Equity and social justice issues have become a global challenge that the world over is confronted with. It has got to a point that even international efforts and systems put in place have become overwhelmed with theories than realities. The United Nations which has purposely been formed to address human rights and social justice issues has in itself been bedeviled with gross inequalities and injustices. This final project is a research work that showcase some pitfalls on ethical and social justice issues within the UN systems, its organs and the agencies that all work to meeting its mandate of creating a peaceful world.
A careful attention is drawn to the organizational setting of the United Nations with greater emphasis on its Secretariat, the Security Council, and the International Criminal Court. An in depth analysis have been made on issues such as human rights, equality, liberty, and justice that have caused divided opinions among many of its members, including some of its own staff members. This paper also seeks to present challenges that tend to undercut the mission of the organization. Brief commentary has been put forward of how a select class of UN super power under the banner of the UN Security Council has heightened controversies and the extent to which global debates have intensified.
In concluding this discussion are analytical thoughtfulness, in my opinion, that aimed at providing positive global effects in the form of recommendations. A thoughtful review through an open mind should, in other words, challenge a thought process that transcend beyond ones comfort and state of mind. It is anticipated, nonetheless, that the prevailing social justice issues compounded by mistrust can be ameliorated within this august body.
In order to promote and ensure world peace, the United Nation was founded in 1945 when the United Nations charter was drafted and signed. Before then, there was the League of Nations which was established to maintain peace and cooperation between world nations. The League of Nations was founded in 1919 after the First World War to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security. But the purpose of its establishment could hardly be realized as social equity and human rights issues side-stepped by the axis powers of Italy, Germany and Japan led to the start of the World War II in 1939.
Hence, after the Second World War, there was the need to regulate and strengthened the peaceful co-existence amongst all nations of the world. In order to achieve this, the United Nations was formed in October, 1945 to enforce international law, security, economic development, social progress, and the human rights for all persons, thereby saving future generations from the carnage of war. It currently has 193 member countries that have signed and ratified its charter. The headquarters of the UN is situated in New York City, United States of America (United Nations, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations).
Most UN deliberations about human rights, equality, liberty, and justice issues tend to be addressed primarily in a different set of UN bodies. The setting of the UN is structured in five (5) branches to suite all of its principles. The UN General Assembly which is the main decision making body of the organization upholds the principles of the organization through its policies and recommendations. It holds its annual session with all elected presidents of member countries. Then there is the Security Council which has five permanent members and ten non-permanent members. Its responsibility is to mediate and enforce peace during conflicts. The International Court of Justice is another branch of the United Nations which oversees the judicial matters of the organization. It has its offices located in The Hague, Netherlands. The Economic and Social Council is another arm of the UN that assists in promoting economic and social development as well as cooperation of member states. The Secretariat which is headed by the Secretary General provides studies, information and other useful materials needed by other UN branches in the discharge of their respective functions. In addition to maintaining world peace, the UN through its agencies also protects the human rights of citizens of member countries and also addresses issues of social equity through its humanitarian agencies. It has therefore instituted a set of standards for its human rights activities through the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted by the General Assembly in 1948 (United Nations Charter, http://www.un-documents.net/ch-ppp.htm).
Brief Description of the Ethical/Social Justice Issue
The United Nations seek to provide freedom and liberties of citizens of its member countries. This they do through the Security Council which in effect enforces the strict adherence to the core values of international norms, human rights, liberty and social justice and equality. A case in point is the utilitarian stands taken by the Security Council to liberate the people of Libya from the oppressive regimes of Colonel Muamar Gadaffi (The Dilemma of Humanitarian Intervention - Council). But within the UN itself, the issues of social justice and equity in its operations raises a red flag. One of such issues is the discrimination in the structure of the United Nations remunerations, wages or salaries. This form of discrimination is thought to be fashioned after what Fredrickson, G. (1990) term as 'Segmented Equality' which is premised on 'equal pay for equal work'. However, the extent to which the spirit and intent of Fredrickson's principle is applied in the practical sense within UN system may lead to another layer of debate (p. 230).
