Afe for Vanguard

December 27, 2023

The Palestinians and Israelis: Hate without an end? (Part 6), By Afe Babalola

Afe Babalola

INTRODUCTION 

After the 2nd world war, there was the desire to put an institution in place to prevent the advent of another world war. This led to the creation of the United Nations (UN) through the UN Charter. The preamble to the UN Charter reads as follows:

“WE THE PEOPLES OF THE UNITED NATIONS DETERMINED to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, … AND FOR THESE ENDS to practice tolerance and live together in peace with one another as good neighbours, … HAVE RESOLVED TO COMBINE OUR EFFORTS TO ACCOMPLISH THESE AIMS.

Accordingly, our respective Governments, through representatives assembled in the city of San Francisco, who have exhibited their full powers found to be in good and due form, have agreed to the present Charter of the United Nations and do hereby establish an international organization to be known as the United Nations.” 

Clearly, the main purpose for establishing the UN is to “maintain international peace and security, and … to take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means, … adjustment or settlement of international disputes or situations which might lead to a breach of the peace” – Article 1.1 of the UN Charter. 

In other words, the UN was created to maintain peace, suppress aggression, and resolve international disputes. 

PLANET EARTH AND UNENDING WARS

Despite the establishment of the UN and the UN Security Council, there had been about 507 wars since 1945. Of these, about 64 wars are still ongoing. Some of the major wars in history are: 

•The Myanmar conflicts and the Myanmar Civil war (with above 200,000 deaths), 

•Israel-Palestinian wars (with above 57,000 deaths), 

•Insurgencies in the Maghreb (with over 56 000 deaths), 

•The Mexican drug wars (with about 400,000 deaths), 

•The Russo-Ukrainian war since 2014, with above 220,000 deaths, 

•The Ethiopian Civil Conflicts with above 600,000 deaths, 

•The war in Sudan with about 12 000 deaths, 

•The Afghanistan conflicts which have resulted in over 2.5 million deaths, 

•The Syrian Conflict with over 600,000 deaths, 

•The Colombian Conflict with over 450,000 deaths, and

•The Boko Haram Insurgency with over 360,000 deaths, and affecting four countries from 2009, et cetera. 

If the UN was meant to keep and broker peace, then why is war prevalent under its watch? 

It is my view that the UN has failed in fulfilling its purposes as enshrined in the preamble to, and Article 1.1 of the UN Charter. Rather, the UN has been reduced to providing humanitarian services to war ravaged regions. This is not its purpose. 

Article 23 creates the security council. This organ of the UN is charged with the function of determining what the UN should do to halt or prevent conflicts. It even has the power to take up arms against the warring countries, if only to bring peace. (These are contained in Articles 39 and 41 of the UN Charter). Whereas this power exists on paper, its application is limited by the right to veto. 

THE UN SECURITY COUNCIL VETO POWER 

Article 27.3 of the UN Charter provides as follows:

“Decisions of the Security Council on all other matters shall be made by an affirmative vote of nine members including the concurring votes of the permanent members; provided that, in decisions under Chapter VI, and under paragraph 3 of Article 52, a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting.” 

This provision is the root of the UN Security Council Veto Power. 

The UN Security Council (UNSC) veto is the power exercisable only by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (i.e. China, France, Russia, the UK and the US – the nuclear power states). It is the power to unilaterally stop an official action or a substantive resolution in relation to security council recommendations, sanctions and peace keeping operations.  

This right is hinged on Article 27.3 of the UN Charter, which provides that the security council decisions are conditioned on achieving concurring votes of all permanent members of the security council. Hence a negative vote will halt the adoption of a draft resolution. This is referred to as the great power veto. 

The veto was first used by the France in 1946 and has been used by all five permanent members at one point in history or the other. However, the US has been the most frequent user of the veto. There had been a total of 257 vetoes since its first use in 1946. 

The veto has been qualified as the most undemocratic element of the UN, and the main cause of inaction on war crimes and crimes against humanity. It has also been used as a shield by the world powers to prevent UN actions against themselves, or their allies. 

IS THE UN POWERLESS?

The UN was created as guardians of international peace and security, the promoter of human rights, and the protector of international law. To achieve this goal, it was awarded almost unlimited power when it comes to dealing with violations of peace. 

The biggest limitation to the power of the UN Security Council is balancing the respect of national sovereignty of its members, and the overriding power of veto of the 5 permanent members of the council. 

The current state of the UN disproportionately favours the permanent members. This has made the UN security council a slave to sovereign interests, reducing the UN to the status of humanitarian providers for victims of war, rather than preventing the wars itself. The UNSC and the Red Cross are now competing on the same level playing ground. Also, countries now disobey the UN directives with impunity. The UN demanded a cease fire in the Israe-Palestinian wars, but it was vetoed. This also happened in the Ukraine-Russian war too and several wars in the past.

The UN is in fact currently powerless. This is evident its inability to stop the Russian-Ukraine war and the Hama-Israeli war. This ought not to be the case. 

There is therefore urgent need to amend the UN Charter to give more autonomy to the UN and insulate it from political control and national interests. To achieve this, I propose the following amendment: 

1. The Power of Veto should be removed: It is one major disadvantage that the UNSC is made up of 5 permanent members representing China, Russia, France, the UK, and the US, and 10 rotating members from other countries. Even if this status quo will be respected, based on the nuclear powers of these countries, the power of veto as contained in Article 27.3 should be removed. The power of veto renders a nullity the purpose and powers of the UNSC, where one permanent member-countries say no, regardless of how long it took to arrive at a decision. If the UN really wants to prevent wars and maintain global peace, this power must be totally removed, and the UNSC granted its much-deserved autonomy.  

2. Stricter sanctions should be imposed for disobeying the UN: There is the need to give the UN more power when it comes to protecting peace. It is true that countries are sovereign, however, a country will only respect the UN if the UN has more power than individual countries. The fact that nations disobey the UN with impunity, and without any serious consequence is a big indication that the UN is not as powerful as it ought. There is therefore the need to amend the UN Charter to vest more powers in the UN in times of war, including military presence. This will also mean that national sovereignty and powers will be reduced in times of war, in relation to the increase in the powers of the UN. It is only when this is achieved that the UN will be able to carry out its function. 

Conclusion 

The UN is meant to preserve international peace. So far, under the watch of the UN, the world has been plunged into a myriad of wars, one which have cumulatively claimed millions of lives. Rather than preserving peace, the UN has functioned as another Red Cross, providing only humanitarian services in times of war, rather than preventing them. 

I believe that this anomaly can be remedied if the UN is given more power and space to freely operate in times of war. This is only achievable where the power of veto is totally removed and the UN is given more power in times of war, one that overrides national sovereignty.