The pressing question is: Does the structure of the Security Council still reflect the realities of the 21st century? When is it appropriate to use the veto and what can be done when the Security Council is unable to reach agreement? Though, it is important to recognize that the UN are essential but as the world changes, it becomes necessary to look for adjustments or alternatives to adapt the International Community to the challenges we face today.
From its inception, 71 years ago to now, an awful lot things have changed. Many issues threaten the founding ideals and values of Security Council: lack of security for people within their own systems (terrorism), lack of link between security and justice (human rights abuses), as insecurity continues to increase – while at the same time more and more non-state actors are gaining in power.
There is a difficulty in imposing legally binding checks and balances on the UNSC. The Council has broad powers to maintain international peace and security, most notably under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, and its decisions are binding on UN members. At the same time, some of the Council’s actions have been labelled as ultra vires and the lack of a binding, legal oversight mechanism to reign in Council action has been decried.
There are genuine calls for the UN to strike a balance between fundamental principle of State sovereignty and the need to protect human rights. However members states views differ on the interpretations of the ideals and values of the Security Council Charter, with some underscoring the primacy of non-interference in domestic affairs and others expressing the need for action in cases where States are unable to protect their people or are themselves the perpetrators of human rights violations.
There is in the Charter a “dynamic equilibrium” between non-interference in internal affairs and the promotion of human rights. States could not hide human rights violations behind the principle of sovereignty. While it is difficult to strike an accurate balance, it is preferable to make errors while defending human rights than to show “excessive zeal” in respecting, to the letter, the principle of non-interference.
Another obvious limitation of the UNSC is the power of veto. There are five permanent members of the UN Security Council: China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States. These permanent members States have the ability to ''veto'' any substantive resolution and decide which issues deserve the title of ''substantive''.
This privilege not only prevents much needed international action from taking place ( North Korea-nuclear weapon, Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi-human rights violations), but also undermines the entire basis of the UN, which is international cooperation, peace and stability.
Furthermore, the UN Security Council is rigid in structure. The five permanent members are the same five permanent members since the UNSC's founding in 1945. Thus, as the times changes and power shifts, the council loses its importance.
The changing nature of the threats facing international peace and security — which now ranges from terrorist acts to pandemic diseases and unprecedented migration flows — underscores the urgency of reform, power structures, reflecting today challenges. In fact, the concept of sovereignty itself had changed; today, it should amount to a contract between the Government and the governed.
The Security Council is like a Rubik’s Cube, it is very difficult to get at. But the time has come to have a Council that reflects real power structures. UN needs reform; its structures are outdated. The UN should not function like a dictatorship in which only the alpha males can decide – regardless of their stance on essential values like human rights.
Prof Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Photo-Credit: Getty Images of United Nations Security Council photo