The United Nations is an intergovernmental organization currently consisting of 193 Member States. The international organization which was founded in 1945 has a primary task to promote international cooperation and promote world peace by resolving conflicts. However, over the years the UN has been receiving scrutiny about their effectiveness, and many have doubts regarding their influence in the international platform. There are doubts to the role the UN has to play, and some even question its existence. Using the current persisting issue of Rohingya’s crisis as a case study, this article analyses the influence UN has over countries, its effectiveness in handling humanitarian issues, and suggestions to create a sustainable model of UN for a better future.
On Thursday the 31st of March 2018, Myanmar’s government announced that it had reached an agreement with the United Nations for taking steps for the return of Rohingya Muslims to the country. While little details were given about the initial memorandum of understanding, Myanmar said that the United Nations agencies would assist the government with the repatriation plan. The United Nations also commented that the situation back in Myanmar is not yet suitable for the Rohingya’s to return, which will be further elaborated in the following paragraphs.
Firstly, a rough overview of the Rohingya crisis is most suited to start off this article. The problem includes the persecution of Rohingya Muslims, mostly situated in the Rakhine state in far western Myanmar. Being in a predominantly Buddhist country, the Rohingya Muslims were held back by the discriminatory policies which disable them to travel freely, attend college, or worship as they wish. After August 2017, the United Nations had claimed that the Myanmar’s security forces were the epitome of ethnic cleansing as there were reports or slaughter, rape, and the burning of their villages.
The latest violence that began on 25 August 2017, triggered charges of genocide against Myanmar’s security forces. Myanmar’s reply to the charges were claims that measures were being taken in re-instating the stability in the western region of Myanmar. As a result of the persecution, about 700,000 Rohingya fled the Rakhine State. As reported by BBC news, most have taken the risk of facing death while seeking refuge in other countries rather than staying back and withstanding the harsh circumstances. Those who travel by land went to Bangladesh, while some took the voyage to seek shelter in Indonesia, Malaysia, and Thailand.
The leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi had been faced with criticism for not managing the problem effectively. Many expected a different outcome from the leadership of the Nobel Peace prize winner who was meant to be the face of democracy. However, there were mainly two reasons the Myanmar’s leader had little control over the persisting problem. Firstly, Myanmar’s long history of violence and fierce ruling of the army had shaped the current situation in Myanmar. Secondly, Myanmar’s constitution restricted Suu Kyi’s control over the security forces. The constitution limited Aung San Suu Kyi’s power to controlling the government, leaving the army to control the security forces and police force.
Evidently, this situation requires an external intervention. Although neighbouring countries have been showing support to the Rohingya people by assisting the relocation of the refugees, the large amount of them pose as a problem for countries seeking to provide shelter. The only feasible and sustainable solution is for Myanmar to accept and relocate the Rohingya refugees back to their country.
Over the past year, UN’s increase in pressure on Myanmar showed less impact as the only reaction they got from Myanmar’s government is the denial of the accusation. While the UN showed little prospect in putting pressure onto Myanmar, the UN proves to be an important independent medium to aid countries with their crisis. While neighbouring countries are important in joining hands to add pressure onto Myanmar in resolving the situation, the UN can take a step further to involve themselves with the government’s plan as they do not have any personal interests or ulterior motives.
With the history of Myanmar’s reactions towards the crisis, the recent news of Myanmar’s agreement with the UN shed some hope to this situation as it was the first step the Myanmar government agreed to take in resolving the crisis.
A huge obstacle with the relocation plan is that most of the Rohingya’s have little wish to return to Rakhine. A survey was released by the Xchange Foundation who investigates and documents human migration and more than 1700 Rohingya in Bangladesh camps were interviewed. It seems that 97.5 percent expressed their wishes to eventually return to Myanmar, they also stated their conditions for going back to their home country. They wish to be given Myanmar citizenship and freedom of movement and to practise their religion. However, Myanmar’s government had shown unwillingness to oblige with those basic demands.
Additionally, The UN is also important as an intermediate medium to engage with other countries to promote international cooperation. In April 2018, the UNHCR signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the government of Bangladesh to set up a “safe, voluntary and dignified returns of refugees” which would be in accordance with international standards. This means that although it is important for the Rohingya to be able to return their home country safely, it should be firstly established that the conditions back in Myanmar is safe and conducive for the returning refugees and they should not suffer any persecution when they return. Being the closest neighbouring country, the UN took a commendable step in ensuring Bangladesh’s support in resolving the crisis. The UN had also consistently check and made reports on the living conditions of the refugees in Bangladesh.
Evidently, the effectiveness of the UN depends on its member countries. A more sustainable model of UN requires the involvement of neutral groups from the member countries itself. Many debates have been made about the member countries putting their own countries’ interests before prioritizing to resolve the international conflict before them. As a suggestion, the UN should involve the human rights group from different countries. In conjunction with this, the groups can represent their country while pressure their home country to resolve the international conflict. In a nutshell, a sustainable model of the UN involves different neutral representative groups from the Member States.
As a summary, although UN may seem as a soft persuader for the time being, UN is definitely useful as a neutral medium to help individual countries resolving crisis while being the middle person to engage with neighbouring countries in joining efforts to resolving conflicts. To make the UN more effective, its member countries need to put aside their individual interests and work together in resolving international crisis. Ultimately, the world needs the UN but there are reforms to increase its effectiveness.
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