The United Nations has become an important player in international relations since World War II. In this activity students will read about the structure and history of the UN. They will also learn about the role of the UN in attempting to resolve difficult international conflicts.
Students will go to the United Nations Web site to read about the history of the UN and the role of the UN as an organization for international conflict resolution. After answering a series of questions, students will read an article by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Each student will research one of the three international conflicts referred to in the article, write an evaluation of the UN's performance in helping resolve that conflict, and provide prescriptions for changes that would improve the UN's ability to resolve conflicts in the future.
- Students will be able to describe the organization and tasks of the United Nations.
- Students will be able to apply what they have learned by evaluating the performance of the UN in conflict resolution and by designing changes that would improve the UN's performance.
Student Web Activity Answers
- The main bodies of the United Nations are the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Secretariat, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, and the International Court of Justice.
- The United Nations Charter calls on the UN to help codify and develop international law. The resulting conventions, treaties, and standards have provided a framework for promoting international peace and security, and economic and social development. States which ratify these conventions are legally bound by them.
- The United Nations has helped resolve the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and the Middle East crisis in 1973. In 1988 a UN-sponsored peace settlement ended the Iran-Iraq war. UN-sponsored negotiations led to the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan in 1989. In the 1990s, the UN was instrumental in restoring sovereignty to Kuwait and played a major role in ending civil wars in Cambodia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mozambique and in restoring the democratically elected government in Haiti.
- Impunity is the assumption that crimes will go unpunished. The UN has focused on ending impunity by creating an international mechanism of accountability for those charged with war crimes and human rights violations.
- Students' papers will vary but should include a thorough evaluation of the role of the United Nations in resolving one of the three international conflicts. Students should include proposals for strengthening the UN's effectiveness at conflict resolution.
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