Monthly Archives: May 2018

The UNEF: An End Run For Peace

By Zachary Logsdon

Note:  This op-ed is set in the late 1950s, at the time of the deployment of the first UN peacekeeping mission to the Suez Canal.

From the tall windowed building on 42nd Street, New York City, comes monumental
news. An emergency force, aptly named the United Nations Emergency Force (UNEF), is to be
deployed to Egypt in order to try and help bring an ordered close to the recent fiasco over the
ownership of the Suez Canal. The attempt made by Britain and France to steal the canal from
Egypt, an attempt at armed robbery on a scale so huge as to make John Dillinger look like a
common mugger, has collapsed in the face of American pressure and Soviet threats, and it seems
that this disgraceful affair to be concluded. While many will marvel over the outrageous of what
British and the French have done, the real story here is the UNEF, and the promise that it has to
be a potent weapon in the arsenal of peace, as it provides a model for future operations that is
independent of the Security Council.

We must look at the UN Charter to first see why the UNEF has the potential to be a
potent weapon for peace. Under Article 42 of the UN Charter, only the Security Council may
authorize “peace enforcement” missions.1 Yet the UNEF has not been set up as a “peace
enforcement” mission, rather it has been invited by the Egyptian government and authorized by
the General Assembly. In effect, Secretary General Hammarskjöld and the General Assembly
have got right around Article 42, the Americans, the Soviets, British, French, and Chinese to
establish this new “peacekeeping” force.

This is critical for the success of similar future operations precisely because this
“peacekeeping” model circumvents the gridlock of the Security Council and sets a precedent for
future missions that do not require Security Council approval. The Security Council is an
unwieldy instrument, and the inability of all five permanent members to agree on anything has
the potential to prevent decisive action, such as in the case of the Suez Crisis where two
permanent members were the aggressors. In going around Article 42, the Secretary-General and
the General Assembly have ensured that, provided the parties involved are willing to give peace
a chance, the UN can become involved even if the Security Council cannot agree. This clears the
way not just for peace in the Suez Canal Zone, but the possibility of future such missions being
deployed, as the Security Council will find it difficult to block such efforts. As such, we me
confidently expect more missions similar to that of the UNEF, which can only further the cause
of peace.

Some people will argue that the UNEF and the type of mission it sets the mold for will
not be effective. They will say that without the support of the Security Council, such missions
will be doomed to fail, and that we must continue to place our faith in the five permanent
members to authorize peace enforcement when it is necessary. However, I would remind them
that the only peace enforcement mission that has been authorized was the intervention in Korea,
and it was only approved because the Soviet Union was boycotting Security Council meetings.
As such, those who place their faith in peace enforcement overestimate the likelihood that the
Security Council would authorize peace enforcement missions, and are naïve as to the political
realties of the Security Council. It is crucial that the UN possess some way to circumvent the
Security Council in order to further, and the UNEF model gives the UN precisely that.
The UNEF provides an excellent framework for future “peacekeeping” operations, as it
establishes a system whereby the General Assembly and Secretary-General can approve the
deployment of troops to help implement peace agreements, even if the Security Council
disagreed, or cannot agree. I cannot say how the Egyptian-Israeli conflict will end, however I do
believe that its best chance of ending peacefully is with the UNEF maintaining the demarcation
line between the two sides, and as Sir Winston Churchill put it “to jaw-jaw is always better than
to war-war.”2 In the coming months and years, we must press our leaders to support similar
operations wherever they are needed and requested, and we may confidently expect that such
operations will help further the peace and stability that we have enjoyed since the end of the
Second World War and the Korean Conflict.

Zach Logsdon is a 2018 Miami University graduate who is returning to earn a master’s degree in History.

1 “Middle East: UNEF I Background,” Department of Public Information of the United Nations,
2 Richard Norton-Taylor, “Jaw-jaw is better than war-war,” The Guardian (London, UK), Sept. 10, 2015.

The Case for Peacekeeping

By Grant Radke

There can be no doubt that the United States is retreating from the world stage, and nowhere has this been more apparent than in the United Nations. In the past year, the US has extricated itself from UNESCO, the Paris Climate Accord, and, most recently, the JCPOA (colloquially “the Iran Deal”). Coupled with a $250 million dollar reduction in American contributions, it has become abundantly clear that the administration is unconvinced by the international community’s promises. But American support for peacekeeping operations must not falter because, as recent operations have demonstrated, the success of the UN as a peacekeeping force largely depends on the political will and material support of the American government. Given this position, it remains in the national interest to maintain our security commitments. The two cases that best illustrate the dynamics at play are the operations in Somalia and the former Yugoslavia, two near-contemporary cases in the Nineties, the former a failure and the latter a success, both defined by the actions of American-led coalitions.

