Top diplomats look to rescind UN Security Council veto

Initiative calls for major changes in the international body, including to mechanism that has protected Israel

The UN Security Council chamber (photo credit: CC BY-SA Gruban, Flickr)
The UN Security Council chamber (photo credit: CC BY-SA Gruban, Flickr)

Former US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and a coterie of veteran diplomats are calling for major changes to the United Nations in a report released Tuesday ahead of the world body’s 70th anniversary.

The report taps into the latest, more adamant calls for UN reform, a much-debated topic that has repeatedly failed to gain traction among the five permanent Security Council members who wield power at the United Nations.

It calls for expanding the Security Council, restricting veto use and creating new forums to address climate change, cybersecurity, the new development goals and peacebuilding.

Along with Albright, who also served as Washington’s UN envoy, the commission is co-chaired by Ibrahim Gambari, a former foreign minister of Nigeria and ex-political affairs chief at the UN.

Madeleine Albright (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Madeleine Albright (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Six ex-foreign ministers from Brazil, Canada, India, Japan, the Netherlands and Tanzania are among the members of the panel that penned the 130-page report.

Gambari told AFP in an interview that it was time to address a “crisis in global governance” by making the United Nations better able to confront new threats.

“We want to really build a global constituency in favor of change,” he said.

The United Nations has remained largely unchanged since its creation after World War II, when 50 countries led by world powers came together, hoping the world body would work to safeguard peace and security.

Tackling one of the most contentious issues, the report calls for restricting the veto, which has been used by Russia and China to block Security Council action to end the bloodshed in Syria.

The United States regularly uses its veto powers to counter resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that are heavily critical of Israel that frequent the security council’s agenda.

However, as relations between the US and Israel reached unprecedented lows in recent months, the Obama administration indicated that it would “evaluate” its approach toward achieving a two-state solution, hinting that it might not block — and might perhaps even support — a Security Council resolution in support of Palestinian independence.

The report proposes creating a new voting mechanism that would allow permanent members to cast a “no” vote without resorting to a full-blown veto and standing in the way of action.

“The veto was not made to be used to the extent it is now being used to delay action by the council on some of the most horrendous humanitarian situations,” said Gambari.

Equally contentious is the panel’s call for enlarging the Security Council, the 15-member club that Gambari said was widely perceived as “unfair” in its current structure.

Resentment has been growing over the powers of the council’s P5 — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — which can veto any council decision.

The commission’s report is short on details, sidestepping difficult questions on how many new countries should be allowed in the council and how to carve out regional representation.

The commission hopes to lay the groundwork for changes over the next five years, with decisions to be made at a World Conference on Global Institutions in 2020, when the United Nations turns 75.

read more: