The "End of History" Is Being Canceled
Recently, skepticism about the ability of international institutions, including the UN, to effectively address the problems they were created and function to solve has been growing, not without reason. In some places, this skepticism is so strong that there are statements that these organizations have outlived their usefulness and should be consigned to the dustbin of history.
However, despite the fact that the existing international organizations have, in fact, demonstrated dubious effectiveness in addressing many of today's problems, in particular, they failed to prevent Russia from unleashing a war in Europe, the largest and bloodiest since the establishment of the UN, we should not rush to conclusions.
First, it is necessary to find out the reasons for the current situation.
Samuel Huntington, an American political scientist and co-founder of Foreign Affairs, one of the most respected publications in the field of international relations, identified and revealed the complex dialectic of the relationship between social forces and political institutions more than half a century ago. He understood social forces to be various social groups - ethnic, religious, territorial, economic, etc. - and believed that they are the basis of any complex society, in which "the achievement and maintenance of political unity depends on the existence of political institutions," in fact, the procedures and organizational tools necessary to resolve real and potential conflicts.
When traditional social structures fail to respond adequately to new challenges, the political order collapses, and society plunges into chaos and violence.
It is noteworthy that a similar dialectic takes place not only at the national level, but also in the international arena.
Just as at the national level, various social forces with sometimes antagonistic public interests form a system of political institutions - both organizations and procedures - that should enable them to represent and coordinate interests, at the international level, a certain system of organizations and practices emerges that ensures the functioning of the entire diversity of international relations, which, by the way, are less and less limited to purely interstate relations.
First of all, it should be understood that the foundations of the current system of international relations, including major international organizations, were the result of the end of World War II with the Allied victory over Nazi Germany and Japan, and most importantly, the desire to avoid global catastrophe and the destruction of humanity as a result of a nuclear war between two military and political blocs formed on the basis of radical ideological confrontation. The most striking manifestation of this is the composition of the permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto power. Similarly, systems of international relations emerged after the Peace of Westphalia or the Peace of Versailles.
And it must be admitted that the system of international organizations created at that time, which ensured the functioning of international relations, coped with its task. Although the contribution of international organizations such as the UN to this result remains debatable, to put it mildly.
Be that as it may, this system is now completely unsuited to the emergence of new forces on the global stage.
First, the process of decolonization. Later, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the socialist camp. The spread and acceleration of globalization. The rapid economic rise of the Third World. Outbreaks of national and religious extremism, terrorism, etc. - all of this has released new forces.
And while the "Western world" cherished the illusion of the "end of history," the liberated forces were either looking for ways to secure their own interests (nationalism, religious extremism) or, fueled by a sense of resentment, were preparing for revenge. The emergence of Putinism in Russia was a vivid manifestation of the latter.
In fact, a new conjuncture has emerged in international relations that can no longer be properly serviced by the existing infrastructure - the system of international organizations. Moreover, forces have emerged that do not hide their desire to destroy the existing political order, along with the entire system of international organizations that support this order. It is a paradox that the current system of international relations and relevant institutions should include those who do not hide their desire to destroy it.
However, this is not the worst thing. The worst part is that, according to the terminology proposed by Douglas North and his co-authors, international organizations are in a sense "organizations of like-minded individuals" characterized by "self-enforcement and compatibility of agreements with the internal motives of the participants." Simply put, there is no third party with the authority and power to force members to comply with agreements, and as a result, international organizations have limited tools to compel their members to abide by rules and decisions. Not to mention coercion through violence.
Ways of Evolution
Given the current trends, we cannot rule out a scenario in which international organizations, especially the UN, will lose their importance, turning into a place for making pompous speeches and approving resolutions without any tools to ensure their implementation. However, this does not mean that they will lose their importance completely, since despite serious and justified skepticism, various international organizations, if not solve, at least contribute to solving a large number of problems, at least in areas where no one's interests are affected or where there is consensus.
At the same time, one should not underestimate the likelihood of another scenario of the evolution of international organizations, which would be their transformation into a kind of "arbitration court" endowed with coercive tools. For example, NATO, which is already cramped within the borders of the North Atlantic, could take on such a function. There have already been precedents for NATO's use of force, having received a UN mandate to do so. Another option for implementing such a scenario would be to form a wider pool of states authorized to intervene quickly in conflicts, as President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy said at the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion last February.
However, in order to implement such a scenario, it is necessary to reach a broad consensus not only on the delegation of relevant powers and coercive instruments to the relevant supranational bodies, but also on the cornerstone principles on which the relevant decisions will be made.
This is hardly a prospect for the near future. But be that as it may, it is now becoming increasingly clear that the current system of international relations and international organizations inherited from the Cold War is not able to adequately respond to the new challenges that arise in our turbulent world of the "end of history".