The peacekeeping operation in Somalia, UNOSOM, was launched in April, 1992 with a simple, but elusive goal: Maintain a ceasefire and provide humanitarian aid to contain the Somali Civil War. The mandate was to be enforced by both peacekeepers and American military servicemembers. But just over a year into the operation, following the Battle of Mogadishu, President Clinton announced the United States would withdraw all its forces. Undeterred, the Security Council extended the mandate for another year; it seemed that the peacekeepers would stand alone. This was not the case. Without American support, the UN forces were under-equipped and overworked, and the UN withdrew all its forces just one year after the Americans, without establishing the ceasefire and without stopping their primary target, Mohamed Farrah Aidid. In short, the UN had found operating without American assistance too burdensome, but the US had found peacekeeping too unpopular. As a result, the security crisis went unresolved and Somalia was ceded to the same warlords who had fought American troops and stole aid from the Somali populace.

In comparison to the Somali case, the contemporary NATO-UN partnership in Yugoslavia appears to be an unqualified success: It demonstrated that the United States could use the authority and infrastructure offered by the United Nations’ Department of Peacekeeping Operations to secure its political objectives, so long as American leaders were assertive. Following reports of ethnic cleansing, the UN established UNPROFOR in 1992 with an ambitious mandate. The Protection Force was to establish safe zones for displaced Yugoslavs, meant to provide not just humanitarian aid, but direct military protection from ethnic militias.

As the Serbian artillery campaign intensified in 1993, the U.S. secured a no-fly zone through the Security Council, but NATO was permitted to do nothing more than report violations. Following the shelling of the Merkale market in Sarajevo, the UN unshackled NATO air forces by requesting air strikes. For the remainder of UNPROFOR’s involvement in Yugoslavia, NATO’s subsequent air campaign, Operation Deliberate Force, kept pressure on the Bosnian Serb army.

Not only did NATO remain committed to conflict resolution, it actually outlasted the UN’s own protection force by nine years, sending its own troops to maintain the peace. In essence the UN had been fighting a losing war on the ground, setting the stage for an embarrassing retreat, much like the one they were about to face in Somalia. Political scientists argue that it was the authorization of American-led NATO airstrikes served as an inflection point, bolstering UNPROFOR and encouraging combatants to sit for negotiations. The American commitment opened a theater in which Serbs could not compete and saved the peacekeeping effort. And by dint of its military commitments, the United States earned the right to broker the peace that followed.

At the present, Somalia remains a broken state, in fact it is second on the global Fragile States Index.[1] Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the other hand, is increasingly an asset to American allies, with nascent support for admission to both the EU and NATO. The UN peacekeeping operation, undergirded by NATO military action, allowed Bosnia’s transformation from a failed state into a potential political and economic partner.

But it did not have to be so: In June, 1995, when an American pilot was shot down over Bosnia, it became clear that, as in Mogadishu, U.S. servicemembers were facing true danger in another peacekeeping operation on the far side of the Atlantic. Within a week, Congress demanded Clinton end American participation in the Balkan blockade; the New York Times ran a story on the “Pride and Limits” of the UN mission.[2] It seemed that, once again, the U.S. would abdicate. President Clinton, however, did not repeat the mistake of 1993 and instead redoubled the American commitment; Deliberate Force would officially begin two months later. It was a clear “lessons-learned” moment for Clinton, a lesson that I hope we have not forgotten.

Today, the public reputation of the UN is as damaged as it was in ‘94, following the withdrawal from Somalia. (As of February, 1% fewer Americans believe the UN is doing “a good job.”)[3] And it this general distrust of the United Nations that has facilitated the Trump Administration’s general retreat from its obligations. However popular it may become, the United States cannot surrender its role in peacekeeping. It is easy to conclude that, with the unipolar moment behind it, someone would take up the mantle in America’s absence, but this just is not the case: The nations with the military capacity to save a large-scale UN mandate (Russia, China, and Iran for example) seem uninterested in collective security. Further, even if they were, it is unlikely that these nations would use peacekeeping to build situations that reflected American interests or values.

