(Photo credit: REUTERS/Mohamed Nureldin Abdallah)
The United Nations (UN) marked its 75th anniversary on Monday following its formation on October 24, 1945. It has over the decades, promoted peace and development in all regions of the world.
Africa has witnessed violent and turbulent events, including civil wars and ethnic conflicts which have led the UN to conduct major peacekeeping missions to ensure stability and security in many countries.
Since its founding, the UN has carried out 72 peacekeeping operations globally with 28 in Africa, facilitating confidence building measures, power sharing arrangements, electoral support, strengthening the rule of law as well as economic and social development.
According to the UN, over one million men and women have served in varying capacities in the peacekeeping missions.
As of September 2019, there were 14 ongoing peace missions across the world with four in Africa.
They include the UN Stabilisation Mission (MONUSCO) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSCA) in Central African Republic and UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA) in Mali.
The others are the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), African Union – UN Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID), UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) and UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS).
The 1990s saw the highest number of peace missions since the organisation’s founding with the Somali civil war, the Mozambican civil war, the first Liberian civil war, Sierra Leonean civil war and the Rwandan genocide.
The UN also played a vital role in enforcing and monitoring disarmaments and ceasefires in all regions plagued by conflict and ensured continued stability in the years that followed.
After the calamity that World War II left behind, establishing an organisation driven by the zeal to safeguard humanity and saving future generations from the effects of war became a necessity.
The global body said its work had helped to “mitigate thousands of conflicts, saved hundreds of thousands of lives through humanitarian actions and provided millions of children with the education that every child deserved.
“Even in times of great global challenges and tension, our organisation has catalysed decolonisation, promoted freedom, shaped norms for international development and worked to eradicate disease,” the UN stated.
Peacekeeping activities have now also diversified with changing times, including fostering diplomatic relations with other countries and international bodies such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
An example was during the apartheid period in South Africa when the UN condemned South Africa’s apartheid policies in 1962. The following year, it set up a special committee to oversee plans of action against the regime when it began to manifest as a threat to global security.
Also in 1993, during the Rwandan civil war, the UN implemented the Arusha Agreement, and sent 2,500 peacekeepers to end the war between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups in Rwanda.
Although UN peacekeepers were on the ground, they failed to oversee the reconciliation of the combatants in the conflict which led to the killing of between 800,000 and one million Tutsis.
Instead, they ensured the evacuation of foreigners from the country, a mission which the UN in 1999 called “disgraceful”.
At the virtual high level event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the UN, President Muhammadu Buhari highlighted Nigeria’s role in the organisation’s goal for peace and development.
”As an active member of the Organisation, Nigeria has contributed human, financial and material resources to several United Nations Peacekeeping Operations.
”We have also provided humanitarian aid to refugees and displaced persons, helped countries in tackling diseases such as Ebola and extended both human and financial resources as technical aid to other countries.
”In addition, we have served on five occasions as a Non-Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council and contributed significantly to the promotion of international peace and security,” he said.
Buhari called on the UN Security Council for equal and fair representation, especially in respect of African countries, saying it was “long overdue”.