Concerns have been raised among some past and present UN staff, particularly in parts of Africa, regarding biasness of the remuneration package in most member countries where the United Nation staffs are deployed either for peace keeping or provision of humanitarian services. The biasness or discrimination usually affects local staff of the host nation who usually do the majority of the work but receive far less salaries as compared to the international staff that only sign document and take decisions during meetings; much more of serious concern is deprivation of the possibility for highly competent local staff to attain grades and benefits attributed to international staff. There are also huge allowances given to international staff in addition to travelling allowances which they termed as recuperating allowance to enable them visit their countries of origin. Many local staff considered this as inequality and, therefore, causing dissatisfaction. In fact, many are questioning as to why an organization created to harness equal rights for the world citizenry turn such a blind eye to the situation (Feedback gathered from some past and present UN staff members interviewed).
Another form of inequality in the UN system is the rule of law, the justice system. There have been reported cases of criminal and corrupt practices by some UN staff in some countries where the UN had or has operations. These cases range from charges of rape, embezzlement, impersonation, to economic sabotage. Interestingly, as these crimes against humanity are committed in the same respective countries of operations, the United Nation abhors the trial of these cases involving international staff in the countries where these crimes are committed with the poor excuse that, the fairness of these trials could not be guaranteed. Due to this, justice for the affected individual or group is not duly served. This is in contrast to the fate of local staffs of the UN who are quickly arranged for trials and are subsequently prosecuted when convicted (United Nations: Personnel Policy; Reform and Criticism).
This injustice has even gone beyond the internal system of the United Nations organization as is reflected globally with the establishment of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The ICC which many now believe was born out of the International Court of Justice, the judicial branch of the United Nations was established as an independent, permanent court that tries persons accused of the most serious crimes of international concern, namely genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. The ICC is based on the treaty, ratified by 122 countries of the United Nations. Under its treaty, the ICC will not act if a case is investigated or prosecuted by a national judicial system unless it is established that the national proceedings are not genuine, for example if formal proceedings were undertaken solely to shield a person from criminal responsibility. In addition, the ICC only tries those accused of the gravest crimes. However, it is viewed in some quarters that many referral cases instigated by the Security Council cast doubt as to the independent nature of the court. For instance, while many member countries have signed and ratified the Rome Statute treaty of the ICC, the United State of America, China and Russia which are permanent members of the Security Council have all so far failed to ratify the treaty of the ICC. In this light, citizens of these countries are exempted from any form of trials by this court no matter the gravity of the crimes (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Human Rights). Since the establishment of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) in 2002, the ICC has investigated eight cases involving alleged violations of international criminal law, and each of these investigations related to situations only in Africa (ICC Forum.com, March 2013 - July 2013). Nonetheless, it is common knowledge that powerful and rich countries, including the United States usually use aid to compel African countries to submission. For instance the turnover of former Liberian President Charles G. Taylor to the ICC by the Nigerian Government less than 48 hours prior to the Nigerian President's meeting with the US President (Charles Taylor (Liberia politician - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia).
The perceived unfairness has led many Africans to belief that, the court was established purposely to put Africans on trial. Insofar as the court existence, all eight (8) indicted persons are all Africans. Some Africans are now advocating for the trials of the accused Africans to take place on African soil, much closer to where the alleged crimes have been committed to afford the population, the actual victim of the alleged crime, the opportunity to witness these hearings, instead of some places western. By this, it is believed that justice would truly be served (ICC Forum.com, March 2013 - July 2013). Examples are that the former Liberia President, Mr. Charles G. Taylor was tried in the Hague, convicted and serving a jail sentence somewhere in the west other than in Africa, and Professor Laurent Gbagbo, former President of the Ivory Coast is also facing trials in The Hague following the civil unrest in his country some years ago. President Omar Bashir of Sudan has also been charged with crimes against humanity but he travels across Africa freely without being arrested although the ICC has issued an arrest warrant for him (Lamony, S. A., 2013).