In short, when it comes to global security crises, the UN-U.S. peacekeeping relationship remains the only the game in town. But as the cases of the early Nineties suggest, while substantive long-term success is possible, it requires absolute commitment on behalf of the United States. Further, supporting peacebuilding offers the U.S. government the unique position of being both a player and a referee in the resolution of the conflict, a situation that can be heavily leveraged, as evidenced by our extensive involvement in the construction of a liberal Bosnia, one which today supports the same political and economic integration the Yugoslav Wars had interrupted. For these reasons, the Administration should assure the Secretariat that America remains devoted to the UN’s security functions, regardless of its broader skepticism.

[1]J. J. Messner, “Fragile States Index 2018: Issues of Fragility Touch the World’s Richest and Most Developed Countries in 2018,” Fund for Peace, April 19, 2018. accessed May 10, 2018.

[2]Roger Cohen, “Bosnia Battle Shows U.N.’s Pride and Limits,” The New York Times, June 6, 1995, accessed May 10, 2018.

[3]Justin McCarthy, “Snapshot: A Third in U.S. Say United Nations Doing a Good Job,” March 01, 2018, accessed May 10, 2018.

The UN and the Rwandan Genocide

By Joshua Bradford

A historical criticism of the United Nations is that it has been slow to respond in times of crisis. The spectre of the Rwandan Genocide loomed large in the public consciousness throughout the 90s and early 2000s, and remains a black mark in U.N. history to this day. As a result of Rwanda and similar debacles, the public perception of peacekeeping operations is mixed, to say the least. While the U.N. has certainly made its mistakes, it is uncharitable to view its peacekeeping operations in a negative light when we consider what we expect from them. As an organization dedicated to world peace, the U.N. has delegated itself an impossible task. Its predecessor, the League of Nations had previously strived to fulfill this duty, and while the League scored many humanitarian victories, lasting peace was not one of them. The fact that the U.N. has worked to promote stability for decades now is impressive in itself. So when we assess the success and failure of “the World’s Policeman”, we must be understanding that it takes time to martial the required political will and material support for armed intervention.

Though we need to acknowledge this delay in action as a political reality, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to work around it. The best method to circumnavigate this is for the U.N. to cooperate with regional security organizations. Aside from NATO, the U.N.’s longest regional partner has been ECOWAS, the Economic Community of West African States. U.N. cooperation with ECOWAS demonstrates how regional security organizations can act as a stopgap measure in keeping the peace while the U.N. marshalls its collective response. The outbreak of the Liberian Civil War in late 1989 had caught the U.N. flat footed. Distracted by rising tensions in the Middle East and the impending Gulf War, Liberia was allowed to destabilize further. Thankfully, Liberia was a member state of ECOWAS, and its neighbors stood ready to intervene on behalf of the Liberian people, and for the sake of regional stability. When the U.N. was finally ready to address the Liberian Civil War in 1993, its peacekeeping mission, UNOMIL, would work alongside ECOWAS forces for a period of four years, withdrawing only after a new government had been established.

Despite the “success” of this cooperation, peace was a fleeting visitor in Liberia. Another civil war would break out only in 1999, only two years after the conclusion of UNOMIL. This negative outcome likely reflects the challenges faced during the course of the U.N.-ECOWAS partnership. The dual-deployment of two peacekeeping forces at once resulted in a byzantine command structure that hindered operations across the board. High tensions between ECOWAS and U.N. peacekeepers remained constant, largely due to the blue helmets’ better equipment and better pay. The lack of material support provided by ECOWAS to its soldiers resulted in looting, leading Liberians to claim that ECOWAS’ mission ECOMOG, stood for “every car or movable object gone.” Because of their close association with what many viewed as a partial, and somewhat predatory force within the conflict, the U.N.’s prestige was lowered in the eyes of many Liberians.

Fortunately, these issues did not discourage the U.N. from working alongside ECOWAS once more. At the conclusion of the Second Liberian Civil War, two peacekeeping missions were launched by the U.N. and ECOWAS, named UNMIL and ECOMIL respectively. These missions unlike the previous ones, were meant to keep the peace rather than establish it. Both forces would work together in a shared mission to rebuild Liberia, a mission that only recently concluded in March of this year. The outcome of this second partnership has been much more positive. For the first time in decades, Liberia has seen consecutive rounds of peaceful elections, as well as Africa’s first democratically elected female head of state.

As conflict continues to plague the world and the U.N. finds itself stretched across multiple zones of deployment, collaboration with regional security organizations seems to be the way forward. To succeed in future cooperative endeavors and establish effective dual-deployment, the U.N. will have to take note of lessons learned with ECOWAS during the first and second Liberian Civil Wars.

