The United Nations was set up in 1945.
Its aim: to prevent another world war and make the world a better place. Its mission statement is laid down in the UN charter.
The UN is made up of 193 member states. Members convene at the United Nations General Assembly, which is the main policy making section of the UN. All sounds very important.
The UN Security Council maintains international peace and security. No big deal.
The Security Council has five permanent members;
France, Russia, China, the USA and the UK. 10 additional nations serve two-year terms.
In 1961 the United Nations created the World Food Programme. This provides food to around 90 million people. The number of starving people in the world has dropped by around 100 million in the last decade.
Eradicating smallpox is one of the United Nations greatest achievements, according to Alex Buskie at the United Nations Association.
By vaccinating more than half the world’s children against deadly diseases the UN is estimated to save 2.5 million lives a year.
The UN also takes a tough stance on war criminals.
A war crime is defined as an act carried during a war that violates accepted international rules of war.
Think: killing civilians and torturing prisoners. Not nice stuff.
In 2003 the UN set up a tribunal to trial Liberian politician Charles Taylor for war crimes during the Liberian Civil war. Taylor was sentenced to 50 years in jail. Go UN!
Oh, and the UN has a list of Global Development Goals which will make the world a better place. Read: the United Nations’ plan to save the world
A 1970 UN nuclear treaty committed most members to getting rid of all nuclear weapons. Some countries like South Africa have got rid of their weapons. Yet in 2015, there are still around 15,000 nukes in the world. Yikes.
The United Nations has also struggled to make headway in the fight against climate change.
In 2009, all the UN states met at a summit in Copenhagen to agree on a deal to tackle climate change. It was expected a legal treaty would be signed – but everyone came away with nothing. UN member states meet again in Paris this year to try to lock in a deal. If at first you don’t succeed.
Though the UN keeps the world looking pretty by protecting World Heritage Sites it failed to stop Islamist group Islamic State blowing up ancient temples at Palmyra, Syria.
United Nations peacekeepers are now being dispatched to protect other heritage sites around the globe. Better late than never.
The United Nations has also been criticised for the failure of some of its peacekeeping missions. Let’s just say the success rate is well below 100%.
The United Nations also failed to prevent another genocide (mass killing of an ethnic group or large group of people) in Srebrenica, Bosnia.
During the Bosnian civil war killings occurred inside zones that were deemed as “safe havens” by UN peacekeeping forces.
According to Human Rights Watch “United Nations peacekeeping officials were unwilling to heed requests for support from their own forces stationed within the enclave, thus allowing Bosnian Serb forces to easily overrun it and
— without interference from U.N. soldiers — to carry out systematic, mass executions of hundreds, possibly thousands, of civilian men and boys and to terrorize, rape, beat, execute, rob and otherwise abuse civilians being deported from the area.”
Not the UN’s finest hour.
Though the Security Council is supposed to reduce international conflict there’s been tension between certain member states. Ahem, America and Russia.
The five Permanent council members have a veto power, or the power to reject plans put forward by other states. If just one of the five permanent member vetoes a particular action, it cannot go ahead – even if the other 14 countries voted for it.
Things got awkward when the UK, France and the USA wanted to intervene in the Syrian civil war… only to be blocked repeatedly by Russia and China.
Then there’s the selection of Saudi Arabia as the head of the UN human rights panel.
Despite some of the shortcomings listed above it is clear that the United Nations has done a lot of good in the world. However some still call it “outdated” and say that it needs to be reformed. What do you think?
A small country in the Middle East, Armenia is East of Turkey, and just above Iran.
Both Turkey and Armenia were once part of the Ottoman Empire, also known as the Turkish Empire.
Genocide: “to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group” (Article Two of the UN convention 1948)
The Ottoman Empire was Muslim and was ruled as a Caliphate (a State where Islam is recognised as top law).
It was pretty massive: containing Turkey, Egypt, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Israel, Jordan, Syria, and parts of North Africa and many more.
Christians such as the Armenians were allowed to practice their own religion BUT were taxed more and were treated as second class citizens.
The Ottoman/Turkish Empire was one of the largest and longest lasting empires in history. However, come 1915 it had lost land, money and esteem: a shadow of its former glory. A political group of discontented army officers called the Young Turks took power of the remaining Ottoman Empire in 1908.
The Young Turks led Turkey into WWI on Germany’s side. Bad move. They lost a major battle against Russia in Sarikemish, right on the border between the Ottoman Empire and Russia. Armenian volunteers in the area fought alongside the Russians – against their Turkish rulers. Fearing Armenians across the whole of the Ottoman Empire would follow suit and side with the enemy the Young Turks decided to do something about it.
In the Turkish capital city Constantinople (Now Istanbul) Ottoman or Turkish locals captured more than 200 members of the ethnic minority Armenian community. Most were killed and others were deported and their property seized. Starting as a way to neutralise potential political threats this was the start of a period of ethnic cleansing known as the Armenian Genocide.
When this finally ended a few years later over 1 million Armenians had been killed.
In 1922 the Ottoman empire was fully abolished and Turkey was recognised as a separate country. Armenia had less luck, and was absorbed by the Soviet Union (Think: Russia) until 1991 when Armenia was reinstated as its own independent country.
The death toll for the Armenian genocide is estimated 1-1.5 million. It was only a few years later, that the same amount of people died in the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz. Just to put things into perspective of course, the Armenian genocide was a big deal.
Of course, Auschwitz was just one camp, and in total 11 million people died in the Holocaust in WW2 – which may be why you’ve heard of it, and not the Armenian Genocide.
But it’s not just about numbers.
So why haven’t you heard about this? Because the majority of people accept the Holocaust as FACT whereas the Armenian Genocide still isn’t universally accepted. This is a fact too guys.
The Big Issue: Turkey still won’t own up. Yep, you heard that right. They say the killings were a regrettable consequence of the war, but that no systematic or planned genocide of Armenians took place.
They also say the number of dead is much lower, around 300,000 and that many Turks were killed in the conflict…
These claims clash with reports from the time – a New York Times report suggested that a “policy of extermination” was taking place.
And let’s not forget: Polish lawyer Raphael Lemkin, came up with the word “genocide” in a book about the Holocaust published in 1944. He previously had written about the events in Turkey and stated in a 1949 documentary that “genocide had happened so many times… first to the Armenians”
So the guy who came up with the word “genocide” considered the Armenian events a genocide, and yet…
US President Barack Obama will make a speech today marking the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
However, he will NOT actually say the word “genocide“. Instead he will use the term “Meds Yeghern” an Armenian term meaning “the great calamity”. Not quite the same thing…
Why won’t he use the word? Because only 20 countries have formally accepted the Armenian Genocide and the USA ain’t on that list. Neither is the UK.
Reasons to keep Turkey sweet: Turkey is a big ally to the US in the Middle East, assisting them in the fight against Islamic State. So Obama won’t be upsetting them by saying the word “Genocide” any time soon.
Same goes for the UK : a leaked foreign office document from 1999 stated the UK relied so much on good relations with Turkey so would not recognise the genocide. Not dodgy at all…