Security Council

The Question of the efficacy of the Security Council

The United Nations Security Council held its first session on the 17th January 1946, after being created following World War II to address the failings of previous international organisations such as the League of Nations. The aim of Security Council is to maintain international peace and security, in addition to accepting members and approving amendments and changes to the United Nations Charter. Furthermore, it obtains the ability to permit international sanctions and authorize military involvement through Security Council resolutions. However there have been numerous occasions where its existence and efficacy are questioned; this can be summarised from a quote by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in his inaugural speech in 2012 where he stated that the Security Council has a ‘illogical, unjust and completely undemocratic structure and mechanism’.

Issues with the foundations and effectiveness of the Security Council have been frequently raised as member states and individuals have questioned its primary role in the maintenance of global peace and security. There has an influx of heightened criticism to Security Council in the 1990s as there was a subsequent surge of UN peace missions. This triggered preparatory discussion in the 2005 summit, however this only reinforced the split views on the topic.

The issue of the efficacy of the Security Council became transparently apparent during the 110th Plenary Meeting of the UN General Assembly on the 28th June 2005, in which Brazil shared a resolution which criticised the Council, with support from the G4 (Brazil, Germany, India and Japan). It was Brazil’s belief that the structure of the Security Council needed to be strengthened and changed as international status and scenario evolved from World War II; Security Council needed to allow greater participation to truly reflect the current interests of the global community as there is no African or Latin American state among its permanent members. They suggested an expansion of the Council which would result in 6 new permanent members, an attempt to solve the grave deficit of representation in the Council. Other issues arisen were the right to veto and improvement of transparency and efficacy of the Council. Argentina responded to Brazil’s resolution, underscoring their solution, asking how Security Council would be made any more effective by adding 6 more members. Brazil’s resolution did not receive enough votes for it to proceed to General Assembly.

Moreover, the Council has been criticised for the lack of transparency in its working methods and thus not being proactive and reacting with appropriate haste in serious situations. This has resulted in repeated calls to adapt to the ‘changed global political and economic world order’, as many believe that a reform of Security Council is necessary and overdue. Some question the relevance of the Security Council as in high-profile cases there are no consequences for violating a Security Council resolution. This was highlighted during the Darfur crisis when Janjaweed militias, allowed by Sudanese government, committed atrocities against indigenous people. In addition, this was also seen in the Srebrenica massacre, where Serbian troops committed genocide against the Bosnians, despite the declaration that Srebrenica was a UN safe area, protected by 400 Dutch peacekeepers.

Despite the recognition for the reformation of the Council, there is harsh disagreement on the type of reform needed and for what purposes. One of the biggest issues with reforming the Council is that is it not unbiased and neutral as with every attempt to rebuild and improve the structure, there are hidden bids for power and influence.

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