Failure at Inception: The United Nations and its Failure to Implement Effective Sanctions

By Patrick O’Malley

Since 1965, policymakers have touted international sanctions as a low-cost method to achieve international peace and security. United Nations (UN) sanctions have evolved into the international community’s preferred tool to induce compliance with human rights objectives of the UN Charter when there is no will, ability, or national interest enabling direct intervention. However, while regime change has occurred concurrent to sanctions, UN sanctions themselves have never been the primary driver of transition. Examination of the first implementation of UN Chapter XII sanctions in Rhodesia reveals the model developed and utilized by the UN is flawed. This model increases support for incumbent political elites, depends on national enforcement, fails to impede economic growth, creates suffering for vulnerable populations and reduces the legitimacy of the UN. In demonstrating the weaknesses of the current sanctions model, this paper desires to stimulate a revamping of UN sanctions to make Article 41 capabilities a viable method of propagating Charter preamble values.

Examining Rhodesia’s historical situation allows evaluation of UN effectiveness in promoting majority governance. Rhodesia issued a “Unilateral Declaration of Independence” from the United Kingdom in 1965 to protect the political and economic privileges of the white minority. In response, a coalition of African and Asian nations demanded UN sanctions on Rhodesia. After debate regarding definitions, procedure and the authorities of the UN, the Security Council initiated inaugural sanctions under their Chapter XII authority.[1] Rhodesia appeared vulnerable to sanctions as the white elite comprised only 5% of Rhodesia’s population and 38% of the national income stemmed from trade.[2] However, nine years into sanctions, the Rhodesian economy was growing at 10% annually and the governing party had consolidated electoral support beyond pre-sanction levels.[3] Examining the political process for sanction implementation elucidates how such an abysmal result was achieved.

The Security Council’s institutional structure limits sanctions construction to the preference of the most hesitant veto power. As veto powers are driven by domestic political considerations and geopolitical balancing, every sanctions regime will prioritize political expediency over effective outcomes.[4] Any veto power can halt sanctions to protect themselves or clients, leaving only pariah nations as sanction targets. Even in egregious cases such as Rhodesia, it is impossible to leverage economic duress into human rights compliance as trade partners of the pariah, like South Africa and Portugal, will receive protection from a patron on the Council.[5] Sanctions cannot be amended for effectiveness without unanimous veto power consent, something withheld by the US because of natural resource interests in Rhodesia.[6] Even when operating efficiently, sanctions rely on good-faith compliance by national actors with uneven technical know-how to detect and deter sanctions busting. Many nations attempting compliance with Rhodesian sanctions struggled to determine goods origination point, allowing the Rhodesians to continue to grow their economy at the height of sanctions.[7]

Within targeted nations and allies, sanctions strengthen the ruling regime’s support, punished the vulnerable in society, and decreased the UN’s universal appeal. Before sanctions, the governing Rhodesian Front (RF) maintained a narrow majority in parliament. After the UN placed blanket sanctions on all Rhodesians, the population rallied to their government offering protection. This manifested as electoral consolidation strengthening the RF’s mandate to contest sanctions by providing the legitimacy to enact authoritarian measures.[8] While the white Rhodesians suffered little from sanctions, black Rhodesians suffer catastrophic unemployment.[9] Nearby Zambia relied heavily on Rhodesian trade and experienced economic devastation under sanctions.[10] In enforcing dicta on unrepresented non-members such as Switzerland the UN lost its claim to neutrality and being a representative body. This diminished reputation impeded sanctions implementation and limited national willingness to coordinate on other UN projects.[11]

Academic arguments stating Rhodesia imploded under UN sanctions are false. Rhodesia fell during, not because of, UN sanctions. Rhodesia began collapsing in 1975 when Mozambique became independent from Portugal. South Africa then saw Rhodesia as strategically indefensible, withdrawing its support and encouraging transition. Without allies Rhodesia lasted five years longer, before a transition facilitated by the United Kingdom.[12] This demonstrates the continued ability of local political conditions to dictate events over committee and consensus-driven international efforts.

This paper has demonstrated the theoretical, practical, and institutional flaws inherent in UN sanctions regimes. Isolating these variables allows to UN to address these inadequacies, transforming sanctions into a viable tool to induce compliance with UN Charter values.

Patrick O’Malley was a student at Miami Univeristy from 2014-2018, obtaining a  Bachelor of Arts in History and Political Science. He now attends the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown Univeristy.

[1] Leonard T. Kapungu, The United Nations and Economic Sanctions against Rhodesia. Lexington Books, 1973.

