According to international law, the UN Security Council is supposed to make final decisions on global conflicts. Yet in Syria, over the past two-and-a-half years more than 100,000 people have died, and the council has remained deadlocked.
When the United Nations was first set up in the immediate aftermath of World War II, the main decisive power was given to the UN Security Council.
The council consists of 15 members, but only five are permanent and only five have the veto – those were the countries that were on the winning side when the war ended: the United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France and China.
“The world should be dynamic. Things are changing and it should rise to the occasion. The system was developed at the time was a good one but over the years things have changed and those realities should be incorporated,” Abdulkalam Abdul Momen, Bangladesh ambassador to the UN said.
The UN system works when the five major powers are in agreement. But when they disagree, there is deadlock. For two-and-a-half years there has been no progress on Syria, while over 100,000 people have died.
Observers say the failure to agree on a solution for the Syrian conflict shows all the flaws that exist in the system, and many have criticised the Security Council’s structure saying it is unfair and old-fashioned.
One of those voices is former UK diplomat Carne Ross, who now advises the Syrian opposition.
“One of the very odd things that I experienced when I was on the Council, was that the one group of people you could guarantee would not be consulted on what was being discussed in the Security Council were the people most effected. So whether it’s Iraqis, Kosovars, Sudanese, or Syrians their are legitimate representatives would never get a chance to have a say on what they thought the Council – what the world should do,” Ross said.
World leaders are arriving in New York for the annual Security Council meeting and there will again be much talk of reform of the UN system, but there is very little chance of progress on what so many say are much needed changes.
So why is the demand for reform being ignored? What is the future of the Security Council? And what would a complete reform of the UN system mean for the rest of the world?
Inside Story, with presenter James Bays, discusses with guests: Geir O. Pedersen, the Norwegian ambassador to the UN; Regina Dunlop, the Brazilian deputy ambassador to the UN; and Masood Khan, the Pakistani ambassador to the UN.
“The veto is something that will have to be discussed thoroughly and deeply and it will be part of the reform, but there could be initial steps before the discussion of the veto. It’s widely realised that the international reality has undergone profound changes in the last two decades, adding new and increasingly complex challenges to world governance … So the capacity of the organisation to satisfactorily meet these new demands … has not evolved with the speed and in the direction of the world dynamics.”
Regina Dunlop, the Brazilian deputy ambassador to the UN