By Prof. Jose Maria Sison
International Coordinating Committee
International League of Peoples’ Struggle
14 September 2005
Among the issues to be taken up at the UN World Summit from September 14 to 16 in New York is reform of the UN Security Council. While talk of reforming the Security Council has been going on since a long time ago, it was only in 1992 that serious steps were taken with a resolution by the Non-Aligned Movement calling for reform of the Security Council, followed by a resolution of the General Assembly asking the Secretary General to ask member states for written comments on Council reform. But the US and the imperialist powers with veto power in the UN Security Council and with financial control over the UN will allow only that of kind of reform which reinforces and favors the interests of imperialism against the people of the world and the client states.
Talk of reforming the UN Security Council has become louder precisely because this has become more active since the 1990s with the end of the Cold War and the decline in the use by permanent members of their veto power. The Security Council has deployed more “peacekeeping operations” since 1990 than during its first forty-five years. It has imposed more economic sanctions. It has acted on a wide range of international security issues, requiring almost daily sessions.
It is notable that such hyperactivity and common interest of the permanent members have involved conflicts or crises internal to states such as civil wars, all sorts of humanitarian crises and breakdown of central governmental authority rather than disputes between states. The Security Council has more than ever become an imperialist instrument of some of the permanent members to further political and military intervention in the internal affairs of weaker and smaller states in violation of their sovereignty. Also notable is the recent practice of the Security Council to “subcontract” enforcement of its resolutions to military forces of permanent members with the token participation of member states.
Events that have renewed and amplified the calls for reform of the Security Council are the UN interventions in Iraq in 1990, specifically the setting up of the inhuman sanctions regime that lasted almost until the US invaded Iraq in 2003, the sanctions against Libya in the aftermath of the Lockerbie bombing and the UN mission to Somalia. Many UN member states have questioned all these as going against the norms of international law and the wishes of the majority of the UN member states. Moreover, the United Nations and the Security Council have failed or refused to deploy civilian personnel and resources on other more urgent or unambiguous humanitarian cases, obviously maintaining double standards, again to promote the geopolitical imperialist aims and interests mainly of the US and some other permanent members.
The practice of “subcontracting” has often meant that the veto-wielding Security Council members use Council resolutions merely to provide legal cover for their own military operations against smaller or weaker countries. Notable examples are the Gulf War, Somalia and Haiti in the case of the United States. France and Russia have also resorted to the same tactic against countries within their sphere of influence. Permanent members contribute the least manpower to peacekeeping operations (with the exception of France) and they do not want their armed forces to be under direct UN command, with the US explicit in not allowing its forces to be commanded except by a US national.
While it has intervened in numerous cases involving internal problems of member states, the Security Council and the United Nations have chosen to ignore the many outstanding inter-states disputes in practically all continents. Thus while a world war like WW 1 or 2 has not happened, contrary to what the founders of the UN feared, the world today is far from having achieved the international peace and security envisioned in the Charter of the United Nations. The issues or problems on which the Security Council has chosen to act creates the impression that the only problems of the world now are ‘weak’ states and civil wars and humanitarian problems and that inter-state disputes rarely or no longer occur.
The problem of being rendered inutile whenever a big power is an interested party in an international dispute, continues to plague the Security Council today. The Security Council failed to play any significant role in ending the apartheid regime in South Africa, the Suez crisis in the 50s, the US aggression and genocide in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s and the US military interventions in Nicaragua and El Salvador and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 80s. The intervention by NATO in Yugoslavia which resulted in its break up and the recent invasion by the US of Iraq and the overthrow of the government of Saddam Hussein on imaginary charges of possession of weapons of mass destruction are the two latest examples of this problem.
