Dysfunctional Global System: How to overcome the crisis of peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance? | List of Articles | International Information Network Analysis

Dysfunctional Global System: How to overcome the crisis of peacebuilding and humanitarian assistance? | List of Articles | International Information Network Analysis

Currently, military clashes are taking place in Ukraine, Palestine, Sudan, and elsewhere, and serious humanitarian crises are occurring in many parts of the world. However, there is no way to bring these situations under control. This is because the foundations of the global system, centered on the United Nations, have been shaken, and it is no longer able to cope with these challenges. How, then, can these challenges be overcome? In this paper, after referring to the current situation on conflicts and humanitarian crises, I will identify the specific challenges that the global system faces and discuss their causes and solutions.

1. Unstoppable conflicts and humanitarian crises

Currently, military clashes among states and armed groups cannot be brought under control, and coups d’état have become unpreventable. As Figure 1 shows, the number of conflicts has been on the rise since the mid-2010s, and the number of victims has been rising since 2020. This is because casualties are growing due to conflicts turning into stalemates[1]. Two years have passed since Russia’s attack on Ukraine and Myanmar’s attacks on ethnic minorities, 11 months since Sudan’s military clash, and 5 months since Israel’s attack on Gaza, but none have ended. Coups occurred in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger, but the international community has done nothing to address the current situation. The international community today is no longer able to deter “rule by force.”

Figure 1: Number of Conflicts and Casualties

[Source] Anna Marie Obermeier and Siri Aas Rustad, “Conflict Trends: Global Overview, 1946-2022”, Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), June 7, 2023, p.9.

In addition, the inability to stop conflicts has led to severe “humanitarian crises” in many parts of the world, leaving a great number of people on the brink of death: according to UNHCR, the number of “displaced people” exceeded 110 million at the end of June 2023, the largest number ever recorded, as shown in Figure 2[2]. The international community is unable to resolve the growing humanitarian crisis.

Figure 2: Forcibly Displaced People (2009 – mid-2023)

[Source] “Mid-Year Trends 2023”, UNHCR, October 23, 2023, p.9.

2. Dysfunctional Global System

The inability of the international community can be seen in the fact that the global system cannot work functionally to find a solution to this situation. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed his sense of crisis by calling this “impasse” the “Age of Chaos”[3]. Here, we will examine four specific “dysfunctions” of the global system.

(1) Dysfunction of the UN Security Council

The Security Council is no longer able to compile resolutions promptly due to frequent use of veto power by the permanent members[4]. The draft resolution to halt Israel’s attack on Gaza was repeatedly scrapped, and the resolution was not passed until March 25, 2024, more than five months after the attack began. Moreover, the Israeli attacks on Gaza continued even after the resolution was passed[5].

(2) Dysfunction of UN PKO

UN peacekeeping operations are no longer able to fulfill their peacekeeping function. In Mali, Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, UN peacekeeping missions or political missions have been forced by the host governments to withdraw and terminate their missions, even though there was no significant improvement in local conditions.

(3) Dysfunction of the International Justice System[6]

In February 2024, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights announced his opinion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has resulted in numerous violations of international law and should be referred to international judicial mechanisms, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ)[7]. In January of the same year, the ICJ failed to show its position on South Africa’s complaint that Israel’s attack on Gaza was a violation of the Genocide Convention, and only issued an order for interim measures such as “guaranteeing the transportation of humanitarian aid supplies into Gaza”[8]. However, the parties did not comply with this order, and on March 28, the ICJ issued additional instructions to comply with these measures[9]. Meanwhile, the ICC, which judges individual war crimes and crimes against humanity, has so far shown no sign of taking action with regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

(4) Dysfunction of Humanitarian Aid System

Humanitarian aid has been forced to scale down in the face of budget shortfalls[10], even though needs are spreading and growing. In addition, humanitarian aid has been obstructed by parties to conflicts, and humanitarian aid workers have increasingly become targets of attacks. In Sudan, more than 8 million people[11], the largest number in the world, have been displaced, and 7 million people could face catastrophic levels of hunger by June 2024[12], yet humanitarian assistance has not been an effective answer to this crisis. In the midst of unprecedented humanitarian crisis, the humanitarian aid system is failing to meet the needs of people in distress.

