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Toward a “UN Spring"

February 3, 2015

Canadian Federalists Take On the Security Council

By Vivian Davidson

President, World Federalist Movement-Canada (Vancouver chapter)

The United Nations is currently locked in a rigid and outdated structure, unable to reform itself. Because of its inability to adapt to a changing world, the UN is severely handicapped in its capacity to “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” as was mandated by its charter. How is it that, for almost seventy years, China, France, Russia, the UK and the U.S. remain the permanent members (P5) of the United Nations Security Council, each wielding veto power over the entire organization?

The power and authority to deal with issues of “international peace and security” was conferred on the Security Council (SC) under Article 24 of the UN Charter. In practice, this means that any resolution the General Assembly (GA) passes has to be approved unanimously by the P5 of the Security Council. If one knows anything about the workings of the SC and more importantly, the P5 members, it is that consensus on any issue is hard to come by at best. The geopolitical inclinations of each P5 member are vastly different, as are their global economic and social status. Disagreement on most UN affairs—and paralysis in the face of key issues—is the natural result of such disparities.

Seeking to remedy this obvious shortcoming of the UN, I led the Vancouver branch of the World Federalist Movement-Canada (WFM-C) in drafting a resolution in October 2014. Our mission is to have the SC return its unbridled power and authority to all 193 members of the GA (which includes the P5 of course). Soon after, the resolution was adopted at the national WFM-C Annual General Meeting in Ottawa on October 25th, 2014. We then mailed the WFM-C resolution, along with a signed cover letter from me as president of the Vancouver Branch, to all 193 ambassadors of the UN General Assembly members in New York on Dec. 1, 2014.

Undoubtedly, our initiative will face opposition both within and outside the UN. Many will be skeptical about this seemingly unrealistic goal of getting the P5 to relinquish their unchecked power to the GA. Nevertheless, the World Federalists of Canada (WFM-C) remain hopeful that this resolution helps keep alive an impetus already present at the UN and other international political forums. Progressive minds at the forefront of this idea envision the abolition of the SC as one of the possible steps needed to create the fluidity that would allow a more democratic, effective, and accountable UN. Such drive was recently exemplified in June 2014 at the G77 Summit in Bolivia when Bolivia’s President, Evo Morales, himself called for the abolition of the Security Council—a bold action that was unprecedented by the political leader of a country.

Despite world military expenditures amounting to $1.74 trillion in 2013 according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), there is still no international peace and security. In fact, the P5 is responsible for 71% of such expenditures and 66% of arms sales to the world. A formal review of the UN Charter, which could potentially take up the issue of dismantling the SC, was scheduled in the Charter for 1955. Yet, such a review has not yet taken place—nor will it—if the current unwillingness to reform is maintained by the P5 who seem all too comfortable with their elite status. Our resolution is a project that could be the first step in democratizing the GA. The WFM-C advocates the democratization of the United Nations General Assembly so that it becomes a global structure for realizing the brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind. We have come a long way since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was guided through the UN by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1948. But, deaths from war, violence, malnutrition, and easily preventable diseases continue to plague humankind. Such crimes against humanity must be reversed by the peoples of the world acting through a reformed United Nations. A UN Spring could be the first step towards this end and eventually towards the creation of a global government structure that brings peace and justice for all.

Published in MONDIAL newsletter of the World Federalist Movement Canada December 2014

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