A vitally important part of UNA-UK’s work is campaigning for a strong, credible and effective United Nations. However, due to the way the conflict in Syria has been handled by the UN Security Council, particularly the disgraceful actions of two of its permanent members – Russia and China – the credibility of the UN as a whole has been severely damaged. Should a similar crisis arise in the future there must not be a repeat of such a travesty.
As a global advocate for democracy and good governance, the UN’s various bodies and member states should be practising what they preach. A mechanism must be found to address the current ‘democratic deficit’ where two states are able to thwart the will of the majority. It is essential that democratic accountability be a key component of any such process.
I would like to suggest a mechanism which could ensure that there is no repeat of the stalemate we’ve seen over Syria. Should a similar crisis occur in the future, and there is need for urgent action by the Security Council, then providing it can be demonstrated that there is overwhelming support for action by the majority of member states, then the General Assembly should be empowered to mandate the Secretary-General to initiate appropriate actions, thus annulling or overriding a Security Council blockage.
It’s important that such a mechanism is seen as a legitimate and acceptable remedy in legal terms. This measure would hopefully deter or prevent member states from putting politics above the rule of Law. It would also restore the UN’s credibility, and enable the world to see democracy in action. If this mechanism was in place now then the UN would be better able to carry out its obligations uncer the Charter, as well as the principles of the Responsibility to Protect, which is of paramount importance in situations such as the Syrian conflict.
It is a matter of extreme urgency that reform of the Security Council is taken seriously. Currently, the fundamental principles of the UN Charter are being subverted, allowing crimes to be committed. States must not be able to use the UN to shield their political friends whilst the mass murder and slaughter of innocent people goes on unchecked.
David J Thomas is a UNA-UK member.