Moreover, as a further manifestation of discontent among many in Africa, concerning selective justice, the court of public opinion passed judgment recently in Kenya with the elections of both Masters Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, President and Vice President respectively in the Republic of Kenya. Both men were summoned to appear at the International Criminal Court in The Hague charged with crimes against humanity. There are considerable number of Africans who are advocating for the withdrawal of their countries from the activities of the ICC in the name of justice, until at such a time when confidence is restored in the affairs of that body; especially since members of the Security Council are rejecting to be bound by the activities of the court. There are increasing reports of heightened human rights abuses in some member countries of the Security Council but there is no indication of the court's active role to bring to justice leaders of those countries, except in Africa. However, it is noted in many quarters that the African request is farfetched, considering that in international laws cases already brought before the court cannot be nullified (Dowden, R. 2013).
Africans argument continued that, while the ICC has received information on alleged human right violations in other parts of the world namely: Afghanistan, Palestine, Colombia, Iraq Venezuela, the ICC is yet to open an investigation into those cases in contrast to how cases of Africans are readily investigated and treated. The Rwandan President Paul Kagame once dismissed the Court, saying it was established to primarily prosecute Africans (ICC Forum, 2013). Others also argued that, the ICC's work has hindered efforts to achieve peace in Africa, and that other conflict prone areas need humanitarian assistance from the international community rather than international criminal investigation and prosecution which have the propensity to deny others of true justice (Fagiolo, N., 2013).
There continue to be cases of mistrust in countries like Liberia after the prosecution of former president Charles Taylor with the argument that, there were not enough evidence that their former president masterminded the human right abuses in neighboring Sierra Leone (MacDougall, C. 2012). Also, there is divided opinion in the Ivory Coast, on whether fairness is considered in the charges against former President Laurent Gbagbo while the opposing camp of the current President, Mr. Alassane Ouattara, believed to be a protégé of the west, whom actively participated in the civil crisis is enjoying glory of statesmanship. In all of these cases, sections of the populace have raised their concerns that justice is denied as justice is not equally exerted to include all others (Fagiolo, N., 2013).
Another justice issue within the confines of the United Nations is social inclusion of indigenous minorities. Indigenous people in many parts of the globe continue to suffer discrimination and, therefore, the freedom to partake in decisions that affect their very existence. Many governments that have hitherto signed treaties with indigenous groups are yet to fulfill those agreements hence these minorities are denied their rights to own lands and property and to socially incorporate them to a just society. Their continuous social exclusion has affected their natural development and their ability to exercise their human rights. Although the UN continues to create the awareness through the institution of the World Indigenous Day which is observed globally on August 9, of every year, the social disparities have continued to exist. The communities where these minorities live lacks safe drinking water, health care facilities, electricity, schools, and basic necessities of life. The United Nation as an organization has failed to impugn on governments to honor agreements between member countries, their citizens and indigenous people (UNESCO.org). For instance, the rights of the minority people of Mapuche tribe to exist as indigenous people in the State of Chile have continued to be unfairly violated. There is reported use of anti-terrorist laws against the Mapuche indigenous group in Chile who are demanding to reclaim the ownership of their ancestral lands. The continued unjust imposition of counter-terrorism laws against the Mapuche tribe is not only counter-productive, but one that grossly de-legitimizing their land claims, and this is done under the watchful eyes of the United nations ( UN news centre, 31 July 201).
The United Nations in achieving its mandate of providing all people with equal opportunity is being challenged with daunting issues of global concern. Inequalities continue to exist in its set-up. There continue to be disagreements within the membership as member countries continue to advocate for equality in the decision making and voting rights for members. They argue that in order to promote fairness, all members should have a voice in the Security Council. However, the five(5) permanent members made up of Russia, China, France, Britain and the United States, each of which have a veto power are in opposition, and in many instances they fail to decide on major issues affecting world peace and ameliorating the sufferings of many around the world. For instance, the Security Council has so far failed to agree on a common ground to end the civil unrest in Syria. This situation has resulted to the lost of many lives with millions displaced and made homeless and properties destroyed in the billions (Retsos, N. 2012).
