Nik, aged 15

“Our work for peace must begin within the private world of each one of us. To build a world without fear, we must be without fear. To build a world of justice, we must be just.” – Dag Hammarskjöld

This quote comes from a time when the UN had to try to keep peace in a world threatened by the Cold War. By 1949, what were the dangers to peace? There was no peace in the world for a very long time in the 20th century. Firstly, there was World War I, then Second World War. It seems that after these horrible events there should have been time for a truce, but was it actually so? A new threat was emerging, the Cold War.

The Cold War was the rivalry and hostility between the United States of America and the Soviet Union. It began in 1945, when Europe was in shambles after World War II, and when Russia and the USA were the main two superpowers. The Cold War expressed itself as a clash of these superpowers in political, ideological, military, and economic values and ideas. Though military forces were great on both sides, neither one ever directly fought each other, and because of that this war was named the ‘Cold War’.

In 1945 the Allied leaders – Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill, met at Yalta in the Ukraine to plan the future of Europe after Germany’s defeat. Although this conference went well and the Big Three agreed on some important matters, there was mutual suspicion and mistrust behind it. However, the main struggle began in 1946, after Roosevelt’s death. Roosevelt had got on well with Stalin, whom he trusted, but new American President Truman didn’t. Moreover, Britain had a new Prime Minister, Attlee. He did not have much experience and, unlike Churchill, who had been able to sort out some problems between the USA and the USSR, he was unable to do so.

On 5 March, although he was no longer prime minister of Britain, Winston Churchill made a speech, describing the border between Soviet-controlled countries and the West as an Iron curtain. He warned of an implacable threat that lay behind it. The United States, taking the lead against the expansion of Soviet influence, rallied the West with the Truman Doctrine. Also fearing the rise of Communism in war-torn Western Europe, the United States inaugurated the Marshall Aid, which helped to restore prosperity to those countries. On the one hand, it was an extremely generous act by the American people, but on the other hand, it was motivated by American self-interest. They wanted to create new markets for American goods, but the main reason was to keep non-communist countries on their side.

The relations between the U.S. and the USSR were getting worse and worse with time and even though they did not ever fight each other directly, huge numbers of lives were lost on both sides. However, the most frightening thing was that at any moment one of these two sides could launch an atomic bomb, and it was hard work for the UN to prevent such a situation arising. The United Nations was established to replace the flawed League of Nations in order to maintain international peace and promote cooperation in solving international economic, social and humanitarian problems. The UN had to keep the balance between two superpowers in order to maintain peace in the world. Dag Hammarskjöld, the 2nd Secretary-General of the United Nations once wrote – ‘Our work for peace must begin within the private world of each one of us. To build a world without fear, we must be without fear. To build a world of justice, we must be just.’

I agree with this statement, but also want to add that fearlessness and justice are not enough on their own to make peace in the world. For this, we also need mutual understanding and support. We should take care not only of ourselves, but also of our relatives, not only of our relatives, but also the environment, not only the environment, but of our country, not only of our country, but of the whole world. That is how I would expand Dag Hammarskjöld’s statement.

If you look at the Cold War, we can see that the warring sides cared only about their ideas and plans. Their aim was to “defeat the enemy”, but not to create peace in the world. That is why I think that it was not easy for the UN to keep a balance between these sides. However, if you look at the modern world, in spite of some local issues, the world is closer to peace than before in the time of the Cold War.


About UN News Geneva

Sharing entires to the United Nations Peace Essay competitions run by the Information Service in Geneva in 2011
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