JC H2 History Tuition Online - An Agenda for Peace - United Nations Essay Notes

An Agenda for Peace

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 1: Safeguarding International Peace and Security 
Section B: Essay Writing
Theme III Chapter 2: Political Effectiveness of the UN in maintaining international peace and security

Learn more about the role of United Nations peacekeeping to understand its relevance in the post-Cold War world [Video by the United Nations]

The report
In 1992, the Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali submitted a report titled “An Agenda for Peace: Preventive diplomacy, peacemaking and peace-keeping“. Earlier, the Security Council requested the Secretariat to assess the strengths and limitations of peacekeeping.

Changing context: New challenges
In the post-Cold War world, the circumstances have changed. Boutros-Ghali outlined these shifts in his report:

In the course of the past few years the immense ideological barrier that for decades gave rise to distrust and hostility and the terrible tools of destruction that were their inseparable companions has collapsed.

… With the end of the cold war there have been no such vetoes since 31 May 1990, and demands on the United Nations have surged. Its security arm, once disabled by circumstances it was not created or equipped to control, has emerged as a central instrument for the prevention and resolution of conflicts and for the preservation of peace.

An excerpt from “An Agenda for Peace” report, 17 June 1992.

In view of the changing global context, the Secretary-General proposed a few key concepts, such as preventive diplomacy and peace-making.

Preventive diplomacy
In other words, the United Nations should intervene through the conduct of diplomacy before conflicts break out or escalate. This course of action can be undertaken by the Secretary-General, Security Council or General Assembly.

Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali established six regional divisions within the consolidated Department for Political Affairs whose principal task was to gather and analyze information to assist him in preventing conflicts.

… between March and December 1992, the Department for Political Affairs had undertaken thirty-one missions to various trouble spots on the initiative either of the Secteray-General or a member state.

An excerpt from “Preventive Diplomacy at the UN” by Bertrand G. Ramcharan.

Preventive diplomacy was achieved through efforts like confidence-building measures, fact-finding and the use of early warning systems. Its application was observed in the above-mentioned missions in potential conflict zones like Moldova, Haiti and Tajikistan.

Peacemaking
In addition to preventive diplomacy, the report also proposed peacemaking. As stated in the report, the United Nations bear the “responsibility to try to bring hostile parties to agreement by peaceful means”. Such efforts are carried out with reference to Chapter VI of the United Nations Charter (Pacific Settlement of Disputes).

In practice, peacemaking was carried out in response to the conflicts in Cambodia and Somalia. The United Nations Transitional Authority in Cambodia (UNTAC) was supported by Yasushi Akashi, Special Representative in Cambodia, who combined the application of peacekeeping and peacemaking to oversee civil administration, demobilisation and disarmament of military factions.

However, the successes of peacemaking were limited in Somalia. The escalation of the civil war gave rise to casualties that resulted in eventual departure of the United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM).

UN/US intervention in the civil war, initiated in December 1992 and entered into with high hopes both of saving millions from starvation and restoring peace and stability to the country, ending ignominiously in the killing first of 25 Pakistani peacekeepers on 6th June 1993, and then of 18 American Rangers in October 1993. President Clinton soon announced that US troops would be withdrawn from Somalia and the complete withdrawal of UN peacekeeping troops had been effected by March 1995, with few of the mandate objectives of UNOSOM II achieved.

An excerpt from “Peacekeeping and Peacemaking: Towards Effective Intervention in Post-Cold War Conflicts” by Tom Woodhouse, Robert Bruce and Malcolm Dando.

Funding issues
Lastly, the report described how peacekeeping operations during the Cold War were hampered by arrears that amounted to over $800 million. Between 1945 and 1987, 13 peacekeeping operations were established. These operations have cost nearly $8.3 billion in total. As such, Boutros-Ghali raised the suggestion for member nations for “their peace-keeping contributions to be financed from defence, rather than foreign affairs”.

The Secretary-General made three proposals to address the finance issue. The following is one of the proposals.

