May 13, 2022
Good morning. In today’s either/view, we debate whether the UN Security Council’s right to veto needs to be abolished. We also look at Odisha’s construction of the largest hockey stadium in India, among other news.
📰 FEATURE STORY
Appraising the UN Security Council’s Right to Veto
As Indians, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) brings up some mixed feelings, given our consistent failure in securing a permanent seat. And we aren’t alone in this. Certain powers of the UNSC’s permanent members have been deemed a complete joke on the “united” aspect of the institution. The right to veto is one of them.
Since the end of the Cold War, the debate over veto reform has been a regular contestant in General Assembly sessions, but people simply cannot see eye to eye on this. One group acknowledges the importance of a veto in maintaining stability in the international realm. But the others have begun to notice some sinister patterns of its use that need immediate attention.
So here we are, debating one of the United Nations’ more bureaucratic points of tension. The right to veto: are we ready to let it go?
Sure, we’ve all heard of the Security Council but let’s understand what they do first. While it is one of the six essential organs of the United Nations, the UNSC is considered the biggest dog of them all. Besides ensuring international peace and security, the Council recommends any new entries to the General Assembly and has to approve any changes made to the UN Charter.
The UNSC consists of 15 members, 5 of whom are permanent. Commonly known as the Permanent Five, Big Five or the P5, they have been around since the inception of the UN in 1945. Right now, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States have permanent seats in the UNSC. And as per Article 27(3) of the UN Charter, they alone enjoy the right to veto any non-procedural decision.
Basically, any decision in the UNSC is adopted if at least 9 members vote for it and none of the P5 veto it. Even if one of the permanent members vetoes the decision, it gets scrapped. Till now, then-USSR/now-Russia has cast 119 vetoes, 35 of which were regarding applications of new members. The US has used its veto 82 times. The UK used a total of 29 vetoes, and China and France have both used the power 16 times.
On 26 April, the General Assembly adopted a resolution that became the first move that actually modifies the use of the veto. Now, whenever one of the P5 casts a veto, a General Assembly session will be held where the vetoing member will have to justify their position on the issue. Led by Liechtenstein and backed by 3 permanent members, France, UK and US, the initiative came as a direct response to the Russia-Ukraine war.
But issues around the exclusive power to veto a step that, for the most part, has been reached democratically are still aplenty, especially when cases of mass atrocity are at play. The UK and France have also not used their vetoes since 1989 and intend to keep it that way. France has also been trying to regulate that power since 2013.
VIEW: Just get rid of it
In the past few decades, observers have claimed that the pattern of veto-use in the UNSC shows clear signs of misuse as per the P5’s geopolitical stances. Apparently, the right to veto has consistently been used to block active decision-making during mass atrocities. Since 2000, China has been using its veto pretty liberally, and most of the time, it has combined its efforts with Russia’s to stop any work that affects their relations. And these are the people with the final say.
In Syria, around 250,000 people died, and half its population, i.e. about 12 million, were displaced due to Russia and China’s vetoes. They basically stopped the UN from taking any real action against Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, for all the atrocities taking place in the country. Together, Russia and China have vetoed 11 resolutions that were about the crisis in Syria. China also vetoed action against Myanmar – with support from Russia, of course. This eventually helped the junta carry out their genocidal policies against the Rohingyas of the state.
While the UK and France refuse to use their veto, the US has used its power to block 14 times since 2000. Of the 14 vetoes, 12 were related to stopping atrocities caused by the Israel-Palestine conflict. In 2002, the US vetoed action on the conflict in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A situation that is currently quickly escalating, by the way. And in 2020, the US vetoed another resolution that dealt with countering terrorism. All those discussions about whether the UN is even capable of resolving conflict anymore can be traced back to these vetoes.
The vetoes on Syria have blocked the condemnation of the use of chemical weapons, prevented an investigation and kept the International Criminal Court from getting involved. Those on Ukraine have failed to condemn Russian aggression and stopped the establishment of much-needed criminal tribunals. They also kept the violence against Palestinians going. The way these vetoes are used is akin to keeping the world hostage. If nations keep using the UNSC as an international poker table, the relevance of an already seemingly dormant organisation will be taken to task. Real lives are at stake here.
COUNTERVIEW: Regulation should be enough
The right to veto in the UNSC has been a point of contention since its inception in 1945. Things had gotten so heated that Australia even led a whole revolt against it, but Washington had other plans. You see, right before the United Nations surfaced, the international peace organisation was the failed League of Nations. A massive problem of the League was that none of the nations had any mechanism to protect their interests. So, what ended up happening was that each country was busy fending for itself. It became impossible to reach a consensus as everyone was protecting themselves.
Eventually, the Second World War broke out, and the League of Nations was disbanded. By the time an international forum was of utmost importance, the League was nowhere to be found. Thus, the veto was clearly established in the UN Charter to ensure that no such falling out happened again. Most even believe that without a veto, the Cold War would have ended the United Nations as we know it. The USSR would have left the UN as most of its members were capitalist and, like most international bodies of the time, would have formed a Soviet alternative.
