The view from here
The UN: A good idea undermined by its Security Council (1)
On October 7, the Palestinian group, Harakat al-Muqawama alIslamiya, better known by its acronym HAMAS, launched a barrage of rockets across its northern border into Israel.
It was the beginning of one of the most horrific acts of violence this year. Of course, it was by no means the origin of the conflict but that will come later – if there is space.
For now, let us remember that some 3,000 kilometres from the scene of this conflict, another carnage was taking place on Ukrainian territory.
A couple of weeks before, some 90,000 people left their homes in Nagorno Karabakh enclave in Azerbaijan in one of the
biggest mass asylums in current history.
In Africa, there were violent clashes in the Congo, while the devastations of the Sahel gallop apace.
The Sudan civil war or whatever it is, has been yanked off the front pages to make room for new blood-soaked episodes.
These were just a few of the many centres of brutality and human suffering going on around the world on one particular day.
As relayed by television into our lives, these wars and violent conflicts present a new level of degradation in human cruelty and misery but there is nothing new about the conflicts themselves.
In a way, taken together, these front pages represent a throwback to many decades when they were carried on the same
Take DR Congo, Israel-Palestine, Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh and almost all the violence we are witnessing today were
on the front pages 40 years ago when I was the foreign news editor at the Daily Graphic, this newspaper’s sister daily. Even then, these issues had been many decades in the making.
Even the Russian invasion of Ukraine has its roots in the past going back to the pre-war period of nationalisms in Europe.
I recall these ugly global happenings because they were not meant to happen. The post-Second World War arrangement for
peace, with the United Nations at the centre, was meant to ensure peace around the world.
This is precisely because the United Nations (UN), established in 1945, emerged from the ashes of World War II with the
primary goal of maintaining international peace and security. The founding of the UN was intended to foster collaboration among nations and prevent future conflicts, making it a noble endeavour.
A bronze statue, which is a 1959 gift from the Soviet Union to the UN, has this inscription from the Bible Book of Isaiah,
which summarises the aspiration of the UN: They shall beat their swords into plough shares, and their spears into pruning
hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."
With the UN and its system in place, how come peace has eluded humankind all these years? To answer this question, we have to look at the structure and scope of the UN and how its work is thus affected.
The UN was born out of the collective determination to prevent global calamities like the two world wars that had ravaged the planet. Its Charter was signed on June 26, 1945, by 50 countries, and it entered into force on October 24, 1945.
The main purposes of the UN, as stated in Article 1 of the Charter, are to maintain international peace and security, develop friendly relations among nations, and promote social progress, respect for human rights and better standards of living.
To maintain international peace and security, the Security Council (SC) was created as the centrepiece of the UN's efforts.
The specifics of the SC's composition, voting procedures, and responsibilities are outlined in Chapters V and VII of the
The SC consists of 15 members, of which five are permanent members—the United States, Russia, China, France, and the
United Kingdom—and 10 are non-permanent members, elected for two-year terms by the General Assembly.
All permanent members possess veto power, allowing them to unilaterally block any resolution, regardless of its level of support from other members. This veto ability allows for significant bias and manipulation within the Council, often thwarting the will of the majority and impeding meaningful action.
The veto power granted to the permanent members of the SC has been a major bone of contention throughout the
UN's existence. Originally intended as a precautionary measure to protect the interests of the great powers, it has historically resulted in instances where critical resolutions that had gained broad support were halted due to the objection of one or
This undermines the principle of democracy and equal representation by allowing a handful of nations to wield disproportionate power and control over the UN's decisions.
It is therefore the view of this writer that the good intentions of the United Nations have been undone by the Security Council whose members have turned the UN into an instrument of global power politics instead of an institution that works
to promote peace and security.
At the heart of the paralysis of the UN’s most sacred mandate is the desire of superpowers to protect their interests and those of their clients, instead of ensuring that the building blocks of peace are laid where they should be.
In order to further their own interests, the permanent member status and veto power held by certain countries perpetuate geopolitical imbalances.
Currently, the most horrendous wars are either being fought by SC member countries or being supported by them.
They are all complicit in furthering the causes of war instead of peace. The wars in Ukraine and Palestine are cases in point.
Furthermore, the composition of the SC does not reflect the current global political realities, as it remains rooted in the post-World War II era. Emerging global powers, such as India, Brazil, and Nigeria, have long been seeking reform to achieve a more representative and democratic composition within the SC.
While the United Nations may have been founded with noble intentions, the existence of an undemocratic Security
Council undermines its effectiveness and compromises its core principles.
The number of people who have died in wars since the Second World War is more than five times the number of
casualties in both world wars combined (https://ourworldindata.org › war-andpeace).
UN bodies and projects are doing a good job around the world in health, education, child care, human rights,
culture and much more. But the central mandate of the organisation is to ensure global peace, and in this it has failed
because the permanent Security Council members have undermined its good intentions.
Without justice there can be no peace, and the big powers are the biggest purveyors of injustice in the world today.