According to Article 27(3) of the United Nations (UN) charter, a resolution requires “an affirmative vote of nine members, including the concurring votes of the permanent members.” The United Nations security council comprises 15 members out of which only 5 states – USA, UK, France, Russia and China- are permanent and hold the power to impose a Veto on the council’s resolutions.
While the Veto was created to amplify unanimity in P5, this power has been recurrently abused to further the national interests of these countries and their allies and uphold their hegemony.
Historically, Russia in tandem with China has abused this prerogative to interdict resolutions regarding Syria, including condemnation of bombings in Aleppo, the delivery of aid, ceasefire and; even a draft resolution that would have ensured accountability for the use and production of chemical weapons in Syria- even though both states themselves are parties of the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Time and time again, Russia has interceded in support of the Assad regime exhibiting a callous disregard for the lives of millions of Syrians. Russia has also vetoed a resolution in the past that would have described the Srebrenica massacre as genocide- under which 8000 Muslim men were slaughtered in cold blood by Bosnian Serb troops in what is believed as the second biggest massacre since World War Two.
China’s seat was used by the Republic of China from 1946-1971 to blackball Mongolia’s entry into the UN. The UK in unison with France used their first veto in 1956 opposing a resolution forcing Israel to withdraw from Egypt. Both also vetoed condemnation of the US’s invasion of Panama, blatantly discounting the conditions of jus ad bellum.
The US has vetoed 40 plus resolutions critical of Israel since 1972, including those condemning Israeli settlements since 1967 as illegal, calling on Israeli forces to accept the 4th Geneva convention and withdraw from occupied territories, and demanding immediate cessation of violence.
Under the cloak provided by the US veto, Israel has not only continued expanding settler colonies on land that belongs to Palestine under international law, but also emboldened to commit crimes like ethnic-cleansing, apartheid and genocide with impunity. In this fashion, the P5 and their allies misuse the powers vested by Veto to evade consequences for their war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The recent cauldron at the UN, when the Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a global cease-fire and intensified international cooperation to tackle the pandemic and mitigate the virus; but any prospects for collaboration were hampered by the personal antagonism between US and China, was evidence of the anachronistic nature of the Veto powers.
A call for a “humanitarian pause” between warring parties to enable the unhindered delivery of medical aid was greeted by 3 permanent members trading allegations and politicizing the pandemic in a petty brawl for recognition and consolidation of their sphere of influence.
On the contrary, 188 nations adopted a resolution in UN General Assembly articulating solidarity to fight the COVID 19 with much efficacy. There have been a plethora of incidents where every time the UNSC is on the cusp of voting on an essential bill, it is paralyzed by political posturing of the egomaniac P5. The lack of consensus in the face of mass atrocities in the UN’s de facto executive chamber has repeatedly shown to thwart any progress towards a possibly peaceable world.
Back in 1945 when the UN was established, 4 out of 5 permanent members were colonial powers and thereby accounted for 50 percent of the world population and 10 percent of member states. But now, since the rightful decolonization of much of the world, they account for merely 26 percent of the world population and only 3 percent of UN states.
An oligarchic UN structure where there is unequal representation and a handful of countries dictate the world, not only undermines its universal nature but also renders it inefficient and frequently complicit in the face of war crimes.
The UN, as witnessed on many occasions, is in grave need of organizational reforms, starting with the obliteration of the Veto to better resolve international conflicts and avoid non-compliance fueled by despondency with consequential rogue states; or it will be doomed to the same fate as its predecessor – The League of Nations.
*Syeda Nabiha Wadood is a student of Biomedicine, with a passion for social justice and equality. She can be reached at [email protected]