UN Security Council: a little reform – politics

While UN Secretary-General António Guterres went to Moscow and Kyiv to try to mediate in Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, a resolution was passed at the United Nations headquarters in New York on Tuesday that reforms the UN Security Council a bit. In concrete terms, the aim is to redefine the right of veto for the five permanent members of the Council. However, it is not really new to regulate either, as is often the case with the UN, it is quite a hair-splitting.

The Principality of Liechtenstein, which has so far rarely appeared as a major force in international politics, introduced a resolution calling for the veto powers (USA, Russia, China, France, Great Britain) to have to publicly explain their respective veto in future. In addition to these five countries, there are ten other countries on the Security Council, which rotate every two years. The Council is considered the most important body of the UN, but its actions often have no consequences – precisely because of the right of veto. For example, when the Council recently wanted to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Russia vetoed it.

Liechtenstein’s UN Ambassador Christian Wenaweser said his initiative was not directed against anyone, but should make the process better for the UN as a whole. This statement is quite interesting in that for most supporters of the resolution the point is, of course, that it is directed against someone, namely Russia. This also explains why the 60 or so supporters of the resolution surprisingly include the USA, which is usually extremely reserved on such issues. Former UN ambassador John Bolton, who also served as national security adviser to former US President Donald Trump for a short while, criticized American support for the initiative because it ultimately hurts itself. In fact, the US is quite happy to use its veto right.

Supporters of the initiative include Germany, which has been hoping for some time to get a permanent seat as part of an enlargement of the Security Council. The same applies to Japan, which has also decided to support the initiative from Liechtenstein. Great Britain and France have opted for the solution – see again UN and hair-splitting – on the one hand not officially supporting the initiative but on the other hand voting for it. Not surprisingly, Russia and China don’t think much of the idea, but they shouldn’t be overly concerned either, as this reform is small-scale at best and unlikely to change the status quo at all.

The resolution is non-binding, like so many other things

The core idea of ​​the initiative is that the five states should declare their respective veto and that the General Assembly meets within ten working days to debate the respective case. This is intended to create a larger public. However, the public has not been small in the past either, which has not prevented anyone from making use of their veto power. There are also fears in New York that some states could in future be inclined to formulate texts in such a way that they are certain to provoke a veto – the aim in this case would be to use the new and larger public to present the respective rival.

As is often the case with the United Nations, Liechtenstein introduced a text that is “non-binding”. This means that although the resolution has now been passed by the General Assembly, the five permanent members of the Security Council remain free to simply decline to declare their veto before the General Assembly.

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