The United Nations Security Council, which should be responsible for world peace and stability, can do nothing regarding the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Immediately after the aggression began, the Security Council held a vote proposing it call for Russian troops’ withdrawal. But the proposal was blocked by permanent council member Russia exercising its veto.
Amid protracted fighting, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy stressed the need for reform in an online address to Japan’s National Diet, in which he said that new tools must be made to stop invasions.
Two motions condemning Russia have been adopted at special emergency sessions of the U.N. General Assembly. Although they represented consensus within international society, the General Assembly cannot decide on sanctions, military action or other legally binding measures.
The U.N. Security Council is made up of five permanent members: the U.S., U.K., France, Russia and China, and 10 non-permanent members. Only the permanent members retain veto powers, a decision which dates back to the United Nations establishment, when it was thought that a unanimous approach from the five major powers was necessary.
But the permanent member states don’t only occupy a special position, they also have a duty to lead in efforts for peace. There should be deliberation over the use of veto powers that could drag a conflict into a deeper mess.
What has come to the fore this time is that if one of the five major nations is involved in a conflict, the Security Council effectively becomes powerless. Its inability to fulfill its role while a humanitarian crisis becomes worse is enflaming dissatisfaction among member states.
It is now 77 years since the U.N.’s establishment, and member states have since almost quadrupled from 51 to 193. In that time, the face of international society has changed. It seems there should be a review into whether it is appropriate for five powerful nations to continue to hold absolute authority.
For many years, Japan has along with Germany and others called for reforms to the U.N. Security Council that center on expanding its permanent membership. In response to the present situation, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has said regarding the veto system that “there must be efforts toward reform.”
France has indicated its position that veto powers should be limited in cases where mass atrocities have been ascertained. But it is expected that controls would be opposed by other permanent member states, not just Russia.
Japan should work with France and other states to lead the efforts for reform of the Security Council. If moves for reform gain momentum, it is hoped it could have the effect of stopping the arbitrary use of vetoes.