UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL REFORM
Most of my sources are drawn from the internet and from various books in the PUC library. I search in Google for articles of criticism of the United Nation Security Councils especially on the UNSC voting procedure. Then I compiled this criticism to show weakness of the UNSC. Base on this weakness, I search for articles and in books for ideas that would overcome this weakness. I put together these ideas into a reform of the UNSC. The citation I will use for this paper is the Harvard style.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is an organ of the United Nations responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security. The UNSC consists of five permanent members (United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia and People’s Republic of China) and ten non-permanent members that serve two years term which five are replaced each year. Security Council members must always be present at UN Headquarter in New York so that the Security Council can meet at any time when there is an emergency.
BRIEF HISTORY OF UNSC
On January 1, 1942, the United Nations Declaration was signed by President Roosevelt, Prime Minister Churchill, Maxim Litvinov, of the USSR, and the T. V. Soong, of China. A day later the Declaration was signed by twenty-two other nations. Then, as World War II was drawing to a close, China, Great Britain, the USSR, and the United States met at Dumbarton Oaks to develop an organizational plans for the United Nations. The Dumbarton Oaks draft centered mainly round the Security Councils. In its original form the Security Councils had eleven members which five would be permanent members and six would serve term for two years (but due to diplomatic pressure in 1965 the number of members in the Security Council was increased to 15, but the permanent positions remained the same). The Security Council had the responsibility to prevent future wars by taking necessary actions. One of the Dumbarton Oaks plan was that member states have to contribute army to the Security Council when needed to prevent war and suppress acts of aggression. The one problem with the Dumbarton Oaks plan was the lack of voting procedure in the Security Council. However, this was resolved at the Yalta Conference in February of 1945 by Prime Minister Churchill, Roosevelt, and Stalin. After Yalta, the San Francisco Conference was set for April 25th, 1945. After many debates, the veto power was made official in Article 30 and was extended to the five countries commonly referred to as the “Perm 5.” The Security Council held its first historic meeting January 17, 1946, and has been taking actions for peace ever since.
UNSC POWER AND FUNCTIONS
Under the UN Charter, UNSC has power and functions:
- to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations;
- to investigate any dispute or situation which might lead to international friction
- to recommend methods of adjusting such disputes or the terms of settlement;
- to formulate plans for the establishment of a system to regulate armaments;
- to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken;
- to call on Members to apply economic sanctions and other measures not involving the use of force to prevent or stop aggression;
- to take military action against an aggressor;
- to recommend the admission of new Members;
- to exercise the trusteeship functions of the United Nations in "strategic areas";
- to recommend to General Assembly the appointment of the Secretary-General together with the Assembly, to elect the Judges of the International Court of Justice.
UNSC VOTING PROCEDURE
UNSC takes actions on any matters by voting to issue resolution. There are two kinds of matters that the UNSC must vote on. One is call a procedural matter that require any nine vote from the 15 members of the UNSC. The other one is substantive matters that need the affirmative votes of nine members and there should not be any negative vote (veto) from any of the permanent members (Under Article 27 of the UN Charter). A negative vote, or veto, by a permanent member prevents adoption of a proposal even if it has received the required number of affirmative votes. Because of this procedure, resolutions on substantive matters are hard to get pass. There are many criticisms around this matters and there are also call for a reform of the voting procedure, especially on the veto power of the permanent members.
CRITISISM OF UNSC POWER AND CALL FOR REFORM
There have been criticisms that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (who are all nuclear powers) has unchecked powers. This has lead to accuse that the UNSC only addresses the strategic interests and political motives of the permanent member. For example, UNSC devote themselves to protect the oil-rich Kuwaitis in 1991 but poorly protecting resource-poor Rwandans in 1994. Any nation may be elected to serve a temporary term on the Security Council, but critics have suggested this is inadequate. The non permanent members power are far less weaker than the permanent members. There are also criticisms on the number of permanent members and suggested the UN should be expanded the membership of the permanent members to include non-nuclear powers which would democratize the organization. Another criticism of the Security Council involves the veto power of the five permanent nations. One veto from any of the permanent member prevent the UNSC to adopt resolution to take any possible action that the Council otherwise should take. This veto power destroy the democracy concept of majority opinion in the United Nations Security Council.
There is one way to reform the voting procedure of the Security Council on substantive matter that veto power does count. It is not to take away the veto power but to find a way to override it so one veto vote would not halt the action of the UNSC. The current procedure on substantive matter is 9 votes with all 5 affirmatives vote from the Perm5. To reform this procedure is to add a condition to override the veto. For example, if there is a veto vote then the proportion of 9 out 15 will increase to 11 out of 15 (2 more votes needed). If there is 2 veto votes then the proportion will increase to 14 out of 15 (3 more extra votes needed). However, if three is 3 veto votes then the UNSC can not override these veto votes because 3 veto votes out of the 5 permanent votes is a majority within the Perm5. This reform is to implement democracy concept into the UNSC. Minority opinion of the Perm5, which mean only 2 veto votes, can be challenged. But when this veto votes reach the number of 3 then it will become a majority opinion within the Perm5, then it can not be challenged. This reform also grant more power to the non permanent members making their voices become more important to the Security Council, to the permanent members and to the world.
There is also a suggestion for the Perm5 to use their veto vote collectively. It means that to veto any resolution then the Perm5 need more than one veto vote. For example, if United States wants to veto a resolution then US need support from another member of the Perm5 such as from the UK. This will reduce the power of each member of the Perm5 in term of their veto vote.
Another way to reduce the power of the Perm5 is to ask the permanent members “pledge themselves to refrain from the use of veto in cases of genocide and large-scale human rights abuses.”
Another voting procedure is a mechanism whereby Security Council members could call for a paragraph by paragraph vote on resolutions. By doing this, the whole resolution won’t get stuck because of the veto. Members of the UNSC could vote affirmatively on paragraph that they like and veto part that they don’t like. Therefore, there is a chance that part of a resolution, if not all, might get pass.
The ultimate reform of the voting procedure is to completely abolish the veto power. All 15 members have 1 equal vote and the proportion vote 9 out of 15 remain the same. However, this reform is most unlikely to happen because Perm5 would never amend the UN Charter to give up there veto power completely.
Another reform is to increase the members of the Security Council. As the criticism above mention, the perm5 are all nuclear power and they seem to vote only affirmatively on matter related to their own interest. By increasing the members of the UNSC of those non nuclear power and by overriding the veto power then the outcome of the UNSC vote would likely to change its course from serving more of the Perm5 interest to serving more of the world interest.
-Trammel S., (2005).Commitee History and Structure of United Nations Security Council [online]. Available at http://www.cas.umt.edu/mun/2005/Working/Documents /SC_Backgrounder.doc. [accessed by January 20, 2008]
-ANON, (2008). United Nations Security Council [online]. Available at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Nations_Security_Council [accessed by January 20, 2008]
- Deller N., UN Reform, the freedom to live in dignity, and the Responsibility to Protect,
Program Advisor, World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy
-Bhatta G., 2001. Reforms At The UN, 1st ed., Singapore University Press