Two major problems concerning international peace and security now confront the world. One is the failure of the United Nations and the Security Council to implement their resolutions on Palestine even after sixty years. The silence of the UN World Summit on this major global and historical problem of international peace and security renders ludicrous all talk of reform of the United Nations and the Security Council. The other is nuclear proliferation or more accurately the desire of the United States to maintain nuclear monopoly to enable it to play the role of globocop. This superpower is using the issue of nuclear proliferation as pretext to blackmail and intervene in the internal affairs of Iran and North Korea for example while allowing other states and itself to maintain a nuclear stockpile.
Thus the problem of United States “unilateralism” on a host of issues, from its invasion of Iraq to its refusal to sign the Rome Statutes of the International Criminal Court to intransigence on international measures to ease global pollution to its continuing insistence on the Monroe doctrine of treating Central and Latin America as its own backyard, including the continuing economic and military blockade of Cuba, is one that the United Nations and the Security Council have to face head on if they are to become democratic and effective instruments for international peace and security and for strengthening the rule of law in international affairs.
The Security Council and the United Nations have become the tools for the intervention of imperialist powers in the affairs of other countries under the pretext of undertaking humanitarian missions, protecting human rights and effecting democratic regime change. It is currently using the pretext of protecting children in armed conflict to justify economic sanctions, military intervention and threats thereof. In this regard, the proposed creation of a Human Rights Council to replace the Human Rights Commission is futile while the imperialist states are not subject to the same yardstick of human rights as the rest of the world. It should be denounced as one more instrument for legitimizing the violation of the national sovereignty of other countries by the imperialist powers.
Reform of the Security Council that aggravates the unjust global authoritarian order against the poor or underdeveloped countries while it continues to allow the rich and powerful developed countries to flex their economic, political and military muscles and do as they please, subject only to the countervailing selfish interests of other powerful countries, presided over by the United States as globocop, is clearly unacceptable and should and will be resisted. Substantial reform of the United Nations and the Security Council should make them truly democratic, guaranteeing the rights of weaker states, allowing these to exercise the same rights and privileges as the strong states and countering the power of the imperialist states with the majority vote of all states in the UN General Assembly.
Suggestions by Germany, Japan, India and Brazil or the so-called G-4 to increase the number of permanent members would not necessarily make the Security Council become less of a tool of US and other imperialist powers. Neither would other reforms being considered, such as the adoption of permanent standing rules to make the operations or proceedings of the Council more transparent and reduce the undue advantage of the permanent members. It is extremely anomalous that permanent members engage in closed door meetings which do not have minutes or formal reports. Resolutions proposed by any of the permanent members are not circulated ahead of time but are presented as fait accompli. The regular report to the General Assembly required of the Council is often skimpy and incomplete. The resolutions of the Security Council are not subject to review by the World Court and are beyond check and balance.
Even if some reform of the Security Council were possible, it would not reduce the power of the imperialist states. Neither would the United Nations become an instrument for democracy and justice. The reform would only be cosmetic. The political power of the imperialists in the UN Security Council is meant to facilitate hegemony, aggression and plunder. The International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the World Trade Organization will continue to squeeze the countries dominated by imperialism. The havoc wrought on the people by these three institutions in supposedly creating a global “neo-liberal” economic order has been immeasurable. The call to strengthen the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) to eventually displace the overwhelming role of these three institutions will amount to nothing more than a new package for the same poisonous substance.
No reform can be expected to change the character of the United Nations and its Security Council as instruments of imperialist power. A new and better world is possible only through the relentless struggles of the people of the world for national liberation, democracy and socialism. Only thus will the oppressive and exploitative structures of the world be replaced by new ones in the interest of the people.
The broad masses of the people and their forces for national and social liberation must intensify their struggle against imperialism and achieve greater victories in order to counter the use of the United Nations and its Security Council and the IMF, World Bank and WTO as instruments of imperialism and to build new international institutions for the benefit of the people. As of now, the dominant institutions are being used by the imperialist powers for repression, war and plunder. We need new institutions for upholding, defending and promoting national sovereignty, democracy, development, social justice and world peace. ###