disputes and settlement of international affairs. However, the United Nations also has its limitations and shortcomings, which are mainly reflected in the poor settlement of regional disputes and the inability to stop the war. This essay will firstly introduce the principal organs of the United Nations in terms of the settlement of disputes. Following this, it will discuss the limitations and shortcomings of the United Nations in maintaining international peace and security. Finally, it will look at how the limitations and shortcomings reflected in the settlement of Iraq War.

First, the General Assembly and the Secretary-General. The United Nations General Assembly is composed by all Member States, which is the deliberative organ of the United Nations, and holding a regular session each year. There must be two-thirds of the UN General Assembly adopted on "important issues"; for the "general problems", more than half would be permitted. Generally speaking, resolutions adopted by the Assembly are not legally binding, and they are more of a political and moral strength. The role of Secretary-General of the United Nations is reflected more of a third-party intervention in the peaceful settlement of international disputes.

Second, the Security Council. Within the United Nations, Security Council plays an important political position; it is the only organization which has right to take action for the maintenance of international peace and security under the Chapter VII of "UN Charter", and all the United Nations Member States must comply with any resolution made by the Council in its terms of reference.

To take the Iraq war for example, after the 1991 Gulf War the United Nations Security Council passed a total of over 60 resolution, mainly around the Gulf War cease-fire, liability and compensation for war, destruction of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, against terrorism and the request of Iraq on full cooperation with the United Nations issues. (Bennett, 2008) In the international level, these resolutions made by the Council is the legal basis for international community to deal with the Iraq issue, which provides the rights and obligations of Iraq and other members of the United Nations on the issue, but also decides the position of the United Nations in Iraq's post-war reconstruction. But overall, the U.S. and British military action against Iraq is the challenge that defies the United Nations security system, which just exposes the limitations and shortcomings of the United Nations Security Council in maintaining international peace and security.

The limitations and shortcomings of UN reflected in the Iraq issue

It is not only used to encourage the participating countries of the Hague Peace Conference in 1899 to take peaceful settlement of international disputes in order to prevent the outbreak of war, but also the "Hague spirit which affects the future development of international law in the field of peaceful settlement of international disputes. Article 1 of the “UN Chapter" clearly states: To maintain international peace and security …and to bring about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace." Thus, "safeguarding world peace and security" is in the first place of the four purposes of United Nations organizations.

However, the United States and Britain launched the war on Iraq by passing the Security Council, which is an act of unilateralism of "the United Nations Charter" and "international law", and it has become an indisputable fact of disregard of the law. (Pfaff, 2003) It violates the basic principles of the Charter, including the sovereign equality of Member States; in good faith to fulfill international obligations; peaceful settlement of international disputes; not to use force or threat of force against any Member State on the territorial integrity or political independence; collective assistance; ensure that non- Member States to comply with the Charter principles and non-interference in internal affairs. It can not cover up the hegemonic and non-humanitarian reflected in their actions with any excuse. (Sellersed, 1996)

However, the problem is that there is no independent and effective mechanism above the nations which has the power to conduct certain punishment and coercive measures, even the United Nations can not do anything. (Michael, 2003) In other words, although the Charter and international law clearly prohibit such behavior, but they did not provide the legal consequences for the violation of prohibition; or even if provided, the enforceability of the resolution is still a very difficult problem. (Thomas, 2001)

Thus, there has been a constant friction and conflict between the major powers unilateralism and multilateralism established by the United Nations, (Boutros, 2003) the United States so-called "preemptive" self-defense theory, "human rights overriding sovereignty" principle began to follow. All these have given a heavy blow to the United Nations security mechanisms, which is built up painstakingly by all countries in the world. The United Nation’s powerless on this issue has become an embarrassing situation.


In summary, the important role of United Nations in resolving international disputes is self-evident, but its limitations and weaknesses exposed are also cause for concern. The reflection of international community on the result of the war in Iraq is that the role and authority of the United Nations should be strengthened rather than be weakened. The United Nations role in Iraq's reconstruction can not be replaced by any country or institution. The world today is facing problems such as terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, which are all global issues. To find a legal and effective way to address these problems requires global cooperation. Therefore, it is imperative to reform the United Nations, by realizing its shortcomings in conflict, the UN would find the direction and thus to make better self-development. (1,101 words)