Proposal three: This suggested the establishment of a United Nations Peace Endowment Fund, with an initial target of $1 billion. The Fund would be created by a combination of assessed and voluntary contributions, with the latter being sought from Governments, the private sector as well as individuals. Once the Fund reached its target level, the proceeds from the investment of its principal would be used to finance the initial costs of authorized peace-keeping operations, other conflict resolution measures and related activities

An excerpt from “An Agenda for Peace” report, 17 June 1992.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the effectiveness of the UN reforms in maintain the relevance of the organisation in maintaining international peace and security in the post-Cold War era?

Join our JC History Tuition to reinforce your comprehension of historical concepts and apply them to your essay and source based case study questions. Our online learning programmes feature thematic revision and skills development workshops to prepare you for the GCE A Level History examinations.

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JC H1 H2 History Tuition Online - Criticisms of the veto - United Nations Essay Notes

Criticisms of the veto

Topic of Study [For H1/H2 History Students]:
Paper 1: Safeguarding International Peace and Security 
Section B: Essay Writing
Theme III Chapter 2: Political Effectiveness of the UN in maintaining international peace and security

Explore the issue with the veto to understand its significance on the United Nations. [Video by NowThisWorld]

Yea or nay?
As discussed in the previous article on the role of the Security Council, the Permanent Five (P5) Members possess special voting rights to either support or block resolutions.

Article 27(3) of the UN Charter states that consensus within the Security Council is only made possible with the “affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members“.

This means that if at least one of the P5 members exercised the “right to veto” (negative vote), the resolution would not be approved.

The use of veto by P5 members
Although the Charter states that the United Nations was formed with the primary aim to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war“, the repeated use of the veto has sparked criticism among member nations over the relevance of the international organisation.

The following illustrations highlight the veto problem ever since the UN’s inception.

Security Council Vetoes - Bloomberg Opinion
Illustration by Bloomberg Opinion on the use of vetoes
Security Council Vetoes - Vocativ
Statistics by Vocativ on the use of vetoes

A flawed creation or a necessary evil?
One of the main criticisms was that the veto had allowed the P5 members to wield disproportionate powers, thereby creating an unrepresentative structure in the United Nations. On the other hand, defenders of the veto argued that the veto was essential in retaining membership of Great Powers and averting another world war.

For most UN Member states, Article 27 UN Charter is a codification of the painful reality that some States are more equal than others. This idea is obviously at odds with the principals laid down in the UN Charter, such as Article 1(2), pursuant to which the UN aims at developing friendly relations among nations based on respect for the principle of equal rights of peoples, and Article 2(1) which affirms the principle of sovereign equality as one of the basic pillars of the world body.

The concerns underpinning the insertion of Article 27 were well-founded in light of the demise of the League of Nations. This organisation never managed to live up to its aspirations due to the requirement of unanimity among all members of its Council on the one hand, and the lack of support from various power States on the other hand… None of the P-5 has abandoned ship. Moreover, no direct military confrontation has occurred between them.

An excerpt from “Security council reform: a new veto for a new century?” by Jan Wouters and Tom Ruys.

Reforms to the veto mechanism
In 2015, France proposed the practice of ‘veto restraint‘ in the United Nations Security Council, particularly for conflicts of mass atrocities and genocide. Its basis was that the veto should not be abused.

Interestingly, France early on broke ranks with the other permanent members of the Security Council and led the third initiative calling for veto restraint.

… Veto restraint in atrocity situations was initially suggested in 2001 by French Foreign Minister Hubert Védrine at a roundtable sponsored by the ICISS in Paris. He called for the permanent members to create a “code of conduct” for themselves and not to apply their veto to block humanitarian action where their own national interests were involved.

An excerpt from “Existing Legal Limits to Security Council Veto Power in the Face of Atrocity Crimes” by Jennifer Trahan.

Another proposed reform was the expansion of the Permanent Membership to create a more representative structure in the Security Council. The G4 nations, comprising of Germany, Japan, India and Brazil, asserted that their admission would maintain the relevance of the principal organ.

