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.
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.
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.