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World Sufferings: An Indictment of the Impotence of the UN Security Council

Not that United Nations(UN) Security Council(SC) causes sufferings, but the Council's inability to carry out its chartered duties to safeguard international peace and security, has exposed hundreds of thousands of people to suffering worldwide. 

To this end, last Thursday in her final briefing before the SC as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, South African jurist Navi Pillay, as reported by Reuters, chastised the body for putting short-term geopolitical concerns and narrowly-defined national interests ahead of intolerable human suffering and grave breaches of global peace and security. "I firmly believe," she said, "that greater responsiveness by this council(the SC) would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives." The learned Ms. Pillay identified the crises in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Libya, Mali, Gaza, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan as evidence that "hammer home" the international community's failure to prevent conflict. Alone, the Syrian war has seen 191,369 people including more than 2,000 children and 18,000 women killed thus far. Millions have been rendered homeless and stateless.

But the true reason why the UN Security Council has been ineffective to avert and to prevent suffering is because of its flawed structure that gives "Super Veto" power to China and Russia -  two of the Permanent Five(P5) members of the Security Council. While the world has changed greatly since the founding of the international body, adaptation of the power of the SC has lagged to address our times. The P5 members are the United States(US), the United Kingdom(UK), France, China and Russia. Each of these nations possesses a single vote veto of matters before the SC. 

While the world could rest easily with a super veto in the hands  of the US, the UK and France, could it really continue to find comfort with China and Russia - given their human rights records, having such power over world affairs? The answer must be a resounding NO! Recent action before the SC has demonstrated that both Russia and China will continue to abuse their super veto power to frustrate and to undermine the work of the stalwarts of freedom and of equality on the P5. Both China and Russia have teamed up recently on multiple occasions to block progressive humanitarian SC resolutions that would have forced a speedy conclusion to the Syrian war and protect many lives. 

That both China and Russia vetoed these matters involving human rights should come as no surprise, for they both have sufficed that any endorsements to protect human rights would amount to a vote against their home policies.

Thus, a reform of the P5 super veto is warranted to meet our changed times. As two-thirds majorities of constitutional matters is common practice internationally, then a three-fifths majority of the P5 is warranted to actuate a veto at the SC. Only with needed reforms could the UN Security Council successfully carry out its chartered duties to safeguard world peace and security.