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“Why Are Some Votes More Equal Than Other Votes?”: Abolish Veto Powers In The UNSC

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Earlier this month, India began its tenure as a non-permanent member of the United Nation’s Security Council (UNSC), and reforming the all-powerful agency is certainly going to be one of its main goals. That reforms are necessary, is beyond dispute. The longer the current system goes on, the more damage it will do to the credibility of the Security Council.

The Security Council has primary responsibility, under the United Nations Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The Veto power reeks more of a medieval, aristocratic mindset rather than a modern, democratic one.

At the heart of the problem is the power to ‘Veto’. That mystical and absolute power which cannot be acquired through merit, but can only be wielded by the chosen five, who was born into the privilege, so to say. Clearly, the current rationale behind the exclusive possession of the veto reeks more of a medieval, aristocratic mindset rather than a modern, democratic one.

Yet, even if the UN were to suddenly agree to expand the permanent membership of the Council beyond China Russia, the USA, the UK and France, the proposition should immediately run into problems aplenty.

Firstly, it is unlikely that the five current wielders of the veto would agree to share their mighty Excalibur with their geopolitical opponents – indeed, China has been the most vehement opposer to India’s entry into the club.

Secondly, even if the Big Five were somehow to acquiesce, expect fireworks when it comes to selecting who should be conferred with the vote. On the one hand, the G4  (comprising of Germany, India, Japan and Brazil) have been staking a claim to a UNSC permanent seat for over a decade and a half, but on the other hand, the Uniting for Consensus club have been putting up demands of their own. This diplomatic crossfire between the various claimants is ultimately going to get us nowhere.

One possible solution through this deadlock, outlandish as it may sound, could be to abolish the veto altogether.

To begin with, the very idea of the veto is in stark contrast with everything the UN stands for. The UN charter seeks to “reaffirm faith… in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small”. The premise of equality of all nations, as outlined in the preamble, is sacrosanct to the very existence of the UN.

And yet, by offering an exclusive power to a few, it creates an imbalance of power and allows the “large nations” to manipulate the agenda to their whims and fancies, and to overrule any resolution that does not suit their ambitions. Individual good is upheld over the collective good.

“Why are some votes more equal than other votes?”

As a democratic institute, the UN ought to function on consensus and agreement by the majority. And yet, in as vital a body like the Security Council, we allow a decision that was made via consensus by all the members to be overturned by a single vote; we allow the will of all the members to be curbed to uphold the will of one. There are fourteen voices against one,  and yet the one will triumph over them all! You’d think this violates the very fundamentals of democracy.

To put it how Orwell would, why are some votes more equal than other votes?

Just being part of the Allied forces during the world war should not warrant such indiscriminate power. It’s an outdated metric too since a war that ended 75 years ago cannot accurately reflect the geopolitical situation of today.

Also, you can’t miss the irony in the fact that the criterion for having such immense power in a peace-keeping organisation is based on which side you fought for in a war! The Security Council has had its hands tied for too long. Its decision-making capacity has been crippled, handicapped, and faith in the agency has eroded, owing to the self-serving veto.

How are you supposed to take decisions in an emergency, if you are held hostage by not one, not two, but FIVE power centres, each trying to force their own favoured outcome? It’s basically a trapeze act, trying to please everyone. Not to mention impossible. Because let’s admit it, the erstwhile allies now harbour increasingly divergent views and in this day and age, it isn’t entirely realistic to think that Russia, America and China will concur on any major issue.

As matters stand today, the veto is an antithesis to the very existence of the UNO, and in my humble, nescient opinion, the sooner we get rid of it, the better.

 

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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