[2] Harry Strack, “The Influence of Transnational Actors on the Enforcement of Sanctions Against Rhodesia.” Naval War College Review, vol. 28, no. 4, Mar. 1976, pp. 52–64.

[3] Peter Godwin and Ian Hancock, Rhodesians Never Die: The Impact of War and Political Change on White Rhodesia C.1970-1980. Pan Macmillan, 2008.

[4]Eddie Michel, “The Luster of Chrome: Nixon, Rhodesia, and the Defiance of UN Sanctions.” Diplomatic History 42, no. 1 (2017): 138-61. doi:10.1093/dh/dhx047.

[5] W. Weinstein, “Rhodesia: The United Nations and the Problems of Sanctions.” Pan-African Journal 5, no. 1 (Spring 1972): 27-37.

[6] Margaret Doxey. “International Sanctions: A Framework for Analysis with Special Reference to the UN and Southern Africa.” International Organization 26, no. 03 (1972): 527. doi:10.1017/s002081830000299x

[7] Harry Strack, “The Influence of Transnational Actors on the Enforcement of Sanctions Against Rhodesia.” Naval War College Review, vol. 28, no. 4, Mar. 1976, pp. 52–64.

[8] Peter Godwin and Ian Hancock, Rhodesians Never Die: The Impact of War and Political Change on White Rhodesia C.1970-1980. Pan Macmillan, 2008.

[9] Donald L. Losman, “INTERNATIONAL BOYCOTTS: AN APPRAISAL.” Il Politico, vol. 37, no. 4, Dec. 1972, pp. 648–672.

[10] W. Weinstein, “Rhodesia: The United Nations and the Problems of Sanctions.” Pan-African Journal 5, no. 1 (Spring 1972): 27-37.

[11] Margaret Doxey, “International Sanctions: A Framework for Analysis with Special Reference to the UN and Southern Africa.” International Organization 26, no. 03 (1972): 527. doi:10.1017/s002081830000299x

[12] Peter Godwin and Ian Hancock, Rhodesians Never Die: The Impact of War and Political Change on White Rhodesia C.1970-1980. Pan Macmillan, 2008.

The Cuban Literacy Campaign

Photo:  Final closing march of the literacy campaign. Dec 21, 1961. Photo by Liborio Noval

By Annika Lee

In 1960, Fidel Castro introduced his literacy campaign that would target one million illiterate adult Cubans. He claimed that with in a year, all of these adults would be taught how to read and write. In my mind this campaign, while viewed by the rest of world as having ties to communism, was the most successful literacy campaign ever ran. Countries all around the world, communist or not, should be adapting this method of eradicating illiteracy. A nation’s literacy should take precedent over stubbornness in an ideological war. Every country in the world struggles with an illiterate population. Some may be worse than others, but the truth is that literacy is an extremely important component of society and individual life. UNESCO reports that today the world’s literacy rate stands at 26%, or 1 billion people. This is still an issue and we should look at Cuba’s practices as the solution.[1]

Literacy determines how educated a population is on making informed decisions, which should be especially appealing to democratic nations. Communist and capitalist countries alike were very concerned with eradicating illiteracy, however education was increasingly politicized during the Cold War. There were some aspects of Castro’s education policies that lead capitalist countries to reject anything concerning education from Cuba immediately. It is important to first know what exactly the Cuban Literacy Campaign was and its results, how Cuba got funding for this project, and what aspects of Cuba’s educational policies turned off capitalist countries.

The Cuban Literacy Campaign called upon volunteer teachers across Cuba to teach reading and writing to its illiterate population. Cubans answered the call with 250,000 volunteers. These teachers, most of whom were young women, would live and work with the families that they would be teaching. This campaign was not completely risk free. There were attacks all across Cuba, including the Bay of Pigs, that put teachers and students in harms way. There was documentation of a teacher and student dying as a result of one attack. Cuba was fighting a war on the world stage but kept their people’s literacy a top priority. This campaign was overwhelmingly successful. In the 1950’s Cuba’s literacy rate was around 70% and today it stands at 99.8%.[2] Cuba dedicated a large portion of the budget towards education because they saw it as a key component to the revolution that was happening at the time in the country. It was after Cuba had gained so much traction, reaching near 100% literacy rate in less than two years, that UNESCO became intrigued and began to study what Cubans were doing right. Before this, the World Bank had established that they would not fund any literacy programs through UNESCO because they saw no return on investment. When they realized that education could be used as a tool for peace (and of course profit) they were more open to the idea of funding different literacy campaigns.

