By Bob Hanson
DWF Board Member
Last year the United Nations celebrated its seventieth anniversary. This documentary created just after the U.N.’s founding in 1945 in San Francisco provides a feeling for the hopefulness of those days. Since then, the UN has accomplished much good, but of course it never lived up to its potential as the organization that would put an end to war. One key reason is the veto power vested in the Security Council. A majority of the nations present at the founding of the U.N. objected to the proposal that the winners of World War II be given the power of the veto. They were told in reply that their objection to the veto could be addressed by a formal charter review that could be held no later than 10 years from the UN’s founding. So this provision was included as Section 109(3) of the charter. But this so-called “San Francisco promise” was never fulfilled—simply because the veto-wielding members of the Security Council have managed to keep it from happening. The U.S., Russia, China, Great Britain, and France prefer having a situation where nothing will happen unless they approve of it.
The veto is profoundly unfair and undemocratic in that it enables the holders to prevent any actions against themselves or their friends. This power to veto is an affront to the rights of the other member-nations of the United Nations and the reason why it cannot solve many of the world’s major global challenges. The composition of the Security Council is also the subject of much legitimate complaint. Why should France and Great Britain have permanent seats, while Brazil, Germany, Japan and India only occasionally get to sit on the body and don’t have a veto when they are on it?
To improve the efficacy of the United Nations, several key actions need to be considered through charter review. These include:
1) Form of a world parliament which could enact world law. 2) Enable the World Court of Justice to have the power to enforce its decisions. 3) Develop a volunteer rapid-deployment force (armed and unarmed) which could put out brushfire wars and do effective peacekeeping instead of relying on national armies—a provision recommended by all Secretary Generals from Trygve Lie to Kofi Annan. 4) Create mechanisms capable of dealing with problems such as climate change, nuclear proliferation and endangered species, which are issues that recognize no national boundaries.
Another obvious shortcoming of the present U.N. is that in the General Assembly, India—with over a billion citizens—has the same one vote as Monaco, which has a population of about 30,000. When the U.N. Charter was adapted at San Francisco in 1945, no one expected it to remain unchanged forever. The world has changed a lot in these seventy years and the United Nations must change if it is to be relevant in the 21st Century. The U.N. needs far reaching reforms to better deal with ending war, preventing global warming and solving dozens of other worldwide problems.
Remember the San Francisco Promise!
NOTE: The Democratic World Federalists are committed to expressing a wide range of views on the vision of creating a peaceful, just, and sustainable world through a democratic World Federation. The views expressed in this article represents that commitment and not necessarily our official position.