The concept of new permanency is prefaced on the notion that the current council does not reflect the geopolitical realities of the twenty-first century. In short, the council’s permanent membership is outdated. To address the disequilibrium, the G4 proposes the inclusion of six new permanent seats and five new elected seats.

An excerpt from “UN Security Council Reform” by Peter Nadin.

However, any reform made to the Security Council membership composition requires full consensus from the existing Permanent Members.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the reasons for the limited effectiveness of the proposed reforms to the Security Council.

Join our JC History Tuition to derive a better understanding of the veto mechanism and other critical areas of study for the United Nations. We provide H1 and H2 History Tuition classes to empower students to organise their reading, thinking and writing techniques. Through a comprehensive learning programme, students will become more acquainted with the content and confident in their methods of expression for the GCE A Level History examination.

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JC H1 H2 History Tuition Online - Why is the UN Security Council important - United Nations Essay Notes

Why is the UN Security Council important?

Topic of Study [For H1/H2 History Students]:
Paper 1: Safeguarding International Peace and Security 
Section B: Essay Writing
Theme III Chapter 2: Political Effectiveness of the UN in maintaining international peace and security

Find out why the Security Council is a vital organ of the United Nations. [Video by Global News]

Historical Context: The “Four Policemen”
On 26 June 1945, representatives from fifty countries signed the Charter of the United Nations. Henceforth, the United Nations was established as an international organisation that focuses on the maintenance of international peace and security.

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt envisioned a post-war order in which the “Four Policemen” – represented by the USA, UK, USSR and China – should assume the primary responsibility to provide security.

In 1942, Roosevelt assured Sumner Welles that when “the moment was ripe”, he would push for a new world organization. His conception of it at the time was illustrated in his “Four Policemen” proposal, which emphasized the use of military powers by the “Big Four” of the wartime Grand Alliance, who, he was convinced, need to cooperate to ensure postwar peace.

… In FDR’s early view of the Soviet Union, Great Britain, China and the United States would have regional responsibilities for maintaining peace and would act together to enforce world stability, even forcibly carrying out the disarmament of smaller powers.

An excerpt from “The New United Nations: International Organization in the Twenty-First Century” by John Allphin Moore, Jr. and Jerry Pubantz.

Enforcement Powers: Chapter VI and Chapter VII
The Security Council was empowered to invoke Chapter VI or Chapter VII. Ideally, the use of force was to be considered only as a last resort.

For Chapter VI, the Security Council can investigate a dispute and then make recommendations on its settlement, as mentioned in Articles 34 and 36 respectively.

For Chapter VII, the Security Council identifies situations in which there may be a “breach of peace” and authorise the use of measures to manage conflicts. Examples of such measures include the imposition of sanctions (Articles 41-42) and the deployment of armed forces (Articles 44-47).

The Veto
One of the most controversial functions of the Security Council relates to the veto. As described in Article 27(3) of the Charter: “Decisions of the Security Council on all other matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members“. In other words, should any of the permanent members cast a negative vote, a resolution of the Security Council is blocked.

Although the veto can result in political paralysis, it is created to safeguard the interests of the permanent members, thereby ensuring their continued participation in the Security Council. Therefore, some member nations interpreted the veto power as a necessary evil.

Exacerbated by the polarized climate of the Cold War, the use of veto soon began to create deadlock within the Council. By August 1, 1950, “the Soviet Union had all but [paralyzed] the Security Council by vetoing forty-five draft resolutions since the creation of the UN.” The fear was that the UN could lapse into the dysfunctionality that had stymied the League of Nations. If the Security could not utilize its Chapter VII enforcement powers due to veto use, it was feared the UN could suffer the same fate as the League of Nations, unable to prevent world war.

An excerpt from “Existing Legal Limits to Security Council Veto Power in the Face of Atrocity Crimes” by Jennifer Trahan.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the political effectiveness of the Security Council from 1945 to 1991.