Of course, nobody can deny the data. The UNSC’s right to veto has surely been frustrating given the number of interventions it has avoided. But, more often than not, the UN does stand fairly united on several issues. In a lot of situations, the vetoes keep local or regional conflicts from escalating so much that it bleeds into an entire continent. Even when Syria is brought up, there is some plausibility in the argument that stomping on Assad’s reign would have made his more callous neighbours way more powerful. Thus, affecting the ground reality of the entire region.
Here’s the thing, the likelihood of abolishing the veto in the UNSC is very little. So little that calling it a distant dream might also be an overstatement. There’s a reason why France hasn’t used their veto since the 80s yet, only asks for regulations. Vetoes can be an important check on brash decision-makers as, let’s face it, politics is an emotional game. And with the new regulations that add a layer of accountability to each veto, with the nations having to justify their stance, there is change coming up on the horizon. Most consider this as just the beginning. At least, it shows us that the UN is willing to have the conversation.
What’s your opinion on this?
(Only subscribers can participate in polls)
a) The right to veto in the UN Security Council must be abolished.
b) The right to veto in the UN Security Council should be regulated.
🕵️ BEYOND ECHO CHAMBERS
For the Right:
Missing Defence Pensions: The Latest Case Of MoD Interference In Forces’ Functioning
For the Left:
The Bengal Conundrum: Hindu Kings Of Bengal Were Not Meek, Fought Islamic Invaders Valiantly
🇮🇳 STATE OF THE STATES
Flower farming (Uttar Pradesh) – The state government has partnered with CSIR-National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI) to promote flower farming. A plan will be drawn up under the Centre’s National Floriculture Mission which was launched more than two years ago. The state currently doesn’t have a dedicated scheme for floriculture promotion. The CSIR Floriculture Mission will focus on commercial floral crops and wild ornamental plants.
Why it matters: India contributes less than 1% to the global floral trade. The domestic floriculture sector includes roses, anthuriums, carnations, and marigolds. They are cultivated in open fields and greenhouses. Other states like Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh commercially cultivate flowers.
Nipah alert (Kerala) – As the breeding season for bats begins, the state health department has increased surveillance for the Nipah virus. Fruit bats are often considered the source of the virus. It has asked hospitals to monitor patients with symptoms similar to the virus. The forest and animal husbandry departments will assist the health department in their effort. It has a higher mortality rate than other viral infections and can be transmitted from animals to humans.
Why it matters: An outbreak was first reported in Kozhikode in May 2018. It was contained at the time but later reappeared the following year with an outbreak in Ernakulam. Experts said the state hasn’t completely eradicated the virus but has managed to contain it. The virus can remain inactive for a long time in their carriers and then resurface when the animals come in close contact with humans.
India’s largest hockey stadium (Odisha) – As Odisha prepares to host the Men’s Hockey World Cup next January, the state government is building the ₹300 crore Birsa Munda International Hockey Stadium in Rourkela. Named after freedom fighter Birsa Munda, with a seating capacity of 20,000, it will be the country’s largest hockey stadium. It’s expected to be ready by October and will sport world-class facilities, including a fitness centre and a hydro-therapy pool around the pitch.
Why it matters: Odisha is an important state for Indian hockey as it sponsors the country’s hockey teams. The Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High-Performance Centre (ONTHHPC) provides training to boys and girls. It also has hostel facilities, enabling them to practice safely during the pandemic. The state’s history with international hockey began when it hosted the champions trophy in 2014. For the 2018 World Cup, the state spent ₹100 crores on a new hockey complex.
Vigil in communally sensitive areas (Rajasthan) – Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot asked officials to conduct special vigils in communally sensitive areas and take action against any anti-social elements. Gehlot, referring to communal incidents similar to other states, requested Home Minister Amit Shah to order an inquiry. For the state, Gehlot said action can be taken under the National Security Act, Rajasthan Prevention of Anti-Social Activities Act, and the Goonda Act, if necessary.
Why it matters: On Wednesday, officials suspended internet services in Bhilwara as Hindu groups called for a bandh in the wake of the murder of a 20-year-old man amid a series of communal clashes. The opposition BJP has supported the call for a bandh. Last week, a curfew was imposed and mobile internet was suspended in some areas of Jodhpur as clashes were reported. Police said the raising of a flag on Eid on the statue of freedom led to the clashes. The state has witnessed these and other communal clashes which prompted Gehlot to issue the directive.
AAP’s membership drive (Tripura) – With nine months left for Assembly elections in the state, the AAP began its month-long membership drive in the state with the appointments of zonal and district in-charges. Nine district in-charges were appointed to conduct membership drives in each district and zonal in-charges will look into expanding the party’s work. Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) Northeast Prabhari Rajesh Sharma said it was confident in forming the next government on a platform of development.
Why it matters: After the party’s recent electoral success, it set its sight on the northeast. In January, the party opened its state committee office in Agartala. It constituted a 13-member steering committee with Santosh Ranjan Das as its chairman. Earlier this month, the AAP welcomed Abujam Umpada Luwang who served as the BJP’s morcha-in-charge for Assam, Manipur, and Tripura.
🔢 KEY NUMBER
30% – The projected decline in India’s salt production. This is because of the delayed harvest season in Gujarat, the largest salt-producing state in the country with almost 90% of the total salt production.