There were two presidents of The World Bank during this time that helped and hurt the campaign in Cuba. The first was Robert McNamara. McNamara was a supporter of mass literacy campaigns like the one in Cuba. This meant that UNESCO was receiving funding for campaigns to be ran like the Cuban Literacy Campaign. The second president, George Woods, was extremely anti-communist, and therefore anti mass literacy campaigns. He saw what happened in Cuba and took it as a reason to fund even more educational programs to capitalist countries so that they would develop programs that were better and beat Cuba (communism).[3]

Capitalist countries refused to accept the literacy campaign because they saw it as a package deal with the rest of the educational policies that Fidel Castro was putting in place at the time. One of these that was a big red flag for capitalist was free and public education. Castro did away with private education and most of these establishments were funded by the Catholic Church. Most importantly though, this literacy campaign came out of Cuba during the same time as the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis. Bluntly, it is bad optics for America to try to copy this campaign when they are in an ideological war with everything the country stands for. My point is that this should not matter. Castro found a system that works efficiently and effectively. It solved this illiteracy crisis that plagued Cuba in a matter of two years. If educating the masses is really the key to peace and also a democratic society, than countries should not be so concerned with optics and instead focus on the needs of their people.


Works Cited:

Fernandes, Sujatha. “Freedom Through a Pencil: The 1961 Literacy Campaign in Cuba.” NACLA, 16 Dec. 2011,


telesurenglish. “The Cuban Literacy Campaign.” YouTube, YouTube, 8 Sept. 2016,’


Charles Dorn, Kristen Ghodsee, The Cold War Politicization of Literacy, Diplomatic History Vol. 36 No. 2 April 2012.


[1] Fernandes, Sujatha. “Freedom Through a Pencil: The 1961 Literacy Campaign in Cuba.” NACLA, 16 Dec. 2011,

[2] telesurenglish. “The Cuban Literacy Campaign.” YouTube, YouTube, 8 Sept. 2016,

[3] Charles Dorn, Kristen Ghodsee, The Cold War Politicization of Literacy, Diplomatic History Vol. 36 No. 2 April 2012.

The United Nations and the Palestine Liberation Organization

Map:  Countries that have recognized the state of Palestine

By Brian Carter

The United Nations’ handling of the Palestine Liberation Organization throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s, while criticized by a Western-backed coalition spearheaded by the United States and Israel, should be praised for its long-term successes. Where many nations opt to play the short game, the United Nations appears to have actually analyzed the deeper, more latent issues pestering the region, offering a solution whose approach, unlike previous failed peace attempts, is bilateral, acknowledging both Israel and Palestine’s right to exist in the region. The United Nations’ strategy has also removed a great deal of the justification behind terrorist attacks attributed to the P.L.O. and its client organizations, including the P.F.L.P., D.F.L.P., and al-Fatah, by offering them a venue to have their grievances voiced peacefully.

Starting with an analysis of the timeline of terrorist attacks orchestrated under the auspices of or approved by the P.L.O., the number of terrorist attacks committed by the P.L.O. following their recognition by the United Nations in 1974 decreased significantly, with thirteen major attacks–i.e. airline hijackings, bombings, embassy sieges, and hostage situations–being committed between 1964–the year of the P.L.O.’s foundation–and 1974, with only five major attacks committed between 1974 and the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, including the First Intifada.[1] Considering terrorism did not adopt a radical Islamic character until the Iranian Revolution of 1979–“The year 1979 was a turning point in international terrorism. Throughout the Arab world and the West, the Iranian Islamic revolution sparked fears of a wave of revolutionary Shia Islam…”[2]–the P.L.O.’s main grievance was their view that Israel was an occupying force, unlawfully controlling territory which ostensibly belonged to the Palestinian people, further displaced by Israel’s inception in 1948. The United Nations’ decision to recognize Palestine and offer the P.L.O. observer status in 1974–which received equal parts praise and condemnation from the international community–led to a gradual decrease in P.L.O. orchestrated terror attacks, considering the Organization no longer needed to resort to hijacking airliners to get their voices heard.

