Editorial - Time to veto the veto

Last updated 06:37 02/10/2012

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Few would disagree when Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully told the UN General Assembly New Zealanders find it hard to believe some 25,000 people have been killed and many more injured or displaced in Syria while the Security Council plays politics.

He urged the council's five permanent members to limit the use of their veto power to its original purpose. If the UN remained paralysed over a response to the civil war in Syria, it was "at risk of losing its credibility".

Fair enough. When the UN was established in 1945, the veto power was intended to protect the vital national interests of the council's five permanent members, not frustrate efforts to deal with atrocities.

Whether the veto is used for good reasons or bad, however, is a matter of opinion. Russia and China have used it to block UN resolutions on sanctions against the Syrian regime. But Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused Western powers of misusing it in their nuclear showdown with his country. His grouch is that some Security Council members ignore Israel's nuclear weapons but impede the “scientific progress” of other nations.

Dr Marwan Kabalan, dean of the faculty of international relations and diplomacy at a university in Damascus, noted that most of the opening speeches at the opening of the UN General Assembly's latest session had dealt with issues such as the Syrian crisis, Iran's nuclear ambitions, the Arab-Israeli conflict, a looming humanitarian crisis in much of the developing world and the undertow of worldwide recession.

Only a few, he said, had noticed the UN in its current form had become a problem in itself, where delegates from 193 states “pretend that they are working to preserve world peace and security . . ."

Focusing on the Security Council (because it represents the interests of the more powerful members rather than those of the international community), he called for the veto power's removal altogether. Decisions then could be taken on the basis of a majority consensus among permanent and non-permanent members.

Whatever the admirably democratic outcome, the Big Five won't relish having poorer nations decide the future of humanity. They would veto such proposals, thereby underscoring why the veto should be scrapped.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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