Veto Power Hindering Reform of UN Security Council

The power to veto decisions, currently held by the five countries permanently represented at the Union Nations (UN) Security Council � China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States � is stifling reform at the institution, the Portfolio Committee on International Relations and Cooperation heard today.

This power of veto allows any one of these countries to stop the adoption of any resolution, regardless of how much international support it has. The current arrangement is reflecting the world as it was in 1945 and has not changed in 72 years, South Africa’s Director at the UN Security Council, Mr Zahir Laher, told the committee. The Security Council will not pass any resolution if any of the five permanent members vote against it. The world today is very different, hence the need to reform.

He said former UN Secretary General, Mr Kofi Annan, had tried to put impetus into the reform debate in 2005, but this was hijacked by various interest groupings within the UN and some permanent members who do not want to lose their veto power.

Mr Laher indicated that Africa’s position, as decided in Ezulwini in Swaziland in 2005, is that permanent membership of the Security Council should be increased, and that Africa be allocated two seats.

One key issue is the veto power. African leaders argued it should be done away with as it is unfair. Ideally you should not veto, but if things stay as they are, then the number of permanent members should be increased with each having the right to veto, Mr Laher said.

There has been reluctance. Some countries do not want to reform, as they will be left out and permanent members are not keen in sharing the power.

Members considered the relevance of the UN in today’s world and the various reasons for resistance to reforms. The Chairperson of the committee, Mr Siphosezwe Masango, said the resistance was puzzling given that not a single African country was the cause of either of the world wars. Why would, collectively or singularly, there be states who think Africa’s membership would pose a threat to their grasp on power. African states should be welcome candidates for permanent membership of the security council, Mr Masango said.

Mr Laher replied that the organisation is imperfect. We should correct and find ways to correct it and the reform we calling for is part of this. It is important that South Africa does not go this route alone. As developing countries, we have to continue to call for reforms and ensure that our voice is heard, he said.

Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Mr Llewelyn Landers, said the veto power is the biggest cause of concern. Many believe that the veto power is being abused and this is where the reform should happen. Our view goes further than that. The High Commission in Geneva has proposed the idea of a code of conduct for the permanent members at the Security Council, he said. Once you give someone power, that person will never volunteers to give it back.

Some people are beginning to question the authority of the UN Security Council and question its legitimacy, because five permanent members have been allowed to act with impunity, Mr Landers said.

Source: Parliament of the Republic of South Africa

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