Join our JC History Tuition and learn to consolidate your content knowledge for the GCE A Level History topics like the United Nations. We provide summary notes, essay outlines and source based case study practices to refine your thinking and writing skills. Through an instructive and exam-driven approach, you will be ready to tackle the challenges of the examinations.

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JC H2 History Tuition - What is the Mexican debt crisis - JC History Essay Notes

What is the Mexican debt crisis?

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]: 
Paper 1: Understanding the Global Economy (1945-2000)
Section B: Essay Writing
Theme II Chapter 1: Problems of economic liberalisation

Examine the former Mexican finance minister’s reflections on the Mexican Debt Crisis of 1982 [Video by CNN Business]

The Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s
The 1970s and 1980s were characterised by a series of devastating problems that hampered the growth of the global economy. Apart from the twin oil shocks in 1973 and 1979, a serious debt crisis affected developing nations, particularly in the Latin American region. This financial crisis was known as “The Lost Decade” (La Década Perdida) in Mexico and Guatemala.

An unsustainable growth: A sticky situation
Before the Crisis Decades, most developed nations took loans from the World Bank to finance their infrastructural development. In view of the first oil crisis of 1973, commercial banks received a large inflow of funds from oil-exporting nations, particularly petrostates that belonged to the OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries). In short, petrodollar recycling was carried out.

However, the loans did not translate into profitable investment activities. Some of these loans were mismanaged. For instance, President Mobutu Sese Seko stored $5 billion in personal Swiss bank accounts, which amounted to Zaire’s total foreign debt.

Additionally, in response to the oil shocks, the USA raised interest rates in 1979. This proved disastrous to the debtor nations as their loans originated from Western commercial banks in the USA and Europe.

When Paul Volcker, head of the Federal Reserve, raised U.S. interest rates in 1979 to fight inflation in the United States, he did not intend to create a global debt crisis. But rising U.S. interest rates, and the rising London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), which set interest rates for Eurodollar lending, greatly increased the cost of southern loans, most of them now tied to floating rates set by the United States or LIBOR.

Rising interest rates had two important consequences. First, they increased interest payments on accumulated debt. “Mexico’s interest bill tripled from $2.3 billion in 1979 to $6.1 billion in 1982… for the region as a whole, interest payments more than doubled, from $14.4 billion in 1979 to $36.1 billion in 1982.” …

A second problem was that high U.S. interest rates acted like a magnet, attracting money from around the world… Massive capital flight created several problems for Latin American countries: it deprived them of money they might have used to invest in their own countries, pay for imports, repay debt, and it eroded their country’s tax base…

An excerpt from “Understanding Globalization: The Social Consequences of Political, Economic, and Environmental Change” by Robert K. Schaeffer.

The Trigger
In August 1982, the Mexican Finance Minister Jesús Silva Herzog announced that Mexico can no longer service its debt that amounted to $80 billion. Subsequently, other Latin American nations like Brazil, Chile and Argentina followed suit. Eventually, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) allowed sixteen Latin American countries to conduct debt rescheduling.

The threat of default by Mexico sent the first world bankers into panic. Many had lent more than 100 per cent of their shareholder capital to governments in Latin America and elsewhere. They knew that if the default was to be repeated across the developing world, it would lead to the collapse of the global financial system

IMF conditionality varied from country to country but generally contained a mix of the following policy ingredients: a cut in public spending, promotion of exports, the elimination of government subsidies, currency devaluation, privatization of state-owned enterprises, and the liberalization of foreign trade and investment…

This approach became known as structural adjustment and, over the course of the 1980s and early 1990s, most Latin American countries fell subject to IMF conditionality. The support for such policies from the US government and powerful institutions based in Washington, DC meant that the policy package became known as the Washington Consensus.

An Excerpt from “Latin American Development” by Julie Cupples.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– Assess the view that the Latin American debt crisis of the 1980s was a devastating problem that affected the global economy.

Join our JC History Tuition and learn how to write JC History Essays for topics like the Global Economy. Join our online learning classes and receive study notes for A Level History.

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