The rise in civilian deaths and global conflict shatters all illusions that the UN has any ability to maintain the peace. A US veto at the UNSC to protect genocide in Gaza is the very last straw.
Article 1 of the founding charter of the UN boldly proclaims the organization’s primary aim:
To maintain international peace and security, and to that end: to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, 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.
Despite this noble aspiration, the UN has systematically, fiduciarily, and overwhelmingly failed to prevent war and uphold peace. From 1946 – a year after the UN was established – to 2022, the world witnessed 285 distinct armed conflicts, alongside numerous smaller-scale skirmishes.
The current genocide in Gaza launched in October 2023 is the latest grim reminder of the UN’s failure to fulfill its foundational mission, transforming it from a beacon of hope for peace into a mere provider of aid to mitigate the fallout of its shortcomings.
Since its inception, dozens of expensive UN agencies have sprung into existence because of the international organization’s inability to thwart conflict. These include the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), dedicated solely to the care of Palestinian refugees in West Asia, many of whom still live in tents from a conflict the UN has not resolved in 77 years.
And matters are worsening, globally. According to data from Uppsala University in Sweden, armed conflicts of all varieties – be they interstate wars, externally-fueled civil wars, or clashes between various groups and states – have been on the rise since the establishment of the United Nations. In fact, “more state-based conflict battle-related deaths took place in 2022 than any year since 1994.”
Global conflict imbalance
Troublingly, this trend shows no sign of abating, particularly in Africa and Asia – especially West Asia. It is notable that the only areas with a decline in conflict incidence are Europe and the Americas. Unsurprisingly, the populations of these continents, who bear the brunt of armed conflicts, harbor doubts about the efficacy of the UN and its Security Council.
These are statistics that validate the main grievance of the Global South: that in the post-WW2 period, the west has focused on reducing tensions in its own sphere while playing a prominent role in fueling conflicts in other parts of the world. And it explains the outraged European reaction to the west’s proxy war with Russia in Ukraine, which brought war back to Europe’s shores.
A closer examination reveals a shift in the nature of conflicts, with “direct wars” constituting only a fraction of the total. In 2022, direct wars accounted for 17 percent of all conflicts, marking a significant increase from the previous year’s 9 percent. This change underscores the proliferation of proxy wars, externally-supported internal conflicts, and clashes between non-state actors and sovereign states.
The year 2022 saw a disturbing 142 percent increase in battle-related deaths compared to the previous year, with over 204,000 lives lost.
The human cost of these conflicts are harrowing. Since 1946, countless lives have been lost and communities shattered, under the watch of a UN unable – or unwilling – to curtail the bloodshed. The statistics are sobering, with millions of fatalities attributed to conflicts that have slipped through the UN’s grasp.
How the US protects Israel at the Security Council
In theory, the UN Security Council is entrusted with maintaining global peace and security, yet finds itself shackled by the recurring exercise of the veto power, particularly when it comes to matters concerning Israel.
As a permanent member state, the US has wielded its veto authority with unabashed frequency to shield the occupation state from accountability over its numerous atrocities against the Palestinian people and its repeated acts of aggression against its West Asian neighbors.
Indeed, the US has resorted to its veto power 89 times since the Council’s inception, with over half of those vetoes used to thwart resolutions critical of Israel. As of 18 December 2023, the US has employed its veto privilege 45 times to block measures addressing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories and its treatment of the Palestinian people.
Astonishingly, out of the 36 draft resolutions pertaining to Israel and Palestine since 1945, 34 have fallen victim to US vetoes, effectively shielding Tel Aviv from accountability for its violations of international law – including humanitarian and human rights law.
Most resolutions have been shut down by Washington’s vetoes call for “providing a framework for peace in the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” including “demanding that Israel abide by international laws, calling for self-determination for a Palestinian state,” and/or “condemning Israel for displacing Palestinians or building settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
Tel Aviv’s ongoing military assault on Gaza demonstrates this entrenched bias. Despite widespread condemnation of Israeli atrocities, which include the targeting of civilians, hospitals, journalists, schools, and mosques – and even a ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) calling on the occupation state to “prevent acts of genocide” – Washington has obstinately vetoed any resolution critical of Israel or advocating for a military ceasefire.
The draft resolution proposed by Algeria in late January, which unequivocally called for an immediate ceasefire, faced opposition from Israel’s allies within the Security Council, poised to exercise their veto power to shield Israel from censure.
Washington’s unwavering support for Tel Aviv always overrides its commitment to upholding international law and protecting civilians. The failure of the UNSC to act decisively – or reform itself – in the face of such blatant violations not only undermines the credibility of international institutions but also perpetuates unchecked violence in conflict zones like Gaza.
Israel’s unprecedented, brutal assault on the Gaza Strip has “wreaked more destruction than the razing of Syria’s Aleppo between 2012 and 2016, Ukraine’s Mariupol or … the Allied bombing of Germany in World War II,” AP reported back in December.
The current civilian death toll has outpaced Washington’s nine-month assault on the Iraqi city of Mosul in 2017.
Additionally, just three weeks into its carpet bombing campaign, Israel had killed more children in Gaza than the number of children killed in all the world’s conflicts over an entire year.
This unacceptable mounting loss of civilian lives in Gaza is a damning indictment of the so-called “rules-based world order,” revealing it to be little more than a facade for advancing western imperial interests.
The systematic obstruction of resolutions critical of Israel exposes the urgent need for reform within the UNSC and a re-evaluation of the principles upon which it operates. Until then, the victims of conflict will continue to pay the price for the Council’s inertia and the political expediency of its members.
Ironically, the UNSC’s indifference to international law reinforces the growing view that lawlessness can only be met by force. In Gaza, where almost 30,000 Palestinians have been brutally killed over the past four months, the Palestinian armed resistance is the only means to secure justice against a “protected” occupation state.