Another challenge faced by the United Nations is the cases of conflict of interests in how this world peace is achieved. Over the years under the watchful eyes of the UN, some governments which undermined the freedom, liberties and human rights of their fellow citizens were toppled. For example, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. However, in other instances liberty and freedom of individuals in some other countries continue to be violated while the UN is not taking substantive actions. There have been widespread reports of crimes against humanity in countries such as North Korea, the Gambia, Iran and others, yet these governments have not been sufficiently held accountable. These are some examples of conflict of interests induced by strategic interests from world powers which somehow grossly hinders the universal quest for social justice and peace for all peoples.
Another challenge is the quest for freedom, justice and equality of indigenous people whose rights continued to be violated; this, therefore, presents a divided opinion as to whether or not the United Nations could achieve its core principles of equal rights for all people of the world. Many member countries who already signed treaties with the indigenous groups in their territories have failed to align their national developments goals with that of the United Nations. Therefore, the challenge of the United Nations through its development agencies is in the harmonization with that of states priorities so as to fulfill its global treaty of the freedom and liberty for the world indigenous groups' priorities.
Nonetheless, there is recognition that the problem of human rights is far more complicated than one would imagine. Most countries with the worst human rights abuses do not subscribe to human right charter and others who do acknowledge the charter do not fully comply with its mandate. Much more so, the application of human rights law and the institutions within the UN to those laws are weakened by water-down text of UN resolutions (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - human rights).
a) In order that the United Nation adheres to its mandate to promoting equality, there must be equal rights to all individuals in the employment system. Segmented equality in its truest sense assures equal pay for equal work, and manner of application within UN system is flawed. There must be room wherein competent nationals in the employed of the UN should have the right to earn the same kind of remuneration allotted to international staff; by this, equity would have prevailed.
b) On the issues of human right abuse, the United Nation has to review its relationship agreement signed with the International Criminal Court so as to make it mandatory that all member countries of the UN are party to the ICC treaty. The situation where, citizens of some countries are exempted from the due process of justice is in itself an inequality. The United States, China, and Russia, all permanent members of the Security Council must ratify the Rome statute and so to allow fairness in the global quest to fighting crimes against human right and dignity. Investigation of human rights abuse must also go beyond the African continent. It is inappropriate that while African leaders are being charged for war crimes, similar crimes committed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Cuba and many others are not given due processes. If the Court can allow that, such crimes be investigated by national judiciaries of these countries, then Africans should be given the right to face trials in their own national courts as well. Otherwise, equity and justice is not served. It is only when this is done that many in Africa would have the trust of the court that, its operations are not only targeted solely at the African continent.
c) It is prudent that, the United Nation compel member countries to adopt and commit to existing treaties on the rights of indigenous minorities. Their interest must go beyond recognizing their existence through the annual World Indigenous Day to recognizing their human dignity, freedom, liberty and social justice. It should be mandatory that, equal opportunities are created for these minority groups so their social inclusion could be easily enhanced. Employment policies of governments must inculcate the interest of these minorities so their rights to employment and income may not be violated (UNESCO.org).
Factors That Would Affect Implementation of the Recommendation
In promoting social equity in the salary structure and other benefits for staff, both international and local, and with those in minorities, the issues of varied qualification as a result of educational systems in different countries could be a factor to consider. Although this may affect mostly local staff and minorities, it is a determining factor in developing expertise, and therefore the income level. Other factors that may arise in implementing this fairness in salaries is the per capital income in member countries. The GDP of member countries is not universally balanced, therefore, there is likelihood that when the United Nations considers a universal system of salary structure that is equal and segmented for its workers, it may conflict the economic conditions in the countries of jurisdiction. If the per capital income is low in a member country, many of the qualified workforce may opt for jobs at the UN agencies while the civil service of these countries suffer the 'brain drain'.
The UN within itself is faced with inequalities that turn to undermine its own mandate to promote equality the world over. The presence of powerful nations and weaker nations is an impediment to meeting a common ground in decision making. The super powers whose huge contributions to the UN puts them above others may likely affect how decisions are taken at the Security Council. Therefore, in addressing the issues of human rights abuses committed on citizens in member countries, the existence of these permanent members who could veto resolutions of the UN due to their strategic foreign policy and interests is a factor to be critically considered.
