What challenges, if any, did colonialism and the cold war pose to the United Nations at its inception in 1945? Use specific examples to illustrate your answer.
The world has gone through two serious world wars. The negative effects of first and second world, wars are still eminent. Most of the countries that actively took part in the second world wars lost their economic superiority due to repeated bomb attacks. The Allied victory against the axis brought the eagerly awaited peace. The allied forces convened several meetings that came up with the United Nations organisation. The frictions between the two blocks began when the Soviet Union failed to honour the pre war Atlantic charter agreements. (Toropov Brandon 2000:45-50)
The name United Nations was first mentioned in 1942, during the second world war by the U.S president Franklin Roosevelt. He was addressing the representatives of one hundred and twenty six countries who requested their countries to continue fighting in unison against the common enemy the Axis powers. The immediate organisation that preceded the United Nations organisation was the league of nation. It was also formed in the circumstances of the War. The victors of the Second World War wanted to avoid mistakes committed in Versailles treaty of 1919. The Versailles treaty established a toothless organisation. After the war in 1945, fifty country representatives met in San Francisco at the United Nations conference to draw up the charter. The charter was signed on 26 June 1945 by fifty the representatives. The United Nations is composed of different departments charged with different roles. The trusteeship council was formed in 1946. It was formed to monitor trustee governments to enable them gain autonomy. The United Nations trusteeship was created on the basis of the colonial territories, taken from nations defeated in war should not be taken away by victorious powers but administered by a trustee power under supervision of the international organisation, until their future status was determined. In sharp contrast to the mandate system the U.N trusteeship council welcomed petitions from trust territories on their independence. (ibid: 256-259)
The eagerly a waited peace, gave rise to tensions between the U.S and its western Democracies on one hand and the Soviet Union and its communists accomplices on the other hand. Cold war is the constant tensions, suspicions and frictions that took place between the Soviet Union and the western block. After the war the victors were supposed to implement the pre- war pledges that had been signed in the Atlantic charter. The Soviet Union refused to honour up her promises of granting self determinations to her colonies.
The United Nations risked losing financial assistance to run its operations. The U.N was being financed by fifty members, majority of which had invested in colonies. Most of the western powers were not ready to grant independence to colonial states. On the other hand the colonial states like India, Algeria, and Ghana were demanding for their independence as per the provisions of the Atlantic charter. The United Nations organisation found itself in a very tricky situation.This situation was further worsened by post world -war politics. The first peace conference was held in London in September 1945. It brought together the foreign prime ministers of the four powers that emerged victorious. The council of ministers had met to decide the fate of former Italian colonial empire (Libya, Eritrea, and Somaliland). Although most of the ministers were rooting for some form of trusteeship a specific formula had not been agreed on. The Soviet Union minister, Molotov, surprised the others when he came up with a suggestion of dividing Libya into four trusteeships, claiming Tripolitania for Soviet Union, cyrenica to Britain and Fezzan to France. Molotov further requested to be allowed to set up a military base in Mediterranean. The council of ministers failed to reach an agreement. Because no consensus was reached the matter was farther discussed at the second meeting of the council of ministers. (Poiger, Utah2002: 25-30)
When the second meeting was convened in Paris France the Soviet Union backed down its earlier demand for individual trusteeship of Tripolitania. This time it suggested that Libya should be divided into four regions each to be under the influence of Italy and any of the four Allies. When its second demand was rejected USSR resorted to her initial demands. Britain was against restoring Italy’s control over the colonies. Their point of contention was Cyrenaica due to wartime promises it had created to the native Senussi religious order. Given the fact that Britain had complete power over the territories by virtue of conquest, Britain eventually recommended to the council to maintain status quo. The United States of America was another country that strongly contested Russian request and instead suggested Italian colonies to be under trusteeship of the United Nations with the objective of achieving needs and aspirations of the residents. AT the meeting the U.S failed to advance its demands by fearing to interfere with its area of administration in the former Japanese islands in the Pacific in which it had special interest. Therefore, the U.S. chose to promote the thoughts of Italian possession, as long as a specific date for Libyan and Eritrean independence is set.
When the second meeting came to an end, the delegates had only managed to adopt the document that outlined the fate of the Italian colonies. It was agreed that the United Nations should be granted the role of disposition of the Italian colonies. Besides that the U.N was to take care of the welfare of the inhabitants by considering the views of other interested governments. The declaration pronounced that the final decision should meet three set standards: Self determination, and respect of a neighbor’s boundary. In addition a committee, of inquiry was to be set up to find out what the people of the colonies desired.