3. What are the causes of dysfunction?

(1) Weakening of the foundations of universal values and the international system

Currently, universal values such as humanitarianism and human rights norms have been hollowed out, and the will to defend the international system, such as the United Nations, has become feeble. Until now, humanitarianism and human rights norms have been strongly supported by the international community, led by Western countries, as absolute values. The international system, including the United Nations, has also been trusted as a universal international organization to solve problems that cannot be handled between nations, and its decisions have had a certain normative power. Therefore, any nation or group requires considerable preparation if it wishes to act against these values and the international system. Today, however, violent extremism and other forces that are willing to maintain power through “rule by force” are gaining ground. On the other hand, the West, which has been the guardian of these values, has been accused by other countries of “double standards” in its response to Israel’s attack on Palestine. Many Western countries have yet to impose economic sanctions, such as a freeze on bank accounts or an arms embargo, on Israel, which has ignored the ICJ’s interim order, as they did in the case of Ukraine[13]. Regarding the UN Security Council resolution on a ceasefire in the Israel-Palestine conflict, a senior U.S. official has stated that the Security Council resolution is not binding[14]. This undermines the normative power of the Security Council even further.

Against the background of diluted universal values and weakened will to support the international system, it is necessary to note the “conservative swing of domestic public opinion”, especially in the West. In many Western countries, the economic stagnation and widening inequality have led to more citizens becoming dissatisfied with their governments. In addition, with the growing number of refugees and immigrants, ideas about excluding refugees, immigrants and other minorities, and populism are on the rise. Social media are gaining the ground as a popular communication tool, but their algorithms are connecting people who share the same ideas, leading to social division and fragmentation. As a result, domestic public opinion is increasingly prioritizing the resolution of domestic issues over international ones, and voices supporting humanitarianism, the defense of human rights norms, or the protection of the international system, such as the United Nations, are declining. This domestic environment has reduced the willingness of states to engage actively in international society. In a poll conducted by Israel’s Channel 12 in the last week of January 2024, more than 72% of respondents said that “entry of humanitarian aid into Gaza should be halted until the Israeli detainees are released”, which is an incentive for the Israeli government to continue its hardline position[15]. In response to this Israeli position, the U.S., a leading patron of Israel, faces the dilemma of being swayed by the actions of its client[16].

(2) Inability of UN PKOs to respond to changes in conflict circumstances and the challenges they face

The circumstances of conflicts have changed. One of major changes is that the traditional the conflict resolution system is no longer effective due to the transformation of relationships among major powers, as well as the main actors in conflicts. Looking at recent history, the Cold War ended in the late 1980s, and in the 90s, an international order was established under the leadership of the United States and other Western countries; violent extremism, such as radical Muslim groups, began to exert influence around the time of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States in 2001, and in recent years, tensions between Western countries and Russia/China have become more prominent. In addition, the BRICS and other middle-income countries have achieved economic growth, and with the economic stagnation of Western countries, they have increased their global presence. On the other hand, when we look at the phenomenon of conflict itself, while interstate rivalry has traditionally been the main cause of conflict and tension, armed groups, such as violent extremists, have recently become visible and influential in the conflict process and become major players in the conflicts. This is in addition to the growing influence of private military companies such as Wagner and the establishment of illegal networks of weapons and money flows. Traditional major stakeholders have lost their absolute power, and mutually contradicting interests have emerged among various parties. This makes it difficult for the international community to take unified action and align on conflict intervention and mediation.

The conflict between Russia and Ukraine arose and continues based on the confrontation between Russia and Western countries. In West Africa, violent extremism has grown in tandem with the decline in influence of the former colonial power, France, and the expansion of Wagner’s influence. Meanwhile, a series of coups has spread, making it difficult to find a solution. In Sudan, there are no signs of a solution to the conflict between the military and the paramilitary RSF, with various domestic forces and neighboring countries involved with their own competing interests. In Somalia and Yemen, civil wars have continued for several decades without decisive intervention from the international community.

N PKOs have been unable to respond to these changes in the conflict environment. With the growth of violent extremism, and their guerrilla-type military operations, UN PKOs are no longer able to cope with these changes[17]. In the past, UN peacekeeping operations were rarely the target of attacks because most conflicts were fought for “legitimacy” between governments and rebels. However, recently, “rule by force”, rather than “fight for legitimacy”, has become the major trend of warfare, and UN PKOs are increasingly becoming targets.

Furthermore, as the pre-condition for UN PKOs to function effectively, strong backup from within the host country and the international community, especially on political will and concrete steps toward nation-building after a ceasefire, is required. However, the lack of these supports is a main reason why UN PKOs do not work as expected[18]. The main goal of UN PKOs are a ceasefire and restoration of stability, but unless the state can be managed satisfactorily and the provision of social services can be improved under a new political regime after stability is achieved, the parties to the conflict will lose the incentive to sustain “stability”. Political intervention and coordination by key domestic and international actors are essential to realizing this, but this has become a rarity[19].

