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It is time to review veto power of the UN security council’s big five

T he quotient of endurance in the hitherto long-lasting affiliation of the US, the UK, Russia, France and China to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as permanent members remains unlikely to b

Published: 19th August 2017 10:00 PM  |   Last Updated: 20th August 2017 06:47 PM   |  A+A-

The quotient of endurance in the hitherto long-lasting affiliation of the US, the UK, Russia, France and China to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) as permanent members remains unlikely to be impacted in near time. Even constant calls for UN reform by numerous countries—including Germany, Italy, Japan, Nigeria, Egypt and India—could eventually wither away like the proverbial water on the duck’s back. The overall improbability of any recast of this format, which is enjoying immense powers in the world of the day, should duly be taken cognizance of by the wider international community as well.

During the UN’s 72nd anniversary on October 24, when world leaders are likely to meet in New York, a professional stock-taking shall perhaps be undertaken. It is no hidden secret that the overall UN’s 70th anniversary estimations of the world body’s role had largely been negative, premised on the basis of what its operating epicentre, the UNSC, had attained in its global ambit of performance in the peacekeeping arena. According to a Reuters’ correspondent, “UN’s centerpiece, the Security Council appeared incapable of delivering security, nor was the health body agile enough in countering the Ebola epidemic, even as the organisation itself ballooned to over 85,000 bureaucrats, spending more than $40 billion annually.”

The broad perception is that while the veto power of the Big Five can potentially override a majority or even a unanimous vote within the General Assembly by all its constituent members, this substantive power remains largely underused. What is equally a compelling proposition is that the veto power is rarely, if at all, used by the five permanent members for purposes of attaining any global strategic end-goals towards controlling or eliminating international terrorism.

The UN has failed abysmally in virtually all the versions—economic, strategic and political—of the Middle East crisis. It was aggravated by western powers, led by the US, on the one hand, and Russia struggling to contain damage to its sphere of influence in Iran and Syria on the other. The Middle East peace process to contain contradictions between Israel and Palestine and Israel and Iran collapsed midway due to poor UN mentorship. Israel today remains potentially insecure and Palestine riddled in economic and human deprivations.

That is why the aforesaid verdict to the effect—that the UN ‘centerpiece’ wholly failed to deliver peace—strikes a positive cord with the majority of UN membership. Whether this is tantamount to the Big Five faltering in its cardinal responsibility to sustain peace in the world, actually raises a lot of derivative issues which show each of these powers in poor light. It is indeed a truism that the latently-strong veto power is invariably used to selfishly sustain the ‘strategic interests of the user’ without any direct recourse or linkage to the global security.


Four of the five veto-touting members—the US, Britain, Russia and France—despite their profound influence in the region, have scarcely left any positive imprint in the disturbed arena.  Derivatively, the IS calls the shots when it desires to because the UN has no containment strategy on terrorism in this region or elsewhere. The humongous global body has failed to unearth a working definition of terrorism acceptable to the world community.


Meanwhile, the fifth P5 constituent, China, the only one from Asia, by repeatedly blind-sighting opinions of 14 UNSC members—who desired to declare Masood Azhar a terrorist in the UN—seems indirectly aiding and abetting terrorism by organised Pakistan groups against India, the largest democracy among the UN members. According to a French terrorism expert, there is indeed a probability: “which, however, needs corroboration” that China, the richest Asian country, “could possibly be adding fuel to fire by insidiously financing Jaish-e- Mohammed, a proposition that could well come to light if Azhar ever came into custody outside Pakistan”.  He stated: “Why else should a P5 member go so far to protect a known criminal chargesheeted under the laws as per technical evidence?” Another question that arises is whether Beijing’s overawing misuse of the veto privilege, by incrementally ‘vetoing’ India’s bid to play its anointed role in the Nuclear Supplies Group, as a legitimate foreign policy option, is not systemically distorting a neighbour’s legal rights for well-deserved participation in international affairs? The UN’s 72nd anniversary should be gainfully utilised to assess and analyse such issues by all who join in for the celebrations.
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