When Politics Prevail Over International Peace and Security

256

In March 2019, France will co-preside, along with Germany, the Security Council of the United Nations1. This presidency will be historical. Who could have imagined, after the second world war, that France would seat next to Germany and preside the organ of the world responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security? This presidency undoubtedly sends a message to the international community. On the one hand, it demonstrates the ability of the UN to make States cooperate. On the other hand, this co-presidency shows the living inequality among States before the Security Council. In fact, whereas France is a permanent member, detaining the veto power, Germany is a non-permanent member, without any privilege. 

Since 2013, France wants to limit the use of the veto. In 2015, at the UN General Assembly meeting, France announced that it will not make use of its veto power in case of mass atrocities2. Even though such statement has been supported by many countries, recent events show that permanent members of the Security Council are not ready to give up on their prerogative. Despite its specific mandate3, the Security Council is “deeply intertwined with the reality of international power relations4, therefore revealing the difficulty for States to cooperate and reach international peace when political interests are at stake. 

The conflict in Syria since 2011 is a good illustration of the Security Council’s fragmentation. While trying to adopt a binding resolution to re-establish peace and security, the so-called “P5” divert from their responsibility by giving prevalence to their political interests. The Federation of Russia is constantly using the principle of territorial integrity enshrined in the UN Charter5, which forms part of the main principle of international law, for its own interests in keeping Bachar Al-Assad at the head of the Syrian government. Notwithstanding its awareness of the humanitarian consequences in Syria and breaches of the peace, the Federation of Russia has vetoed the Security Council’s resolutions, which aimed at restoring peace, 12 times6

An analogous situation is happening with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. As one of Israel’s biggest ally, the US keeps putting its veto on any resolution of the Security Council condemning illegal acts from Israel against Palestine. Since 2001, the US has opposed a Security Council’s resolution 12 times, through its veto power7.

Those illustrations show the inability of the Security Council to set aside its own political interests for the benefit of international peace and security. This is where politics prevails over the respect for international law. One could argue that such inability comes from its inadequate composition. Although in 1945 the idea of gathering the winners of the war to maintain peace and security was justified, such conception is completely outdated nowadays. Back in 1945, no one could have imagined Germany or Japan as being part of the Security Council. Today, how can we consider such an organ without two of the most economical powerful State of the world (i.e. Germany and Japan)? How can we justify the fact that India is not represented among the P5, given the fact that this is one of the most populated territory on Earth? How can we justify that most of the UN Peacekeeping operations are taking place in Africa, without even having a State from Africa constantly represented at the Security Council? Why are the African, Asian or Latin American States not among the permanent members? How are we supposed to maintain international peace and security if decisions are mostly taken by western States? 

There is a broad consensus among the international community for a need to adapt the membership of the Security Council to modern times. It appears that such outdated version of the Security Council only nourishes the division between western and non-western countries, developed and non-developed countries. 

Hence, the co-presidency of Germany and France is to be followed closely during March and April 2019. The union of these two powerful European States may lead to a debate on the unfair composition of the Security Council. This union of a permanent and a non-permanent member sends a message of hope and tells the world that we need multilateralism and international cooperation between all States if we want international peace.

Dorine NAULEAU  
Master 1 Organisations internationales  
Université Catholique de Lille

Footnotes

  1. <https://onu.delegfrance.org/> accessed, 07/02/2019.
  2. 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, General Debate, Address by Mr François Hollande, President of the French Republic, 28 September 2015.
  3. Art. 24 UN Charter, 1945.
  4. B. FASSBENDER, The Security Council: Progress is Possible but Unlikely in Realizing Utopia: The Future of International Law Ed. By A. CASSESE, Oxford University Press, 2012 p.53.
  5. Art. 24 UN Charter, 1945.
  6.  <http://research.un.org/en/docs/sc/quick/veto> accessed 06/02/2019
  7.  Ibid.

Bibliography

  • B. FASSBENDER, The Security Council: Progress is Possible but Unlikely in Realizing Utopia: The Future of International Law Ed. By A. CASSESE, Oxford University Press, 2012.
  • Permanent Mission of France to the UN, < https://onu.delegfrance.org/-France-at-the-United-Nations-> accessed 07/02/2019.
  • Security Council Veto List, < http://research.un.org/en/docs/sc/quick/veto> accessed 06/02/2019. 
  • United Nations Charter, 1945.
  • 70th Session of the UN General Assembly, General Debate, Address by Mr François Hollande, President of the French Republic, 28 September 2015.

Book Recommendation

  • A-C. ROBERT, R. SCIORA, Qui veut la mort de l’ONU ? Eyrolles, 2019.