While UN PKOs are asked to complete “Christmas-tree mandates[20]”, with a wide range of tasks requested by UN member states during the mandate formation process, the necessary budgets are not fully allocated, and deployment often takes place without a clear prioritization or action plans. Under these circumstances, it has become increasingly difficult for UN PKOs to demonstrate results, and with the growing trend of coups and authoritarian regimes, host governments themselves, who do not wanta UN presence in their territory, often demand the early withdrawal of UN PKOs.

4. How to solve these problems?

The current global situation is not ideal. Conflicts continue and escalate, humanitarian crises increase, and the number of displaced people shows no signs of decreasing. New displacements are destabilizing host communities, and exclusionary behavior is on the rise[21]. Moreover, the international system that should deal with these situations is not functioning effectively. If this situation continues, the negative spiral will only intensify. Action is needed to reverse these trends, but how can it be accomplished?

(1) Creating a framework to defend universal values

First, it is necessary to create a framework to defend the universal values that have lost ground. To this end, it is necessary to “arouse awareness,” that is, to eliminate people’s indifference to conflicts and humanitarian crises. This is needed to overcome the social divisions caused by social media, and will create an environment in which important global issues can be delivered to people and favorable public opinions can be formed. The role of the media reporting is important in this. It is also necessary to strengthen the analysis and dissemination of information by people and researchers involved in conflicts and humanitarian crises, such as analysis of the causes of conflicts and potential solutions. It is also important to “eliminate exclusivism” in each country. This will require the elimination of disparities within each country, strengthened protection and support for the socially vulnerable, and the creation of a society in which everyone can live happily. Such efforts will increase the momentum for tolerance and inclusion, rather than exclusion, of others.

(2) Responding to the international power shift

It is necessary to establish a framework that can respond to the international power shift. Unlike in the 1990s, tensions between the West and Russia/China are now more pronounced. These tensions are the main cause of the dysfunction of the international system. It is necessary to promote dialogue and foster trust among the divided Western countries and Russia/China, and to explore ways to build a system of cooperation and coexistence among all parties.

In addition, it is necessary to strengthen dialogue and cooperation with the Global South. The West no longer has the power that it once did[22]. Western countries need to engage in dialogue with the Global South on an equal footing to build a favorable international society[23]. As mentioned above, the West is increasingly being criticized by the Global South for its “double standards” in dealing with problems in the Middle East and Africa[24]. In the case of Israel’s attack on Gaza, Middle Eastern countries are continuing their efforts to mediate, and the case against Israel at the ICJ is being brought by South Africa. It is necessary to calmly listen to the voices and opinions of the Global South.

(3) Restructuring the international system to match the times

In order to resolve the current dysfunction, it is necessary to restructure the international system. One of these reforms is changing the Security Council. Various discussions have been held on Security Council reform, including the number of member states and the distinction between permanent and non-permanent members, but the most critical issue is how to deal with the veto power[25]. There is also a need for institutional reform of UN peacekeeping operations. It is necessary to deal with violent extremism that engages in guerrilla-style fighting, while also setting clear priorities and objectives, and introducing thorough monitoring and evaluation systems.
Furthermore, it is essential to have strong political will to support the international system, including the UN, as a normative institution. In order for international systems such as the UN to have normative power, there must be a “myth” that all countries believe in these systems as absolute. This myth cannot be sustained without the “will” of the people who support it[26]. In order for international systems such as the UN to function, it is essential that the permanent members of the Security Council and other developed countries have a strong “will” to take a lead to defend these systems.

4. Conclusion: Expectations for 2024

In 2024, elections will be held in at least 64 countries, home to 49% of the world’s population[27]. For many, the conflicts and humanitarian crises in the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere may seem too distant to be relevant. However, if these people vote for the creation of a favorable international system, leaders will emerge in each country to represent their voices. If such representatives gather, the creation of desirable international system is not just a dream. Each person’s thoughts are connected to the world, and each person’s actions will change the world.

In September 2024, “The Summit of the Future” will be held at the United Nations to restore confidence in multilateralism[28]. Observers have very high expectations for its outcomes.

This article was prepared based on information available as of March 31, 2024. The views expressed in this report are the author’s own and do not represent the official views of the organization to which the author belongs.



  1. 1 Anna Marie Obermeier and Siri Aas Rustad, “Conflict Trends: Global Overview, 1946-2022,” Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO), June 7, 2023, p. 9.

