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[casi] FW: The In-Security Council - Dump It or Grow It?


This article might be relevant in the light of the
recent discussions about the UN and Annan..


The In-Security Council - Dump It or Grow It?

…the equal rights of men and women, and of nations
large and small…
:: Preamble, Charter of the United Nations, 1945 ::

by Chithra KarunaKaran

A core principle of the United Nations Charter is One
Member One Vote. This is not an explicit statement
within the Charter. Significantly, the Charter goes
even further. The Charter states that the UN was
established to secure "the equal rights of men and
women and of nations large and small." It places the
rights of men and women before the rights of states.
That’s you and me and six billion-plus others. The
rights of individuals are co-equal with and precede
the rights of states. What a glorious (and yet to be
realized) ideal. But it will not happen unless We the
People do something about the UN Security Council. The
question is -- What? Dump it, scrap it, change it or
grow it?

As events have shown, the Security Council has become
dangerously obsolete, representing the whim, greed and
political fundamentalism of one hyper-power.

On March 10, at a press conference at UN headquarters,
a million-plus petitions signed by people from all
over the world were presented to the Security Council.
The petitions had been generated through a massive
online campaign by anti-war groups, protesting the US
govt.’s decision to go to war against the people of
Iraq. What did the UN do? Not a peep about it from
Kofi Annan, not even in his generally timid "off the
cuff" statements featured daily on the UN website. No
prior announcement about the event was made by the UN
Secretariat, though they were aware that the petitions
would be delivered in 12 boxes to Security Council
members. It was as if the event never occurred. So, is
the UN Charter just a piece of paper to be stored on a
musty shelf, or is it supposed to safeguard the
"rights of men and women and of nations, large and
small" to discursive, negotiated settlement of
disputes? Talk is cheap, cheaper than war.

Unequal Membership

All member states of the 191-member body are stated to
be equal. Each member state supposedly has one vote
and one vote only. The Security operates on the
non-principle of One Member Two Votes. The stated
principle of equality of membership is breached and
flouted by the structure, processes and exclusive (not
to mention, exclusionary) membership of the United
Nations Security Council. The UN Security Council is
the only UN body that has permanent members (Article
23). All other UN bodies have general or rotating

The Security Council is the only body that can "adopt
its own rules of procedure," (Article 30) unfettered
by The UN General Assembly. Under the United Nations
Charter, therefore, inequality of membership is
guaranteed, implemented and enforced by the Security
Council. In Orwellian terms, all member states are
equal but some member states are more equal than
others. But, hey, it’s not 1984 anymore, it’s 2003.
Time for a change? Time for a change that will
guarantee the equality of all member states. While the
media and the policy wonks in the dominant states are
concerned about the lack of unity at this time in the
Security Council, others are questioning whether the
Security Council should be taken apart and retired.
Are We the People more secure because of the Security
Council? Or have we become more insecure, because of
the Security Council?

Postcolonial Membership Structure

So the question du jour that subservient member-states
(and that includes every member who is not permanently
on the Security Council) should be asking is Should
the United Nations Security Council be dismantled and
repaired? Or scrapped and dumped? Subservient member
states include large global players like India; small
island states and previous colonial dependencies such
as Mauritius; AIDS-ravaged new democracies like South
Africa; poor landlocked states dependent on the
goodwill of their neighbors like Nepal; or dominated
regions with little hope of religious freedom, right
of return of its tens of thousands of refugees and
sovereignty, like Tibet.

India is the world’s largest democracy. It is a
democracy that has struggled out of colonialism and
painful subservience to colonial interests. Therefore
it has a perspective that is diametrically opposite to
that of the colonizing and neo-imperial powers.
Perhaps India should not be seeking expansion of the
Security Council, as it is doing now, so that it too
can become a member. India’s membership, if it
happens, will make Pakistan and other South Asian
nations feel more insecure. That will not be a good
thing. Building bonds between blood-related neighbors
and historically enmeshed partners is more important
than Security Council membership. Dismantling the
Security Council is certain to strengthen the General
Assembly. Maybe India, in the spirit of 21st century
understanding of the paramount importance of human
rights, post-capitalist democracy, freedom and
equality of participation should not be seeking
expansion of the Security Council but dissolution of
the Security Council. Maybe it is almost time to
dismantle the Security Council as a dangerously
obsolete, ineffectual, humiliating emblem of
nineteenth and twentieth century dominant power
relations. Maybe India, Norway, Pakistan, Mauritius,
Sweden, Iran, Brazil, Sri Lanka and historically
diverse others can help move the UN into the 21st
century with political equality of all member states,
at every level of operation of the UN. Article 109 can
be invoked to amend the UN Charter. However, all five
permanent members of the Security Council would have
to agree. Talk about double jeopardy "for the equal
rights of men and women, and of nations large and

