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International law, as per the United Nations Website, “defines the legal responsibilities of States in their conduct with each other, and their treatment of individuals within State boundaries.

International Law- Definition and Significance

International law, as per the United Nations Website, “defines the legal responsibilities of States in their conduct with each other, and their treatment of individuals within State boundaries. International law’s domain encompasses a wide range of issues of international concern, such as human rights, disarmament, international crime, refugees, migration, problems of nationality, the treatment of prisoners, the use of force, and the conduct of war, among others.”[1]

In the modern era of ever-changing and dynamic geo-political paradigms across the globe where power conquest has been consistently getting blatant, the significance of international law has become extremely highlighted, more than it has ever been. The concept of the annexation of not-so-powerful states by those characterized by nuclear weapons and robust military setup is not new to the world. There are numerous instances to corroborate this statement. Crimean annexation by Russia and China’s explicit and clear attempts to invade Taiwan are some of the instances among many. Hence, there arises a need for authority or strong regulations to keep the aggressive actions of such states in check and this is where international law comes to play.

Relation between United Nations and International Law

The thought of the United Nations not coming to one’s mind while talking about international law is highly unlikely to happen. Whenever one thinks about international law, United Nations is one of the first pictures that strike the mind.

“United Nations was established on October 24, 1945. The United Nations (UN) was the second multipurpose international organization established in the 20th century that was worldwide in scope and membership. The United Nations has six principal organs: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council, the Trusteeship Council, the International Court of Justice, and the Secretariat.”[2]

“The General Assembly is the main deliberative organ of the United Nations. It is composed of representatives from all Member States, each of which has one vote. The Security Council has 15 Members- 5 permanent and 10 non-permanent.”[3] “The United Nations was founded in 1945 after the Second World War by 51 countries committed to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.”[4]

“The Charter of the United Nations is the founding document of the United Nations. It was signed on 26 June 1945, in San Francisco, at the conclusion of the United Nations Conference on International Organization, and came into force on 24 October 1945.”[5]

The United Nations, through the powers vested in its charter, can take diverse variety of issues under its ambit. “The UN Charter, in its Preamble, set an objective: “to establish conditions under which justice and respect for the obligations arising from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained”. Ever since, the development of, and respect for international law has been a key part of the work of the Organization. This work is carried out in many ways – by courts, tribunals, multilateral treaties – and by the Security Council, which can approve peacekeeping missions, impose sanctions, or authorize the use of force when there is a threat to international peace and security if it deems this necessary. These powers are given to it by the UN Charter, which is considered an international treaty. As such, the UN Charter is an instrument of international law, and UN Member States are bound by it. The UN Charter codifies the major principles of international relations, from sovereign equality of States to the prohibition of the use of force in international relations.”[6]

Is United Nations effective in the attainment of its sole objective?

As mentioned above, United Nations as an organization considers itself an authority responsible for the implementation of international law, safeguarding the interests of all the member states, and ensuring peace across the world. But has United Nations taken effective steps in the advancement of its universal objective? The answer to this question is the need of the hour.

There would hardly be any individual who is unaware of the Russia-Ukraine conflict. In a nutshell, “Russia annexed the Ukrainian territories of Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia”[7] in the name of a military operation. As claimed by Russia, referendums were held to let the people of the annexed territories be the decision-makers as to which country they want to be a part of. But does the essence of a referendum not vanish when it is done by flooding a country with troops?

In this time of crisis, the whole wide world had high expectations from the United Nations but to the contrary, United Nations acted merely as a silent spectator. Ukraine had high hopes from this esteemed organization but absolute disappointment was what it got in return. The international authority failed to gauge the gravity of the situation in time. The consequences of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine were not limited to these two countries but the whole world had to suffer. The attack on the bowl of grains left the masses starving. But yet again, the United Nations did nothing except a few speeches and unfruitful resolutions. What the organization needs to understand is that a tour and sympathizing speech by the secretary general bears no fruits unless actual measures are taken. It is not that the Russia-Ukraine conflict was the sole event where United Nations proved to be ineffective, there are many other instances such as the Rohingya crisis and the Palestine crisis. The only difference is this time the ineffectiveness came to limelight.

Delving into the shortcomings of the United Nations

Identifying the factors resulting in the ineffectiveness of the United Nations as an international authority committed to guaranteeing peace in the world becomes highly imperative. Carefully analyzing the Russia-Ukraine conflict, a conclusion that can be drawn out is that it is the founding document of the United Nations that is faulty. What restricted the organization from taking any severe action against Russia was the excessive and unabated powers given to the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Russia itself vetoed any resolution that other countries initiated against it. Is this fair? In the present scenario, the accused itself gets to be the judge which eradicates the scope for justice to be served.

Secondly, not all the regions are adequately represented in the UNSC. “Europe is overrepresented while Africa and South America find no representation among the permanent members.”[8] “It is just the winning nations of World War II who constitute the UNSC, who have already decided that they alone can take decisions on behalf of the whole world.”[9] The United Nations Charter provides no provision for the addition of any permanent member.


As stated above, it is the United Nations charter that is faulty and requires amendment. The only way through which the United Nations can justify its title of being an organization committed to the peace and security of the world is by amending its founding document. It is high time for the amendment of the UN Charter. The unabated powers of the permanent members need to be re-evaluated. A clause needs to be inserted for the addition of permanent members to the UNSC.

Brazil and India are the immediately required inductions into the security council. “Brazil being the largest country in both South America and Latin America”[10] will be an apt representation for the regions, and India, by all means, rightly deserves to be a permanent member. Four of the permanent members favor the induction of India but then comes China, exercising its veto power. To encapsulate, amending the UN Charter is the need of the hour.

Ruchira Kamboj, the permanent representative of India at the UN, very aptly remarked at a press conference that “If not reformed, U.N. will be overtaken by other organizations.”[11]

Author(s) Name: Ravneet Kaur (Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab)


[1]‘Uphold International Law’ (United Nations) <> accessed 03 January 2023

[2]‘United Nations’ (Britannica) <> accessed 03 January 2023

[3]‘History of the UN’ (United Nations) <> accessed 03 January 2023


[5]‘UN Charter’ (United Nations) <> accessed 30 January 2023

[6]Uphold International Law (n 1)

[7]‘Ukraine War: Vladimir Putin announces annexation of four Ukrainian’ (Outlook India, 30 September 2022)  <>  accessed 03 January 2023

[8]‘Background on Security Council Reform’ (Global Policy Forum) <> accessed 30 January 2023

[9]‘The UN Security Council’ (Council on Foreign Relations) <> accessed 03 January 2023

[10]‘Global Civil Society Database Brazil’ (UIA) <> accessed 03 January 2023

[11]Kallol Bhattacherjee, ‘If not reformed, U.N. will be overtaken by other organisations: Indian envoy kamboj’ (The Hindu, 21 December 2022) <> accessed 03 January 2023