Ahmadinejad points the finger at the UN system
“The question needs to be
asked: if the governments of the
These are the words of President
The answer to Ahmadinejad’s question
is that no organ of the UN can hold the
The Security Council is the only
organ of the UN with the authority to pass resolutions binding on UN members
and to impose sanctions under Chapter VII of the UN Charter to enforce these
resolutions. But, since the
Veto-wielding permanent members also
protect their close allies from sanction by the Council, which is why there was
never any question of Israel being condemned by the Council for its recent
assault on Lebanon, let alone having sanctions imposed upon it because of its
Written into UN Charter
This extraordinary privilege for 5 UN members is written into the UN Charter , and has been from the outset. Today, there are 192 member states in the UN, but 5 out of these 192 are immune from sanction by the Security Council - it says so explicitly in the Charter.
Article 2.1 of the Charter states:
“The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.”
That is a lie. It was a lie in 1945 when the Charter was approved, and it is still a lie today. That it is a lie is abundantly clear from the Charter itself. All the evidence you need is in Article 23 of the Charter, which grants 5 named states permanent seats on the Security Council, and in Article 27, which gives each of them a veto over each and every decision of the Council.
Article 23.1 reads:
Security Council shall consist of fifteen Members of the United Nations. The Republic
Article 27.3 says:
“Decisions of the Security Council on all other [non-procedural] matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members …”
So, a single permanent member can prevent the passing of a resolution of the Council by voting against, even if the other fourteen members vote in favour.
(Article 27.3 states plainly that for a resolution of the Council to pass all 5 permanent members must concur with it. However, when the Soviet Union boycotted the Council in the early 50s, absence was interpreted as concurrence, and, from then on, as long as a resolution received at least 9 votes, with no permanent member voting against, a resolution has been deemed passed. Many Council resolutions have been deemed passed, despite the fact that they never received “the concurring votes of the permanent members”, as required by Article 27.3.)
The Security Council is the only organ of the UN that can pass resolutions that are binding on member states and take measures to enforce them. The UN General Assembly can only make non-binding recommendations (see Article 10) and then only with regard to matters that are not under consideration by the Security Council (see Article 12).
Referring matters to the UN means referring them to the Security Council, since it is the only body that has the authority to do something about them. Practically speaking, the Security Council is the UN. And the Security Council is dominated by the veto-wielding permanent members. Although it also has 10 non-permanent members elected for 2 years, they are merely window dressing, since they don’t have a veto. They carry little weight and can normally be browbeaten (if necessary) into doing what the permanent members want.
Meetings of the permanent five - the
so-called P5 - are the normal prelude to action by the Security Council (for
Written in forever
What is more, the extraordinary privilege enjoyed by 5 out of the 192 UN member states, which was hard wired into the Charter 60 years ago, cannot be changed without the consent of the privileged 5. It cannot be changed because the Charter cannot be amended without the consent of each of the 5 veto-wielding members of the Security Council, none of whom is going to volunteer to give up its extraordinary privilege. Article 108 reads:
“Amendments to the present Charter shall come into force for all Members of the United Nations when they have been adopted by a vote of two thirds of the members of the General Assembly and ratified in accordance with their respective constitutional processes by two thirds of the Members of the United Nations, including all the permanent members of the Security Council.”
Thus, whereas it is possible for the General Assembly to recommend an amendment to the Charter removing the privilege - at present it would take the support of 128 out of the 192 member states to do so - no amendment to the Charter can take effect unless it is ratified by all 5 of the permanent members.
Instrument of victor states
These extraordinary arrangements
were brought about by the victor states in World War II, in order to maintain
their dominance of the post-war world.
As Ahmadinejad told the UN General Assembly on
“The present structure and working methods of the Security Council, which are legacies of the Second World War, are not responsive to the expectations of the current generation and the contemporary needs of humanity.”
Unlike the UN, the pre World War II League of Nations was actually based on the principle of the equality of its members. No member had a veto on the decision-making processes specified in the Covenant of the League . These, generally speaking, required unanimity, but in certain circumstances the League could decide to take action against a member. In other words, joining the League implied a state ceding a degree of sovereignty to the League.
The League was the creation of US President Woodrow Wilson in 1919, but the US Congress refused to ratify US participation in the League - it refused to countenance the ceding of any sovereignty whatsoever to a foreign body.
The United Nations was the creation
of US President Franklin Roosevelt in 1944/45.
He constructed it so as to avoid the problem that had prevented the US
With these arrangements, the
In 1944/45 Churchill was opposed to
Roosevelt’s grand scheme for a world organisation, favouring instead a series
of regional organisations, each of which would be in the sphere of influence of
one of the Great Powers. But, in the
Stalin agreed that the
Reforming the Security Council
For years, there has been talk of reform of the Security Council. The UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, proposed two different models for reform to the UN World Summit in September 2005  (see Section IV), but no decision was taken at the Summit on the matter.
Kofi Annan’s proposals originated
from the report of a High Level Panel of international figures, which he set up
in 2003 . One of them was David Hannay, a former
Model A proposes that there be six new permanent members without a veto - 2 from Africa, 2 from Asia and the Pacific, 1 from Europe and 1 from the Americas, the obvious candidates being Nigeria and South Africa, India and Japan, Germany and Brazil - and 3 additional non-permanent elected for 2 years as before, making a total of 5 permanent members with a veto, 6 permanent and 13 non-permanent members without a veto.
Model B proposes a new class of 8 non-permanent members elected for 4 years with a renewable term, plus an additional non-permanent member elected for 2 years, as before, making a total of 5 permanent members with a veto and 19 non-permanent members, 8 elected for 4 years and 11 for 2, all without a veto.
The High Level Panel gives the impression that it would like to have seen the veto abolished altogether, but knows that it is impossible to do so, since the veto-wielding states each have a veto on its abolition:
“We see no practical way of changing the existing members’ veto powers. Yet, as a whole the institution of the veto has an anachronistic character that is unsuitable for the institution in an increasingly democratic age and we would urge that its use be limited to matters where vital interests are genuinely at stake.” (Paragraph 256)
The latter is disingenuous: the people who wrote this report know very well that the importance of a veto is its possession, not its occasional use to bloc Security Council resolutions. The possession of a veto greatly enhances a state’s bargaining power in the Council - which is why the views of the non-permanent members of the Council that don’t possess a veto rarely have any impact on the Council’s decisions.
Ahmadinejad’s reform proposals
In his speech to the UN General Assembly, Ahmadinejad spoke about reform of the Security Council:
“Today, serious reform in the structure and working methods of the Security Council is, more than ever before, necessary. Justice and democracy dictate that the role of the General Assembly, as the highest organ of the United Nations, must be respected. The General Assembly can then, through appropriate mechanisms, take on the task of reforming the Organization and particularly rescue the Security Council from its current state. In the interim, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the African continent should each have a representative as a permanent member of the Security Council, with veto privilege. The resulting balance would hopefully prevent further trampling of the rights of nations.”
If there is to be a set of
veto-wielding states on the Security Council, then there is an obvious case for
spreading them around the globe.
Ahmadinejad’s proposal seems to be that, as an interim measure to
produce some form of balance on the Council, there be additional veto-wielding
states which represent groups of states and change from time to time. As it stands, no state in the Non-Aligned
Movement (about 120 of them) has a veto, and neither has any of the 56 states
in the Organization of the Islamic Conference or the 53 African states. (Some states are in more than one of these
groups). The US and EU wield 3 vetoes
between them, but the Muslim world with more than twice the population (and
around a quarter of the world’s population) has none. Asking for one doesn’t seem
One can but hope that
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