The United Nations—friend or foe?

    The United Nations turns 75 this month and although the world is celebrating their longevity, there are those that have outlined their blatant and epic failures over the years since their inception

    It was in 1945 that the United Nations came into being, specifically on October 24th of that year. The catalyst for the creation of the United Nations was of course the Second World War. It was first in 1942 that Franklin D. Roosevelt and Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, TV Soong of China and of course Maxim Litvinov of the USSR signed the United Nations Declaration … the ultimate goal at that time was to defeat the Nazis and dedicate their joined powers to establishing liberty, independence religious freedom, the rights of justice and of man. It has been recorded that Canada and 22 other countries signed that same declaration the following day.

    Of course it would take just a few years to defeat Hitler and his band of Nazis, and by the aforementioned 24th of October, 1945, the United Nations would be officially under way as a peace-keeping organization and by that time with 80 percent of the world’s countries as officially signed participants in that charter.

    To this day, 98 percent of the world’s countries—a total of 193 states of government—have signed on, establishing Canada as it’s leader when it comes to peace-keeping and diplomatic acts and maneuvers.

    The Rwanda Genocide

    But although the United Nations has been involved in many acts of world progress and peace treaties, there are certainly instances in which the ball was dropped, for lack of a better term, and maybe the Rwandan Genocide of 1994 was and is perhaps the best of examples to this. It started in April of that year and ended in July of that same year. The amount of people killed during the atrocities numbered from 500,000 to 1,074,016 … numbers that perhaps seem ultimately impossible but yet are so sadly true.

    And where was the United Nations, you ask, specifically if you know nothing about this conflict …

    As it turns out, the UN was there, headed by Roméo Dallaire, a Force Commander of UNAMIR. The latter was the peacekeeping group sent into Rwanda when the threat of the conflict there began. The issues were primarily between Hutu extremists and the Tutsi people of the area. The goal ultimately was to stop the genocide before it ever began, but the mission ended up being terribly underfunded by the United Nations. At first only 60 officers were sent in with Dallaire when they put the UN flag up at their offices in Rwanda. Dallaire has said that really in all there were three groups involved in the conflict; the Belgians at that time being a factor, seeing that they had control of Rwanda leading to that point.

    Despite pleas for re-enforcements by Dallaire, the UN didn’t deliver in the end and Dallaire had to contend with what can only be called bureaucracy and a failure to understand what was on the horizon for Rwanda and its people. Dallaire felt like the UN felt as though Rwanda was less of an investment than other conflicts at the time. The Italians and the French sent troops, but only for their own expatriates. And finally, the final straw … the UN voting to actually move out of Rwanda, leaving only 300 there.

    Dallaire stayed.

    Burma / Myanmar

    Although this country gained its independence from Great Britain in 1948, the act possibly launched them and most of its people into terrible conflict and civil war. Very much like Vietnam and other conflicts in history, these people fought against a regime all their own, yet the UN was nowhere to be seen here either … there was very little support and always has been, even the United States offering only non-lethal aide and that was way back in 1951. Of course I can probably fill the whole paper and maybe a few editions of it with this history, but rest assured that Myanmar too is another example of this, and in the end proves what Dallaire said: Perhaps the UN does not see value in this conflict and never has.

    Today’s world

    And in today’s world, with these histories filling the books, allowing us to remember and not forget, which is a concept that “cancel culture” has no grasp of … it is only from these atrocities that we can get better and move away from actions (or lack thereof) of the past. Remembering the past is the only way we can prevent it from ever happening again.

    I had heard that there were even survivors of the Rwandan Genocide in Park Extension, but when I reached out on Social Media, I received no responses. I had originally planned to interview them if they were still in the area for this piece, but upon my failure to do so, perhaps there’s something value even in that … maybe in the end, a lack of anyone reaching out means they have moved away after their survival … moved away and gotten on with the rest of their lives, but surely never forgetting what they overcame during that terrible conflict.

    In an interview with City Councilor Mary Deros for another matter, I asked her about the Rwandan Genocide, and she said that she has surely shown her support in the past and continues to when such travesties occur, as she is more than sympathetic to their plight (then and now) and saddened at what occurred at that time.

    She didn’t say whether it was the UN that dropped the ball in any way or not, but she further wanted to mention the issues that Armenia is and has been facing. “I am against all form of genocides,” she said. “(When we think back to these genocides), the memories can take us back to the genocide of 1915, and perhaps had that been recognized, we wouldn’t be living through genocides like Rwanda and now Armenia.”

    Conflict in Armenia

    These issues started long ago, the conflict first arising in the early 20th Century. What is considered part of the modern conflict had its origin in 1988, ultimately leading to all-out war in 1994. The reasons behind this conflict rest in the dispute over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven others, which are controlled by the self-declared Republic of Artsakh, but are internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan … a territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

    A violation to a ceasefire occurred in 2016, and now they have come to this … the current crisis.

    Ensemble Montréal put out this declaration this week stating its sentiments:

    “The elected representatives of Ensemble Montreal wish to condemn the violence which takes place and which claims the lives of innocent people in Nagorno-Karabakh. The current situation is very worrying due to an important geopolitical conflict which shakes the region with deadly episodes. Ensemble Montréal reminds that this conflict was quickly denounced by the United Nations Security Council and by many heads of state. We call on the Trudeau government to react to the situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region by condemning the violence, demanding a ceasefire and calling for a resumption of negotiations to end this conflict which has already caused the death of several hundred people.”

    So perhaps this time, the UN will do everything in its power to help those in need, ultimately learning from their past mistakes.

    Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

    George Santayana