UN needs reform, but not by Zuma

President Jacob Zuma is correct when he says the “outdated” United Nations Security Council “might have by now outlived its usefulness”.

Indeed it is worth asking whether the Security Council has ever been useful. In its own words, the Security Council “takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression.

“It calls upon the parties to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement.

“In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorise the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security”.

Yet in its almost 70 years of existence the Security Council cannot seriously be credited, on its own, with resolving any major conflicts.

It has been dismally ineffectual. In part this may be due to a built-in recipe for failure. Of the 15 member states, five have permanent status.

Each of those five has veto powers, which invariably prove to be an obstacle to decisive action. Thus, for example, Russia and China made sure there was no forceful Security Council position on Syria, and the US has been drawn into a Russian-sponsored compromise which is unlikely to lead to peace.

Zuma’s call for reform at the UN is not new. Much the same noise was made during the Thabo Mbeki era. Claiming to speak for the developing world, Zuma said: “As small countries we believe the arrangement is unfair, it is undemocratic, it’s not good any more”.

The developing world does need better representation. But Zuma’s corrupt administration with its dangerously porous security, will not be trusted by big powers to take on the role of representing a large chunk of humanity.

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