Members of the Security Council, (the only ones that
really matter are the five permanent members), the Big
Five, exercise more political and economic power than
any other body within the United Nations. This cannot
be claimed to be a natural outcome of the historical
development of the Security Council, but the explicit
intent of the original superpowers. Inequality of
membership was the demand of the original framers of
the United Nations Charter, all of them colonial
powers and one emerging power of that time, the US.
However, the US was a worthy candidate for dominant
and exclusionary membership. The US had already
practiced slavery for 100-plus years and was therefore
well equipped to develop its capability to become a
neo-imperial power, exerting dominance over new member
states which included those from which it had
previously drawn free labor. It is comfortable with
sharing power with the colonizing powers, all white
and all European. China’s later inclusion in 1949,
(with India deferring its claim of membership to
China), merely underlines the importance of size and
potential economic power as a basis for strengthening
the inequality of membership. Again, the fragmenting
of the USSR and the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in
1989, has not knocked Russia out of contention for
continued membership. The politics of dominance is
therefore key to membership in the Security Council.
Not equality of membership but dominance in

Acquiescence to the non-principle of inequality of
membership was demonstrated by those colonized member
states including India who were founding co-signers of
the United Nations Charter. The postcolonial states,
recently independent in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s,
accepted the non-principle of inequality of
membership, carrying on the colonial tradition of
political subservience to their previous masters, now
sitting as permanent members of the United Nations
Security Council.

To borrow from sociologists Max Weber and C. Wright
Mills, the collusion of elites characterizes many
bureaucratic institutions. In the case of the UN we
have a collusion of male-dominant, wealthy national
elites. A phallocracy, a bureaucracy and now
increasingly a corporatocracy. And the UN Security
Council represents the crème de la crème of the elites
of each of the five permanent member states, joining
in mutual recognition of their shared elite power,
status and privilege.

The United Nations is of course a global,
inter-govermental bureaucracy, with salient and
classic features of hierarchical, top-down authority,
bottom-up accountability, written rules, written
communications and written records (most recently,
Resolution 1441), continual expansion, division and
departmentalization of tasks within agencies and
committee structures. But the power equation is its
most salient feature. The Security Council is in fact
explicitly constituted to exercise unequal global
power, status and privilege, through its
Charter-guaranteed position at the apex of the UN
bureaucracy. The Security Council is the elite of
global elites. It is the problem not the solution. It
compromises the UN General Assembly.

Are We Secure With The Security Council?

What has the Security Council accomplished? Has the
Security Council accomplished security for the world
at large? The Security Council has a sorry record of
lack of accomplishment. It established the State of
Israel in 1948, in violation of its own Preamble and
unleashed seventy-five years of disenfranchisement of
the indigenous Palestinian people. It presided over
and literally authorized Palestinian
disenfranchisement. The US continues to arm Israel and
the Security Council can’t do a thing about it. The
Security Council proved unable to overturn apartheid
in South Africa. It failed to prevent the expulsion of
Indians from Uganda by Idi Amin. It was unwilling to
prevent Britain from going to war to claim the
Falklands Islands. The UN Security Council was unable
(unwilling?) to anticipate, prevent or intercede in
the bloody ethnic strife between Hutu and Tutsi in
Rwanda, and in the continuing genocide in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo. The Indian Ocean
island of Diego Garcia was emptied of its indigenous
population, the Ilios, who were shunted off to
neighboring Mauritius, so that the island could serve
as a military base for joint use by the Britain and
the US. Diego Garcia is currently serving the
strategic interests of the US and the UK as a naval
base for operations against states in the Middle East,
Afghanistan and South Asia. And now the UN has failed
to avert war by a hyper-dominant member state against
the people of Iraq. In each of these instances, the
individual and combined interests of the five member
states outweighed the interests of the 191-strong UN
community of member states. The universal and greater
common good is not, and cannot be expected to be the
prime consideration of a small elite of states holding
dominant power in the Security Council. That power has
become even more concentrated with the US becoming the
dominant member of the UN Security Council, supported
by the post-imperial politics of the erstwhile
dominant world power, the UK. This blatant
concentration of power to the exclusion of all others,
makes the active pursuit of a universal and greater
common good by the UN, and particularly the Security
Council virtually impossible.

Apparently WE the People must change the UN and
particularly its Security Council.

When will the Security Council act to guarantee the
guarantee the "equal rights of men and men and of
nations, large and small.?" Never? The UN appears too
cumbersome, too compromised and too preoccupied with
its own survival as a burgeoning bureaucracy to
undertake its own reform on behalf of We the People.
It will again be up to those million-plus petitioners,
who swamped the UN with signatures asking the Security
Council to act on behalf of a negotiated peace. Their
request was futile this time. Better luck next time.

The writer is a professor and journalist. She
contributed above article to Media Monitors Network
(MMN) from New York, USA.


by courtesy & © 2003 Chithra KarunaKaran

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