May 27, 2015

The United Nations and the Much Needed Veto Reform

It has been seventy years since the United Nations was formed and it has reached a stage today where it is a universally accepted global forum. It is heartening to observe that within these years the purposes, aims and objectives of the UN have been safeguarded remarkably but it is depressing to observe that leading governments that claim to champion “democracy,” and “good governance,” have been known to behave unilaterally in the international arena, and they sit in the council to resolve problems they themselves have created. The imbalance of representation in the Security Council with an overrepresented Europe and a much forgotten Africa, holds the UNO in an alleged state. With the P5 holding a special Veto power, which has been misused significantly, UNO stands biased. With the clause stating some states as 'enemy,' UNO seems to be unaware. And with the Trusteeship Council still eating up UN's funds with precisely no purpose, UNO seems to be unupdated. While the UNO's objectives have been safeguarded, the need for a major revolution in the procedures, organization and representation has never been more. Some such as the former UN General Assembly Chief have gone as far as to say that if UNO doesn't undergo major reforms, it may lose its creditability as the global forum! This post covers an extensive study of the Veto powers held by the Permanent 5 and the solutions and the way ahead! 


Debated since years, the Veto powers held exclusively by United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia, empower them to "Veto" any resolution presented in the United Nations Security Council that is these countries possess the exclusive powers to abolish any resolution at once irrespective of the voting results in the UNSC. These exclusive powers of abolishment exercised by the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council are termed as Veto. All countries which are permanent members of the UNSC (currently 5) tend to possess the Veto powers and hence these countries are called P5 (Permanent five). This power held exclusively by the P5 countries is much debated. Before any further discussion on this topic, we need to understand why 1945 this power was initially allotted. 

The reason ranges back to time of the formation of the United Nations Charter itself. The United Nations was formed in 1945 that is the time when the Second World War ended. The world was in an unstable state. Most of the nations were getting independence and it was high time for putting a stop to these wars and encourage mutual cooperation between nations. When the United Nations Charter was made and signed, the need of a responsible accountable and more stable member was needed to safeguard the objectives and causes of the United Nations Organization. Sighting the most stable government in the world, the P5 were found and empowered with this right with the prime motive of safeguarding UN Charter's causes and objectives and its interests. 

The Debate

The debate about removing or sustaining Veto power would not have arisen, if the P5 would have used these powers responsibly. Sadly and unfortunately, instances where the P5 have misused their powers have heated up this debate and forced the other UN members to question these exclusive powers. 
While debate has arose in the United Nations about this Veto power, prosecution alleges the P5 of misusing the Veto to protect their personal interests rather than the UN's interests. The P5 have used their premium rights for safeguarding their selfish interests. When most nations had had enough with watching the brutal dictatorship of Bassar Al Assad, Russia vetoed the bill and nothing could be done. Till date the Cold war period has seen the most vetoes, bringing the UNSC to a complete standstill. Although, the peace continued to be disrupted and human rights continued to be violated during that time, the SC was virtually powerless. Between 1946 and 1990, the UNSC adopted only 22 resolutions under Chapter VII. All these instances empower the allegations put forward.

These rights held by them are supposedly threatening the under developed nations from protecting their own rights. They are creating a political inequality. The Veto evidently makes the P5 conscious about their allies and their political status. It can be no coincidence that the US has vetoed 30+ resolutions against Israel. These rights also make the UNO biased, unfair and dominated by the P5. The Veto power actually submerge the true meaning of the United Nations that is a platform for all irrespective of their economic, political status. 

The Veto powers have given the UNSC a more political shape where the P5 use the Veto for their own interests rather than worldly ones. I have seen people sight the example of the president of Russia, Mr. Vladimar Putin. Mr. Vladimir Putin said,“In line with international law, only the U.N. Security Council could sanction the use of force against a sovereign state. Any other pretext or method, which might be used to justify the use of force against an independent sovereign state, are inadmissible and can only be interpreted as an aggression." About six months later, the same man “illegally”, as deemed by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), seized Crimea. Yet no action was taken against Russia but mere ignorance. This diabolical behaviour of the P5 has forced the under developed countries to allege and demand abolishment of any exclusive rights exercised by any member state of the United Nations.  

However, there is more to it! The defence has a strong argument too! The P5 say that the P5 are one of the most stable governments in the world and hence, the accountability and creditability of their governments makes them the ideal nations to protect the interests of the United Nations. Also, the P5 are the largest contributors to the United Nations as well as to the IMF (International Monetary Funds). Considering the fact that they are the major contributors to the UNO, they hold these exclusive powers! Though basic philosophy says that for being truly democratic, the economic inequality must not affect the political status of countries!

This is very much disheartening to observe that a country like France which has enlightened the world with principles like equality itself exercises the Veto Power! And who doesn't like power?

The Current Status and the Path Ahead

Well, each time this agenda is discussed in the United Nations, what merely happens is diplomacy and a heated up debate. The current status is discouraging and if the same trends continue maybe we aren't getting any change done to the UN Charter. The G4 are already in quest of the Veto powers and even the P5 know that it is better to share powers than to lose them. On the other side, the Coffee Club is trying to remove Veto. Just because most of the prominent developing nations have made up the G4, the opposition has lost influence. The political and economic influence of the P5 and the G4 together leaves a mere ineffective opposition. If opposition wants a win, the supposed tie up between the P5 and the G4 has to be broken up! 
When we talk about solution, that is still a distant dream. We have basically got two extreme solutions- complete abolishment of Veto or no change being made. The chances of passing an extremist solution are thin and so certain versions of these extremes have been made to make the chances thicker. One of them is that the Veto power is taken away from the P5 but in order to protect the interests of the UNO and the objective of allotment of Veto power, the permanent status of the P5 is sustained. This seems to be a radical one but P5 will never deem to agree. Second solution is that the Veto powers are restricted. Restrictions like a certain number of votes in the UNSC will overrule the Veto ( for instance) must be imposed. Third solution is that the P5 are made to use their powers only in matters regarding their involvement! But then, who will decide the extent of involvement of the P5 and also this must be understood that there are a lot of matters which don't involve certain countries but any decision taken would significantly affect the whole world. Now, how do you scale up the affect of an issue on the world is a question that lies unanswered. 
Remark- This has to be noted that the United Nations Charter doesn't use the word "Veto" in any of the clauses. To give a better understanding, I quote from the Article 27 (3) of the UN Charter, "Decisions of the Security Council on all other matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members..." This is all that the UN Charter speaks about voting procedure in the UNSC and this is what has been termed as "VETO." 
We even have in consideration more effective solutions but the process of any amendment to the UN Charter itself resists any initiative taken to make a change in the Veto powers! The United Nations General Assembly can discuss and debate about an amendment made to the UN Charter but what it can pass is mere suggestion or recommendation for amendment of the UN Charter to the United Nations Security Council. Now, it completely lies up to the UNSC whether this suggestion is implemented or not. So, similarly even if any resolution regarding a change in Veto is passed in the United Nation General Assembly, it will definitely be Vetoed in the UNSC due to the simple fact that no one wants to give up their exclusive rights or privileges!  

So basically, there is a negligible chance of any change made to the Veto because to make it possible, the P5 and the G4 will have to break up, the G4 will have to give up the quest for the Veto, the opposition will have to be convincing and effective, the allies of the P4 and G4 would supposedly will have to go against their alliance and most significantly Russia, United States, China, France and the United Kingdom will have to give up their powers, their permanent seats and consequently their influential status in the world politics and economy! That's too much to expect! 

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