It is long past time for the slow-moving, United Nations to stop talking about reforms to the Security Council and start doing it. Since 1993, the UN General Assembly has hotly debated Council reform but has not been able to reach an agreement. President Hage Geingob’s demand for reform is spot on. Sadly, his voice has very little power in the United Nations (UN) – as is the case for all General Assembly members.
The UN will remain a body controlled under post-WWII decision-making structures from 75 years ago. It is unresponsive to 21st-century global power realities. The problem is that power concedes nothing without struggle as the saying goes. What can be done to force the Permanent Members of the UNSC to vote themselves out of power?
Any reform of the Security Council would require the agreement of at least two-thirds of UN member states in a vote in the General Assembly. The five permanent members of the UNSC (each has a veto right) must also agree. This is the permanent quicksand of the entire effort.
Possibilities for reform will continue to be blocked for the foreseeable future. The five Permanent Members are the UK, USA, France, Russia and China. They like being the big dog on the block; they will not give it up.
The UNSC club admits that their working methods reflect a bygone era. They will agree that geopolitics have changed drastically while the Council has changed relatively little since 1945. But, they love their ability to veto the will of the entire world. They will not give this up unless forced to do so.
France could barely claim a role in 1945 as a victor nation (it was defeated in the early days of the WWII). It has had a decreasing international power presence for 75 years. They would be doomed to ‘regular-ness’ without their veto-power on the Security Council.
Russia, with strongman Putin, is angry that it is no longer a ‘super power’ and desperate for its ‘old glory’ will also not surrender or dilute its veto power.
The US, with inane Trump at the helm, won’t move forwards or backwards on any foreign policy or diplomatic issue. Trump’s domestic base couldn’t care less about the UN except for cutting the vast amount of funds the US pays into the international body.
China, as always, will do whatever is in its interest financially and to secure its climb to world dominance. If they feel they can exert iron clad control over an expanded Security Council, they will support it; if they cannot, they won’t.
The UK is as far from a world power as a country can get and they know it. At the close of the WWII, they were bankrupt. And yet, the little island nation where the sun didn’t set in yesteryear, still wields a veto.
Ironically, the UK is the one Permanent Member that probably would sign away its veto power if the reform plan made sense. Decades ago, they accepted their global demotion as a world power so they aren’t hung up about it anymore.
Against all of the above simplistic reviews for the ‘big five’, the rest of the world is screaming for an end to the veto system. They want an elimination of the permanent membership but have no power to force the issue.
It is insane in 2020 that Africa as a whole, India, Japan or Germany or the EU as a block or a middle-eastern country has no final power over what happens at the UN. Of course, the General Assembly can and does make all kinds of toothless votes condemning this or that. But, the UN’s power lies with the Security Council. The five leeches hanging on have no intention to let go any time soon.
The only ‘progress’ on reform has been committee reports with long names about meetings to discuss the modalities of how to meet. Utter nonsense. The UNSC must vote itself out of power or dilute its power for any reform to pass and that won’t happen.
We applaud President Geingob for his online statement to the United Nations General Assembly. It is a noble effort and we must say it even though no one with power will act on it. It is the correct thing to do.