“The UN has not been able to stop even a single struggle in the non-European or non-Euro-Atlantic context”

Basic idea of UN is euro-centric, says Iranian sociologist

June 29, 2020 - 10:16

TEHRAN - The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization whose mission is to establish peace and security in the world. This is what stated in the preamble to its charter and its first article. Since its establishment, expectations were high on the UN's pivotal role in maintaining global stability and security by adopting a holistic vision towards international conflicts.

Many mechanisms have been designed to make this goal achievable, the most important of which is the peacekeeping force. They have succeeded in settling some struggles between the permanent members of the Security Council. However, the organization has not been successful in resolving disputes in many parts of the world. For example, in Palestine and North of Africa conflicts are still going on.

To discuss the UN's history and its ability in settling the conflicts throughout the globe, the Tehran Times interviewed Javad Miri, professor of sociology and religious studies at the Institute of Humanities and Cultural Studies.

Following is the full text of the interview:

Q: Given its charter, do you think that the UN has succeeded to fulfill its missions? 

When asking if the UN as a global institution has been successful or not, and when measuring the success of the UN, you have to consider the background idea behind the establishment of the UN. I think the UN has been successful in preventing conflicts and potential

“The UN never successfully contained the conflicts on a global level as written in its charter. It totally failed.” wars in Europe and America. It was born after World War II and after the "League of Nations" collapsed in 1948. But in what kind of world order it was born? In the previous world order, we had the British empire, the Russian empire, which later became the Soviet Union, and the French empire. After the collapse of this order, which can be called the old order, the new order was born, as European nations and states went to annihilate each other and the whole globe as well.

So, what to do in this mess? They knew they had to establish a new order which prevents conflicts and wars in mainland Europe and even America. They started to export their wars to other regions through sparking proxy wars. 

Hence, if you ask whether the UN has successfully contained wars and conflict, the answer is both yes and no. "Yes," because since 1948 up to this very day, especially in Western Europe and America, we didn't witness any real danger or any wars. And "no," because the UN never successfully contained the conflicts on a global level as written in its charter. It totally failed. The UN has not been able to stop even a single struggle in the non-European or non-Euro-Atlantic context. For example, in 1948, Palestine was occupied. At the same time, Israel founded and expanded to the point that today it talks about owning some parts of Jordan and Egypt and even Lebanon to be included in Israel. Also, there are continuous conflicts in Africa that often are not mentioned in the media because they are different conflicts at a different level. There are even genocides in various remote parts of Central Africa or Balkan, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

“The striking point is that superpowers, chiefly the U.S. and European states, are trying to export their conflicts into these other non-European countries and simultaneously do their best to deform the state apparatus in many West Asian countries.”The striking point is that superpowers, chiefly the U.S. and European states, are trying to export their conflicts into these other non-European countries and simultaneously do their best to deform the state apparatus in many West Asian countries. This strategy applied in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, and now they are actively trying to repeat this pattern against Iran, while the UN is all silent.   

Since more than a decade ago, the U.S. and European countries have been trying to deform the Iranian state, using forms of sanctions. They also have cut the banking system. This is unprecedented in history since 1948. Even at the peak of conflicts between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, no such behavior was witnessed. Given all these facts, one should ask where the UN stands on all these accounts. So, I would like to say it was totally unsuccessful. 

Q: Do you think that the UN is biased when it comes to powerful countries?

Taking a very neutral approach to the UN's mission statement, one realizes that the idea is that all nations would be present in the global context, and each state or nation is represented by its state functionally. It is ideal, and I am not going to doubt it. But the actual aspect of the UN is not fulfilling what the ideals are telling. For example, if any country deviates from the parameters and pre-requirements of the U.S. or certain EU countries, namely Germany, France, and England, it will face sanctions and even war. It means that at the ideal level, the UN is an assembly for all nation-states in the world. Still, when it comes to the UN's actual practice, it tries to safeguard the national interests of the U.S. and EU and, to a certain extent, China and Russia. The question is whether we will assess the border or limit of national interest of the U.S.? The geographical distance between the Persian Gulf and the U.S. is more than ten thousand kilometers. But Americans say this zone is included in their broad definition of "national interest." This means that the national interests of the U.S. contain half of the world. The question is, how we assess the borders of a nation? Geographically speaking, the stretch of the land in the imaginative way that the U.S. has designed, makes it impossible for any international organization to be neutral.

The UN is obliged to fulfill the requirements of the U.S. and Western countries in most cases. That's because the borders of American national interests link to economic structures of the world and the economic order of the globe. It is inconceivable, and any country which deviates from this route and undermines the national interest the U.S. and other Western countries perceived belongs to them will face sanctions or even war. Take the oil and the Hormuz Strait, for example, which are within the Iranian sovereignty. If Iranians try to apply complete sovereignty on the Hormuz Strait, the abovementioned countries will claim it dangerous for their national interest. Imagine if Iranians or Russians would try to establish a military base in the Gulf of Mexico on the pretext of preserving national interests. The UN would undoubtedly stand against this decision based on these countries' distance from the Gulf of Mexico. A similar case has happened for the U.S. and some other Western countries, and the UN is all silent about it. 

Q: Do you think that the UN needs to undergo structural reform?

What we call "the United Nations" is born out of a kind of unilateralism which was based on a bipolar world as they said. Nevertheless, after 1991, we cannot talk about the bipolar system. Now we live in a kind of chaotic global system. As such, if we look back at its philosophical foundations, the idea of a United Nations organization is rooted in thoughts of thinkers like Immanuel Kant. To obtain universal peace, he believed, the world needs a universal assembly containing only sovereign nations. Such construction makes it possible to settle disputes through dialogue and consensus. But when you dig deeper, you find out that what Kant actually meant from "sovereign countries" is only European countries, not even America. This fundamental philosophical basis behind the UN's establishment as an assembly of nations proves the whole idea of the UN to be Euro-centric in essence. Other countries out of European orbit are not considered civilized and sovereign. 

“Now we live in a kind of chaotic global system.”The UN, in its recent form, established in New York. Its structures, funding system, and election procedures are very biased, while the world is entering into a multipolar or even a chaotic place.

We are now at the latest phase of what we call the "American Dream" based on a world order linked to the dollar system and an American version of seeing the globe, but this dream has almost collapsed. In the next ten or twenty years, we will have specific centers of power. Five or six blocks are going to have a closer relationship, and there could be a consensus between these different blocks. But it is hard to foresee how this new order is going to form a new world. It is difficult to predict the UN's position as an international organization within this new world order. But, for sure, the U.S. will not be the center of that order.

Q: Do you think Islamic countries and Western powers should engage in a dialogue to reshape the UN? 

Some believe that unless another world war is embarked, there will be no other chance to reconstruct this organization's old structure.

Dialogues are helpful when you are at the same level of power. It would be best if you had a powerful military and economic presence on a global scale. However, we don't need war, and we don't look for conflict. Indeed, historically speaking, the Islamic Republic of Iran has never started a fight but instead defended itself in imposed wars. Those wars were imposed against us because multinational companies need raw materials, cheap labor, and easy access to energy sources. So, what we need to do internally as Islamic countries is to empower ourselves. It means empowering our nations through education and a good economy. Then, step by step, we can go for regional cooperation. For instance, there is a possibility for making a sort of confederation and regional cooperation between Central Asian countries, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other countries around the Persian Gulf and even the Indian Ocean based on historical common grounds in this area.  


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