Volodymyr Zelensky’s Challenge to the UN Security Council

Volodymyr Zelensky’s Challenge to the UN Security Council
Volodymyr Zelensky’s Challenge to the UN Security Council

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday called on the UN Security Council to reform or dissolve, citing the failure to maintain the peace. With five permanent veto members, including Russia, this World War II system is now showing its limits. decryption.

Volodymyr Zelensky didn’t mince words on Tuesday, April 5, as he made his first speech to the UN Security Council since the start of his country’s invasion of Russia. The President of Ukraine, dressed in his now characteristic military outfitstressed the inability of the major world body to fulfill its mission of maintaining international peace and security.

“You can exclude Russia as the aggressor behind the war so that it doesn’t block decisions about its own aggression,” Volodymyr Zelensky said. “Or, if there’s no alternative, the next option would be to disband outright.”

Volodymyr Zelensky delivered this speech the day after his much publicized visit to Boutchawhere he accuses Russian troops of committing “war crimes” and “genocide” while occupying this city northwest of Kiev.

He called for the 15 member states of the UN’s executive body to exclude Russia from the Security Council and to reform the United Nations system so that “the right of veto does not mean the right to die”. Before warning: “If this continues, countries will be able to rely only on the strength of their own armed forces to ensure their security, and no longer on international law, on international institutions”, and “the United Nations would no longer have then close.”

The war in Ukraine has once again exposed the flaws of the world’s most important security body, in which five permanent members — China, the United States, France, the United Kingdom and Russia — have the power to block the vote on resolutions. Moreover, the debates surrounding this United Nations system and its reform proposals have been legion since its creation after the Second World War.

Expand the circle of permanent members

The veto power—which is at the root of much of the Security Council’s current difficulties—was introduced at the 1945 San Francisco conference, which was to lay the groundwork for the United Nations by creating a successor to the League of Nations (LON ), who proved powerless to prevent World War II.

In conversations with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, then-US President Franklin D. Roosevelt argued that the veto power should be limited to a limited number of countries with the manpower required for military expeditions. According to Roosevelt, the consensus – which is easier to find with a limited group of countries – should enable the new Security Council to overcome the problems of the League of Nations.

“But two years after the creation of the UN, the Cold War began, and that was the end of the consensus that Roosevelt was trying to reach with Stalin at the time,” explains about France 24 Yves Doutriaux, former French Deputy Ambassador to the UN

However, the end of the Cold War did not allow the obstacles to be overcome. Since 2010, Russia, often associated with China, has used its veto 23 times, mainly in the Syrian conflict. Compared to the same period, the United States has used it only four times, mainly on the “Palestinian issue”. The United Kingdom and France have not exercised their veto power since 1989.

In addition to the veto issue, emerging powers such as India, Brazil and South Africa argue that limiting the Security Council to five permanent members does not reflect the changing balance of power in the world or the population.

As former US Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power argued in 2009the five permanent members initially represented40% of the world’s population, compared to just 29% today.

Among the reform proposals we find calls for the Council to be extended to the most populous countries in the world – India, Brazil or even Indonesia – or to include one or more African countries – Nigeria, Ethiopia or Egypt.

Difficulty of a “global alliance” that “secures the free world”

However, the war in Ukraine has shown that many Security Council aspirants have not joined a “global alliance that unites democracies” and “securs the free world,” as Michael Beckley and Hal Brands explain. in an article for the American magazine Foreign Affairs

Many of them did not join in condemning Russian aggression and Ukraine’s violation of sovereignty. Nor did they respond to calls from the US and the EU to impose sanctions on Moscow.

About 35 countries, including India and South Africa, abstained on March 3 in the United Nations General Assembly vote condemning the invasion of Ukraine. If the resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority (141 votes out of 193 member states), 16 African countries with close ties to Russia abstained

Dependence on cheap Russian military equipment and sympathy for Moscow during the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggles explain to some extent most of these abstentions. Russia has also benefited from anti-Western sentiment in several countries in Africa, South Asia and Latin America, targeting countries such as India, Pakistan, Mali and the Central African Republic. with disinformation campaigns

No consensus, no reform

India’s position, for example, is ambiguous about the invasion of Ukraine. New Delhi has repeatedly declined to condemn her, but its unease with Russia’s actions is evident in its strong statements at the UN calling for “respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states” – without mentioning Moscow, however.

>> To also read: War in Ukraine: India trapped by proximity to Russia

For India as well as for other countries, this balancing act is based not only on reliance on Russian weapons, but also on a diplomatic debt for Moscow’s past support for the Security Council on issues related to New Delhi’s regional and foreign policy interests.

In the diplomatic tradition of the UN, the member states of the General Assembly usually align themselves with one of the permanent members of the Security Council. These will veto any resolution directed against them in exchange for diplomatic, economic or security benefits.

While most permanent members officially support the expansion, in practice the move has been blocked behind the scenes by veto holders and geopolitical rivalries.

“The Security Council has been blocked on purpose because the United Nations was built that way,” notes Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW). “Security Council reform has been on the agenda for a long time, but it cannot get anywhere unless the five permanent members agree. But there is no consensus on this issue.”

UN bodies active despite ‘stalled’ Security Council

However, the head of HRW warns against excessive criticism that would make the UN system a failing system. “The Security Council may be at an impasse, but the other UN bodies are managing to act within their borders,” explains Kenneth Roth. He cites, for example, the General Assembly vote condemning the invasion of Ukraine, as well as the activities of bodies such as the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the United Nations Human Rights Council (CDH).

Sign of its activity, the United Nations General Assembly voted on Thursday, April 7, Russia’s suspension of the HRC due to “gross and systematic violations and violations of human rights” in Ukraine. Some 93 voted in favor of the suspension, 24 countries voted against and 58 abstained – including India.

However, New Delhi hardened its stance and explicitly condemned at the beginning of the week the “reports of murders of civilians in Boutcha” and supported calls for an independent investigation – also requested by Ukraine.

Moscow, for its part, had warned certain members of the UN General Assembly that abstentions or positive votes on the resolution would be considered an “unfriendly gesture” affecting bilateral relations† After the vote, the Kremlin spokesman warned that Russia “will continue to defend its interests by all legal means”.

While Russia has control over the Security Council with its veto power, the actions of most UN member states, as well as individual governments, ensure that, while not all members are equal in the UN system, they respect the principles of equality and justice.

Article translated from English by Jean-Luc Mounier. The original can be read here.

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