The United Nations’ approach during the 1970’s, a decade that witnessed a spike in American interest in the Middle East following the end of the Vietnam War and their policy of detente toward the U.S.S.R., was uniquely bilateral. They not only recognized the P.L.O. in their Resolution 3375, but also condemned Israel in Resolution 3379 the following year, censuring their treatment of Palestinians and stating “Zionism is racism.”[3] Their approach to the issue of Palestinian statehood was incredibly fair and moderate, placing equal blame and praise on both parties involved–the state of Israel and Palestine. As such, instead of adopting a partisan approach, such as those adopted by the Soviet Union and United States, the United Nations opted for the middle ground, attempting to flesh out a path where both parties could not only receive equal attention but negotiations could be undertaken in a peaceful environment complete with mutual conciliation and where open warfare, like the 1948 Arab-Israeli War, the Six Day War of 1967, the 1973 October War, and Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

The importance of the United Nations’ achievement in recognizing Palestine, evidenced by the reduction in terrorist attacks following its official recognition in 1974 and the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, not only brings stability to a region previously lacking it but can also be utilized as a model for future issues regarding stateless entities; with the issue of the hypothetical Kurdistani state once again coming to the forefront during the ongoing Syrian Civil War, the United Nations has been presented with a unique opportunity to do for Kurds what they succeeded in achieving for Palestinians–international recognition. On top of that, Kurdistan’s history is strikingly similar to that of Palestine, including a series of contradictory treaties drafted by European powers both promising the establishment of and subsequently reneging on a state, as well as their dispersion over multiple states which either refuse to acknowledge them as people–i.e. Turkey and Iraq regarding their large Kurdish minorities–or their treatment as unwanted guests–i.e. the Palestinians’ treatment by Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, and Saudi Arabia between the 1950’s and 1980’s.

[1] “Yasser Arafat’s Timeline of Terror.” Committee For Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (2004).

[2] John Moore. “The Evolution of Islamic Terrorism: An Overview.” PBS (2014).

[3] United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, 10 November 1975.

Kim Jong UN: the UN, NGOs, and Development in Post-Korean War North Korea

By Amanda Lawson

South Korean president, Moon Jae-in and North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un met in the DMZ on April 27, 2018, each crossing briefly into the others’ nation—for the first time since the Korean War began in 1950. This Inter-Korean Summit established plans to formally end the Korean War and to denuclearize the peninsula. It also created hope of opening of North Korea to greater and freer participation in the global community. Kim Jong Un has also scheduled a meeting with United States president, Donald Trump, for later this year, in efforts to move forward in diplomatic relations on an international level. However, if North Korea is to truly enter into full participation with the global community, bilateral negotiations are insufficient. This is due in part to the immense development effort that must accompany the country’s inclusion in global affairs and its incapacity to develop without significant aid. In light of this, the United Nations must become involved and enlist the help of a variety of partners, namely, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).

North Korea has been a member of the UN since 1991, which should make UN development efforts—rather than bilateral agendas—effective in the country. Even as tensions with other nations, including the United States and South Korea, ease, the ability of the UN to work in the country as a supra-political development agency provides the best path forward for North Korea. As the world looks to increasing inclusion of North Korea in the global community, the dramatic need for development in the country is apparent. Decades of stifled economic growth and lack of infrastructure have set North Korea at the base of a steep mountain. Technical assistance, food programs, and in some cases, emergency relief efforts, must be undertaken and can only be successful under supranational leadership of the United Nations.

But the UN cannot do it alone; the task is far too great. It must call upon similarly supra-political organizations for assistance, in this case, international NGOs. While it is difficult to argue that these organizations are apolitical, their inherent transnationality gives the perception of being above national politics, allowing NGOs to work as champions for the people they claim to serve, rather than the government. From the early days of the United Nations, NGOs have been partners in its development efforts, both in creating development plans and carrying them out. It is important to look at the ways NGOs have helped shoulder the development burden in the past and to use those examples to devise best practices as the UN looks to the overwhelming task before it. Organizations like the Red Cross/Red Crescent, Amnesty International, World Vision International, Oxfam, and CARE International have worked in conjunction with the UN for decades; many originating from World War II relief, and the Red Cross even pre-dating the creation of the UN.

These organizations have aided the United Nations in data collection and analysis, as well as service delivery in development projects throughout the postwar period. Prime examples of this include Amnesty’s advocacy for human rights and against torture worldwide, CARE and Oxfam’s attempts to tackle hunger in postwar Europe, World Vision’s hunger campaigns in Africa and Latin America, and the Red Cross/Red Crescent’s emergency and disaster relief efforts throughout the world. In emergency situations, these and other NGOs are able to provide assistance not only in immediate relief efforts, but to help address root causes of poverty and injustice, and to help implement sustainable practices for change.