Therefore the United States of America suggested that the Italian colonies should be put under care of the United Nations trustee council, each managed by an administrator selected by the UNO, assisted by an advisory committee comprising the representatives of the Allies.( Robert Edwin 2005 :45-67)
The cold war prompted the realignment of the military forces all over the world. The world was segmented into two struggling factions. The two factions were driven by the desire to expand their respective spheres of influence and to promote their strategic interests by getting more regiment bases, communication infrastructure, and associate. The Eastern block and the western block struggled to secure the support of their colonies; hence contention over colonies became inevitable.
The United Nations organisation was formed to maintain world peace. After the Second World War many nations were destroyed completely. Many people wanted peace, hence the Allies wanted to form an organisation that could guarantee world peace. The victors formed the United Nations organisation to spear head peace. Peace found was short lived because some sense of mistrust developed among the winners of the war. The war period bond that brought together United States of America, Soviet Union and France was terminated by their victory. Therefore continued conflict between Soviet Union and the united states of American after the end of the Second World War frustrated their effort towards world peace hence the effectiveness of the United Nations was challenged. (United Nations 2010)
According to United Nations charter all the permanent members of the Security Council must practice collective responsibility by endorsing or rejecting proposals unanimously. The cold war politics that led to the separation of the world into two blocks culminated into the end of mutual relationship between the major powers in the Security Council. Russia and its Eastern bloc counterparts disturbed the efforts of the United Nations to deviate from the weaknesses of the League of Nations. The provisions which favoured the powerful nations in the Security Council did not succeed. It was because of the mistrust between super powers. In a world divided in to two conflicting ideological blocks, power vacuums, economic and psychological warfare, arms race and peripheral power contests, the UN was dominated by the U.s its western allies and Latin American followers. In these early days the U.S used the United Nations organisations to accommodate the Soviet Union.(ibid:34-43)
The cold war politics reduced the United Nations into an arena of ideological struggle. The United Nations machinery of maintenance of peace became dysfunctional. Since west and east did not trust each other to carry out military action on behalf of U.N, the functions of the Security Council became limited. The most visible example was the Korean War where the united nation became a platform of ideological struggle between East and west. Besides, the UN transformed from being a forum for diplomatic pressure and propaganda, to play forceful role in a way not envisaged by the chatter.
The operations of the Security Council was challenged in 1956, Suez Canal crisis. France and Britain used their vetoes to deadlock the actions of the Security Council. The united nation was forced to use the general assembly. The general assembly used the uniting peace procedure to discuss the crisis. Majority of the general assembly supported the idea that the French and British soldiers should be replacing with United Nations peacekeeping missions.
The United States of America dominated the United Nations organisation. The united nation as an organisation needs financial resources so that it can function well. After the Second World War the countries like Soviet Union, Britain and France had their economies ruined. The United States of America joined the war later on hence it still had a strong economy after the war. The U.S therefore used its strong economy to control the United Nations organisation politically and economically. The superpower rivalry prevented the creation of envisaged security machinery. The arms race that took place between the western block and the eastern bloc threatened world peace hence the United Nations organisation was destabilised.
The Soviet Union and the United States of America continued on the path of arms race where they developed the atomic bombs and the hydrogen bomb. The arms race threatened the effectiveness of the United Nations organisation because the most powerful nations are the ones that funded and controlled the United Nations hence it was difficult for the united nation to separate the two blocks.
The end of the world war was supposed to mark the beginning of world peace. With the inception of the United Nations organisation in 1945 the world was optimistic that it could manage the eagerly awaited peace. The mistrust that developed between the western and eastern powers was due to egocentric interests of the leaders of the Soviet Union.
Toropov Brandon. (2000)Encyclopedia of cold war politics. New York: InfoBase Publishing
Poiger, Utah (, 2002) Jazz, rock, and rebels: cold war politics and American culture in a divided Germany. Califonia: University of California Press.
Robert Edwin (2005) The United Nations: international organization and world politics. New York: Thomson Wadsworth
United Nations. (2010).Yearbook of the United Nations, Volume 60; Volume 2006.New York: United Nations Publications,
United Nations. (2007).United Nations Juridical Yearbook 2004.New York: United Nations Publications.