By Dr Khulu Mbatha
This year's UN Day should be dedicated to the Palestinian people whose hopes and dreams have been fading since the 1948 Nakba.
Palestinians have not tasted any independence and freedom despite numerous international conferences and resolutions since the promise of an independent state based on the 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine and the Oslo agreement of 1993 that gave recognition to the state of Israel and secured the West Bank and Gaza under the Palestinian Authority.
With a weak and declining United Nations, the Palestinians feel forgotten by the international community.
No one feels this agony than the youth and children of Palestine who see themselves and their parents trapped and surviving in huge prisons known as Gaza, West Bank and other refugee camps.
That’s why the current rebranding of the Middle East crisis as a ‘Hamas-Israeli conflict’ by the media needs to be challenged.
It is well known that the Palestinian question dates back to the time of colonialisation of the region and the Balfour Declaration.
For this and other reasons, no Arab state can absolve itself of this problem and so it is for all nations represented in the UN.
This is also applicable to former liberation movements like the ANC in South Africa, which successfully fought against apartheid rule.
The crisis has taken many shapes since the establishment of the UN and over the decades, the core issues have remained the same.
From my experiences with our own liberation struggle in South Africa, explosive events like the October 7 attacks, regrettable as they are, are likely to repeat themselves as long as no solution is found.
The Bantustanisation – the creation of enclaves where black people lived – during the apartheid years in South Africa always brought with it frustrations that reached boiling points and led to fierce battles between the oppressor and the oppressed.
The same can be seen with the construction of new Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories.
Over the years thousands of ordinary Palestinian lives have been lost. Finding peace is the only solution. Like all nations, the right of self-determination for the Palestinians is sacrosanct.
The ongoing struggle of the Palestinian people has many sides to it and reflects the balance of forces in the world.
On October 16, the UN Security Council rejected a draft resolution put forward by Russia for a much-needed ceasefire in the latest violence in Gaza, after the United States, Britain, France and Japan voted against the proposal.
These countries are known backers of Israel. After the voting, Russia said the UN was being held ‘’hostage’’ by the West.
In September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the UN Security Council no longer works to ensure global security, instead is an arena for its five permanent member states to engage in strategic confrontations.
"The Security Council is no longer the guarantor of international security and has become a battleground where the political strategies of five countries clash," the president said while addressing the annual UN General Assembly in New York.
He once again reiterated his oft-repeated slogan for UN reform, “The world is bigger than five,” referring to the unrepresentative nature of the UN Security Council’s five permanent, veto-wielding members.
“We must immediately restructure institutions under the UN roof responsible for ensuring world peace, security, and welfare,” Erdogan said.
“We must build a global governance architecture that is capable of representing all origins, beliefs and cultures in the world,” he added.
It is obvious that finding lasting peace is hampered by the declining role of the UN in protecting citizens in war zones and in functioning as a mediatory power in these conflicts.
More so after the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s and the present-day wars all over the world, the UN has had little authority and is ineffective in finding solutions. It is no longer fit for purpose.
Over the years, we have observed the extent to which it has lost its credibility among its own members. It’s hard to see a way out if no strategy is forthcoming for its major overhaul.
Clearly, its mediatory role has been overtaken by global developments – political, economic, social and technological.
Founded 78 years ago – post WWII – by about 50 countries that shared common interests in preventing another war, the Security Council had enormous powers to foster negotiations, impose sanctions, authorise the use of force and the deployment of peacekeeping missions.
With almost 200 sovereign states today, mostly formerly colonised, and having only five states with veto powers has created an anomalous situation.
The talk about the reform of the UN and its organs has become fashionable. It would be a mistake to focus only on expanding the Security Council without overhauling the whole structure and its rules.
The veto rule has to be replaced by a more effective instrument that is people-centred and treats all states equally irrespective of their political or economic powers.
Otherwise, the climate change challenges, and the global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament regime that comprises principles, norms, rules and practices regulating nuclear weapons stand to increase international instability.
On the Palestine-Israel conflict, the international community must ensure the cessation of all hostilities, the release of hostages and political prisoners, the provision of humanitarian aid and other assistance.
The author, Dr Khulu Zephania Mbatha is a South African author and academic. From 2018 to 2021, he was the special adviser on international relations to President Cyril Ramaphosa. He has also served at South Africa Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT Afrika.