    The most recent PRIO conflict data is until 2022, but the number of conflict victims is expected to increase in 2023 due to factors such as fighting in Sudan and Israeli attacks on Palestine that have occurred since then.
  2. 2 UNHCR, “Mid-Year Trends 2023,” October 23, 2023, p. 9.
  3. 3 United Nations, “Peace is UN’s raison d’etre: Guterres,” February 7, 2024.
  4. 4 International Peace Institute and Institute for Economics and Peace, “Multilateralism index: Pilot report,” September 2022, p. 15.
  5. 5 Robert Barron, “What does the U.N. ceasefire resolution mean for the Israel-Gaza war?”, United States Institute of Peace, March 26, 2024.
  6. 6 Erin McCandless, “Israel, ICJ and the movement for a principled and just world order,” Aljazeera, February 28, 2024.
  7. 7 Samara Baboolal, “UN report calls for accountability for violations of international law in Israel and Palestine,” Jurist, February 25, 2024.
  8. 8 Areesha Lodhi, “What has the ICJ ordered Israel to do on Gaza war, and what’s next?”, Aljazeera, January 26, 2024.
  9. 9 Ewelina U. Ochab, “South Africa v. Israel: ICJ orders additional provisional measures,” Forbes, March 28, 2024.
  10. 10 United Nations, “UN relief chief calls for overhaul in humanitarian assistance delivery,” UN News, March 18, 2024.
  11. 11 IOM, “DTM Sudan- Monthly displacement overview March 2024,” March 28, 2024, p. 1.
  12. 12 Sudan War Monitor, “Sudan’s descent into famine,” February 12, 2024.
  13. 13 Chandana Seshadri, “Western Sanctions on Russia and the Global South’s stance,” RUSI, November 23, 2023; Amnesty International, “16 leading humanitarian and human rights organizations call to stop arms transfers to Israel, Palestinian armed groups,” January 24, 2024.
  14. 14 “Will the UN ceasefire resolution stop Israel’s war on Gaza?” Al Jazeera, 26 March 26, 2024.
  15. 15 Richard Hardigan, “Polls show broad support in Israel for Gaza’s destruction and starvation,” Truthout, February 10, 2024.
  16. 16 Stephen Walt describes the reasons in the following article:
    Stephen M. Walt, “The United States has less leverage over Israel than you think,” Foreign Policy, March 21, 2024.
  17. 17 Timo Smit, “Multilateral peace operations and the challenges of terrorism and violent extremism,” SIPRI, November 2017.
  18. 18 Security Council Report, “UN Transitions in a fractured multilateral environment,” December 8, 2023, p. 20.
  19. 19 Cedric de Coning calls it the “Stabilization Dilemma,” and points out that a “political project” and “coherent and accountable political and material support” are indispensable in order for peacekeeping operations to be successful.
    Cedric de Coning, “How not to do UN Peacekeeping,” Global Governance: A review of Multilateralism and International Organizations, Volume 29 Issue 2, Brill, June 8, 2023, pp. 152-167.
  20. 20 Kseniya Oksamytna and Magnus Lundgren, “Decorating the “Christmas Tree”,” in “Global Governance: A review if Multilateralism and International Organization,” Volume 27, Issue 2, June 9, 2021, pp.226-250.
  21. 21 There are examples where the influx of refugees and internally displaced persons has had a positive impact on host communities, and efforts and research are underway to increase such success stories. However, such success stories have not yet become the mainstream.
    Alexander Betts et al, “Refugee economies: Forced displacement and development,” Refugee Studies Center, Oxford University, November 18, 2016.
  22. 22 Kishore Mahbubani, “Measuring the power of the Global South,” Chatham House, February 2, 2024; International Peace Institute and Institute for Economics and Peace, op.cit., p.11.
  23. 23 Nathalie Tocci, “Multilateralism is broken,” Politico, October 10, 2023.
  24. 24 Andrea Rizzi, “The West’s perceived double standards in Gaza widen the gap with the Global South,” El Pais, November 29, 2023.
  25. 25 United Nations, “Question of veto central to General Assembly’s debate on Security Council reform, with speakers urging its limited use as ‘weapon of hatred and war’,” November 17, 2023.
  26. 26 Orfeo Fioretos and Jonas Tallberg, “Politics and theory of global governance,” International Theory, Vol.13, No.1, March 2021, p.105.
  27. 27 Koh Ewe, “The Ultimate Election Year: All the elections around the world in 2024,” Times, December 28, 2023.
  28. 28 United Nations, “At Davos Forum, Secretary-General warns of global norms collapsing, highlights need to rebuild trust, reform governance,” January 17, 2024.

Read More