Recently, Dr Kennedy Graham, Green Party spokesman on international affairs, made a speech to parliament. In his speech, Dr. Graham addressed the question of what New Zealand might attempt to achieve on behalf of all the nations of the world, during its tenure of a seat on the Security Council.
He called for New Zealand to pursue the following policies:
- Work to increase global peace and security. This would include strengthening support for the International Criminal Court and expanding the range of conflicts resulting in criminal referrals.Making mandatory the referral of territorial disputes to the UN’s adjudication. Implementing existing proposals and policies designed to limit the rise of terrorism and insisting on the adherence to international law in dealing with it.
- Give urgent support for implementation of existing agreements on nuclear disarmament.
- Urge a common and effective approach to climate change.
- Promote Security Council reform – particularly through an attempt to limit the use of the veto by its five (or, in effect, six) possessors.
On this last point, Dr. Graham goes on to claim that New Zealand should add its voice to those of the five small nations already urging changes to the veto on the Council: Costa Rica, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Jordan and Singapore. I quote from Dr. Graham’s excellent speech. https://home.greens.org.nz/speeches/address-reply-debate-dr-kennedy-graham-un-security-council-29-october-2014
“I think no action in the history of the United Nations has illustrated such vision, such creativity, or such courage as the proposal of the small five in 2012. The matter came to a head when the permanent five pulled out all stops to prevent a vote on the draft. It effectively became a struggle between the five most powerful and virtually the five least powerful over the future of the world body. The matter was settled by way of a ruling from the Secretary-General’s chief legal officer that such a resolution required a two-thirds majority, not a simple majority, so the small five withdrew their draft.”
Reform of the UN is the single most pressing issue in the world today. At the moment there are in effect six nations, which can veto resolutions placed before the Council by the remaining 194 sovereign states. These are the USA, Great Britain, France, Russia, China and Israel (which to date has always been able to exercise the USA veto on its own behalf.)
Since the foundation of the UN, the veto has been used a total of 216 times. I29 of these occasions were Cold War tussles with either the USSR (68 times) or the USA (61 times) manoeuvring for advantage. China has used its veto 10 times, France 18 times, post-soviet Russia 11 times, the UK 32 times and the USA 77 times. Around 20% of all vetoes cast have been to enable Israel (1990 population at around 4 million) to continue with its project of colonisation, unhampered by the rule of international law. https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/UN/usvetoes.html”>https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/UN/usvetoes.html
This site gives details of which nation has used its veto over which issue https://theconversation.com/hard-evidence-who-uses-veto-in-the-un-security-council-most-often-and-for-what-29907 Out of a world population of over seven billion, less than two billion are citizens of states which have this arbitrary privilege.
In itself, the veto is not the only modification required to the UN Charter, if the organisation is to play its proper role in the resolution of the many urgent problems facing humanity. However, the existence of the veto, and the multiple injustices that ensue from its abuse (particularly those derived from Israel’s easy access to the USA’s veto) brings the UN into disrespect and renders the institution ineffectual. The veto’s continuance in its current form, is the major obstacle to further amendments to the Charter. These are urgently required, if the UN’s universally accepted legitimacy and international authority are to be enhanced to the extent required for the global community to deal effectively with those other pressing problems set out in Dr. Graham’s speech.
Individuals are not powerless in this situation, unless they choose to be so. It is open to any individual to contribute to any one of the multiple NGOs and global citizenship movements that are adding their voices to those of the five small nations that dared risk the wrath of the veto holders.
Footnote: I am told there has to be a photo with every blog – so here goes. Given its internationalist topic, it seems appropriate that Dr. Graham’s speech was given at the Beehive, (that is assuming that the Tower of Babel was indeed the architectural model, from which Sir Basil Spence drew his inspiration?)