Prospects and Challenges of Reforming the UN: Focus on the Veto Power in the Security Council

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Addis Ababa University


The United Nations was created in 1945 as a global organization with a number of objectives and principles that reflect commitments ranging from the cause of international peace and security to the betterment of human life in all endeavors. The creation of the UN at that time was a remarkable achievement to the global society. Looking back at the UN’s past 69 years work it is quite easy to testify that this global organization has achieved a lot in fulfilling its objectives and principles. But, from the moment of its establishment, the organization faced criticisms most of which can be classified as philosophical. Latter, critics started to focus towards its work, the implementation of the UN Charter as it is written, and also others related with the function of each subsidiary organs and the UN staffs working in these organs. Without ignoring the changes that the UN has promoted and achieved globally, the critics that focus on the remaining tasks that this organization shall accomplish are well established considering the expectation that we have towards this global institution. Additionally, the continuing change in the global geopolitical and economic realities gives a compelling reason towards the reform of this organization for the better. Even if there are critics and reform proposals calling for the reform of many of the UN organs, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is the UN organ that attracted very much serious and long time proposals of reform. Being the main organ of the UN at the core of protecting global peace and security, the UNSC has entertained too many criticisms and reform proposals towards its composition, membership, voting rights, working method and other related issues. But, among all the issues within the UNSC reform discussions, the Veto power of the permanent five of the council is the most contentious issue. Since its creation, the UNSC was reformed only once in 1965 when its membership rose from 11 to 15. The geopolitical reality that existed in 1945 justifies the structure of the UNSC as a global Collective Security organization. As the most powerful states in the time and the winners of WWII, it is quite easy to understand how the permanent five managed to create such kind of collective security organization that protects their interest with a voting privilege called the Veto Power. The rules of charter amendment in the UN Charter are also another strong protectionagainst changes without their express consent. These provisions in the Charter also benefit the permanent five by their simultaneous effect, called the ‘Cascade effect’ of the provisions. The criticisms against the Veto power in the UNSC started with its wrong application by the permanent five. But through time the fundamental changes in the global geopolitical and economic realities added substantial compelling reasons to the demand calling for the reform of the UNSC and the Veto power in particular. These reform efforts have already passed a number of historical steps and are currently at a point where it seems that reform is inevitable. But actual reform depends up on the willingness of the member states to agree on the lowest common denominator. If the right approach towards reform is followed, reform may come sooner than before what we expect it. Therefore, in this thesis the writer begins with the discussion of the reform efforts for the UN as a whole. Then a detailed discussion of the history and politics of the reform of the United Nations Security Council is provided. Finally, the issue of the Veto power reform is addressed in detail. This involves the discussion of the status of the reform initiatives and prospects and challenges of reform. After looking these issues, the writer attempts to explain the best reform proposal at hand and makes recommendations for actors involved in the negotiation process. I believe doing this will clarify some of the chronic questions that may be raised in discussing Public International Law.



Prospects, Challenges of Reforming, The UN: Focus