As the world looks toward North Korea, challenges of underdevelopment are the greatest obstacle to its full participation in the global community. The United Nations, and its NGO partners, must work with Kim Jong Un to bring the nation up to date with the rest of the world. This means infrastructure development and technical expertise training; food programs and agricultural development; greater emphasis on human rights and freedoms, all of which will require significant time and effort on behalf of all parties involved. The 2018 Winter Olympics brought a new level of hope for North Korean progress in the eyes of the world when South and North Korean athletes competed under one flag. This broadcasted to the world that the Korean peninsula was ready and willing to move forward from its past struggles and more fully commit to participation in the global community. It is now on the other members of that community to in turn commit to North Korea, providing any means necessary for development and working with its leaders to fulfill the goals laid out in the UN Charter.

Amanda Lawson is a graduate student in history at Miami University, focusing on the Carter administration’s engagement with NGOs in Latin America as a means of foreign relations.

United Nations Moratorium on The Death Penalty

The 2008 UN Vote on the Death Penalty.  Red countries voted against, green for, yellow abstained.  Source:  Wikimedia Commons.

By Katherine Bacon

In 2007 the United Nations called for a moratorium on the practice of capital punishment globally. Since then, the United nations has adopted five more resolutions attempting to suspend the death penalty. The most recent resolution was held in December of 2016 at the 71st Assembly. Most United Nations countries have voted to adopt the resolution with around 100 votes per election. However a consistent 40 have voted against and around 30 have abstained. Among the countries that oppose abolition is the United States.

This resolution merely calls for suspending the death penalty, not total abolition, throughout the world. As a result, it hopes to extend human rights to death row prisoners across the globe. A resolution by the General Assembly however, is not binding and its adoption would not result in any legal repercussions for an offending state. Practicing the death penalty following the General Assembly resolution would be more “frowned upon” than an international  crisis. It would also appear highly hypocritical.

The language within the resolution is pleading, using the words “welcoming” as the ask for abolition. While the requesting language is soft, the stance against the morality of the death penalty is not. Phrases such as “Considering that the use of the death penalty undermines human dignity,” or “ “Convinced that a moratorium on the use of the death penalty contributes to respect for  human dignity and to the enhancement and progressive development of human rights, and considering that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty,” leave no room for further questioning on the matter. The resolutions also call upon former human rights efforts and doctrine to support their position.

The document even praises the small efforts taken by certain countries to reduce their execution numbers, and consider this a victory no matter how small. Their clear goal is to extend human rights and the persistent effort is admirable. However, a great obstacle in the path to global recognition of the death penalty as a violation of basic human rights is the United States and its persistence upon continuing the practice.

The United States was an early adopter of a death penalty moratorium. However, after about a decade long suspension of executions in the country, it now persists as one of the largest countries still using capital punishment. It is the only one of the major powers from forming the United Nations to still do so and the only “westernized” country. In each General Assembly the United States has voted against a global moratorium. As a requirement of being part of the European Union, states are forbidden from imposing capital punishment upon its prisoners. How has this affected the global campaign for abolition? If “the land of the free” sees it as humane and useful, why should the other countries feel the need to follow suit with the rest of the modern world?

Somewhat surprisingly due to the country’s turbulent political history in recent decades, Italy has been the spark for United Nations moratorium campaigns. The campaign by the United Nation to do away with executions by government hand began with Italy as early as 1993 with the first resolution attempt in 1994. The campaign has continued in earnest since as human rights advocates make steps toward abolishing the practice. The United Nations Commission of Human Rights has been approving resolutions to abolish the death penalty every year with some progress, however not the complete victory which is their goal.

Perhaps it can be explained by the electoral voting system of the United States or the fear of backlash and public outcry on the scale which erupted the last time the death penalty was abolished in the United States. However, this may be an issue which surpasses the decision level of the average citizen and voter. The United States should join the rest of the world in taking steps toward acknowledging human dignity and freedom for all. The country currently poses as a beacon for its continuation, regardless of how great or how little the number of executed are. On principle, the United States should adopt or even make steps toward establishing a moratorium on the death penalty. It is a sad state of affairs when a doctoral nation such as China, with the highest number of executions globally, has announced it is taking steps toward establishing a moratorium, while the self proclaimed leader of the free world sits silent in the corner.

Volume II, Issue 3

This spring, students in HST 410/510: International Organizations After World War II, researched areas of United Nations history that interested them. Along with a prospectus that laid out a program for future research in their topic, students had to write an op-ed piece about their topic that made clear why it mattered. Here are some of those op-eds.


“Peacekeepers representing 40 national contingents march ahead of a UNIFIL ceremony marking the International Day of UN Peacekeepers”

United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Website,