Unfit for Purpose
Hearts and Minds
In its latest global report, Amnesty International has accused the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) of being “unfit for purpose.” In particular, the human rights watchdog organization has criticized the manner in which the UNSC has dealt with the Arab Spring, contrasting the courage of protestors with the failure on leading nations to protect the lives of innocent civilians.
The report argued that by allowing Security Council members to veto resolutions that did not suit their commercial and military interests, the UNSC had exacerbated the negative effects of the revolutionary movement on civilians.
“Commercial interests, military interests of Russia and China, which have resulted in the blocking of resolutions in favor of Syria…this form of veto must come to an end…The United States has also done blocked to protect their own interests in Egypt, and France in Tunisia,” argued Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General. Given these trends, the head of the human rights organization, has called for meaningful reforms to the decision-making processes of the United Nations Security Council. In particular, when important human rights violations are on the line, the members of the Security Council should not be allowed to use their veto power, or if they do, they should provide explicit reasons behind their decision.
Shetty believes that in diminishing the use of the veto process, or at the very least increasing the transparency around the process; the UN will overcome the power of many of the vested interests that have given the UN its reputation of inefficiency when it comes to protecting the rights of civilians.
The call for reforming the way in which the UN creates resolutions and its accountability over its ability to protect human rights is an incredibly pertinent discussion given the events that have taken place in Syria in the last few days. The Syrian government’s use of heavy shelling in the town of Houla, for instance, resulted in the deaths of 108 people including 49 children and 34 women. Beyond the criticism of special envoy Kofi Annan, however, the UN has appeared powerless to put a stop to these kinds of abuses. Indeed, since protests began in Syria last year the death toll has reached 10,000.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that the members of the Security Council will accept any reform to the decision-making process the organization currently has in place. Further, it is unclear if facilitating the creation of resolutions would truly change the UN’s impact on humanitarian situations. Though the veto process remains an important issue, the military and commercial interests of powerful states are likely to continue to play a role in humanitarian intervention beyond the scope of the UN’s involvement.