Other difficulties to be faced are land tenure systems that vary in member countries. As evident in the situation faced by the Mapuche tribe of Chile, the system of land ownership is a challenge to the right of minority especially indigenous groups to acquire or reclaim ancestral lands. National legislations on land ownership could definitely be a major hindrance to the UN in promoting equal rights for the world's indigenous people and minorities.
When there is segmented equality as relates equal pay for equal work, discrimination will be avoided as people will consider each other as equal. Motivation will increase at all levels and efficiency will maximize.
When all individuals or parties are treated equally in the investigations and the prosecution of crimes of human rights abuses, confidence or trust of the international justice system will grow. This would erase suspicions particularly among some Africans that cases referred to the International Criminal Court by the Security Council are targeted at Africans.
Other expected outcome is that, when there is balance of control between the rich powerful nations and the weaker members, it will be easier to reach consensus on global issues. In this way, the situation where a permanent member will hold an entire world hostage in decision making as happened in the US invasion of Iraq and Russia's indifference on resolutions on Syria will be avoided in the future.
Charles Taylor (Liberian politician) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved from: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Taylor_Liberia
Dowden, R. (May 8, 2013). Retrieved from: http://africanarguments.org
Frederickson, G. (1990). Public Administration and Social Equity, University of Kansas
Fagiolo, N. ( 2013). Orientalism in Africa? The ICC and the case of Laurent Gbagbo. Retrieved from: http://www.resetdoc.org/story/00000022250
ICC Forum.com. (March 2013 - July 2013). Retrieved from: http://iccforum.com/africa, Lamony, S. (2013). Is the International Criminal Court really picking on Africa? Retrieved from: africanarguments.org/.../is-the-international-criminal-court-really-pickin...
MacDougall, C. (2012).Charles Taylor's Hague Sentence Sparks War-Crimes Debate In Liberia.
Retrieved from: www.thedailybeast.com/.../2012/.
Negotiated Relationship Agreement between the International Criminal Court and the United Nations. Retrieved from: http://www.icc-cpi.int/.../negotiate
Retsos, N. (2012). The UN Fails Syria. Retrieved from: http://lynch.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - human rights. Retrieved from http://plato.standford.edu/entries/rights-human
The Dilemma of Humanitarian Intervention - Council on Foreign Relations.
Retrieved from: www.cfr.org › Humanitarian Interventio
Towah, W. (2013) Feedback gathered from some past and present UN staff members
UN news centre. Published (31 July 2013). Retrieved from: http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=45538)
United Nations. Retrieved from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations
United Nations Charter. Retrieved from: http://www.un-documents.net/ch-ppp.htm)
UNESCO.org. Retrieved from: http://portal.unesco.org/en/ev.php
This publication is one of his scholarly presentations on ethics and social justice issues towards his Ph.D in Public Policy and Administration at the Walden University, USA. Mr. Towah once served as guest lecturer at the Saint Mary's (Catholic) University of Minnesota and lecturer at the University of Liberia.
Formerly, the Liberian Scholar was Manager at the Homeward Bound incorporated in Minnesota, and Advisor to the President of the Organization of Liberians in Minnesotan (OLM), USA. In Liberia, he served as former Deputy Minister for Administration & Acting Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, Deputy Minister for Administration at the Ministry of Posts & Telecommunications, Director General for the National Food Assistant Agency, Deputy Minister for Expenditure & Debt Management at the Ministry of Finance, Vice President of the National Housing & Savings Bank, Managing Director of the National Housing Authority, Strategic Management Consultant & Advisor at the Ministry of Public Works, and Unit Director for Aid Management at the Ministry of Finance. Also, he was Acting Chairman for the following Board of Directors: Agriculture & Cooperative Development Bank (ACDB), Forestry Development Authority (FDA), and Liberia Produce and Marketing Corporation (LPMC), and member of the Board of Directors of the National Housing Authority. He is presently responsible for Budget Management at one of the ECOWAS institutions - West African Health Organization (WAHO).
Mr. Towah holds Bachelor Degree in Business Administration from the University of Liberia, Masters Degree in Management from the Saint Mary's (Catholic) University of Minnesota, USA, and Ph.D Candidate in Public Policy and Administration, with emphasis in Management and Leadership at the Walden University, United States of America.
He can be reached at ([email protected])