UN Security Council: a critique
In the run up to the US-led war against Iraq earlier this year, the UN Security Council drew all round criticism, and some disappointment, for its role. A re-look at the compositional and functional aspects of the Council that make it the most powerful UN organ.Updated: Nov 22, 2003 19:50 IST
In the run up to the United States war against Iraq early this year, the UN Security Council has stormed into the centre of all round criticism and disappointment. Divergent moods have been discernible. Some (like our PM Vajpayee) were regretful that the Security Council failed to achieve a consensus on the issue. Many were annoyed that the Council was unableto stop the United States from attacking and occupying Iraq. President Bush and his officials scorned the insensitivity of the Council to the dangers of Saddam’s Iraq and called for urgent restructuring of the body.
It is apt, therefore, for us to understand the compositional and functional aspects of the Council that make it the most powerful organ of the United Nations.We should also put the Council’s present recordin the context of its historical evolution.An informed critique of the Security Council has never been more necessary and timely than now.
UN: The beginnings
The United Nations was created to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”.To grapple with pressing issues of war and peace, a `security-specialist' organ - the Security Council - was conceived with care. Indeed, as it seemed then and now, the success of the United Nations would hinge on efficient and effective performance of this organ alone.
To this end, the Council’s size was kept small, with a
|Permanent membership was simply a self-conferred status that acknowledged the allied states individual and combined military power that defeated enemies in the War.|
few hand picked countries that won the Second World War at its core as permanent members while a limited number of other countries were allowed on the fringe as non-permanent members.The basis on which America, Britain, China, France and Russia were named as (and others denied) permanent membership was subjective, not objective. It was simply a self-conferred status that acknowledged their individual and combined military power that defeated enemies in the War.
The UN caste system
In contrast, the election of non-permanent members is guided by vaguely worded criteria touching upon the countries’ contribution to peace arena and wide geographical representation.To get elected, a country must secure two-thirds majority in the General Assembly. After election, only a short term of two years is permissible, and no retiring country is allowed immediate re-election. This hierarchy is the UN version of caste system.
|Nearly 80 of them never got a chance to serve in the Council, while another 40 barely had one term. So much for the principle of democratic character of the Council.|
Little wonder, the Council remained virtually inaccessible to bulk of 191 member countries.Nearly 80 of them never got a chance to serve in the Council, while another 40 barely had one term.So much for the principle of democratic character of the Council!India is among the more well placed as it got elected six times, never mind our humiliating defeat in the hands of Japan in 1997.
First Published: Nov 10, 2003 06:28 IST