The Veto Trap (longer version)

The veto trap is this: There are five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, each of whom have a right of veto. That is, a right to prevent the implementation of any action of the UN that they consider adverse to their interests. Those countries are: Russia USA France China UK They are 5 out of the 196 countries in the world. They represent less than one third of the global population. The truth is that everybody knows that each one of them will block any change to UN structure. Why? Because they are beneficiaries of the status quo. To be clear, the beneficiaries of the current status quo have absolute power to maintain the status quo. Meaning, the United Nations is blocked from becoming more useful. Any suggestion of structural change to the UN will raise the possibility of a reduction in the power of the Big 5. It is a given that at least one of them (probably all of them) will vote it down. So, the proposition is never raised. And so the United Nations can never be an institution for global governance, nor a vehicle to usher in any other form of global governance. Because everybody knows that any proposal to change the current structure will be vetoed down every time. The problem is that without structural change, the United Nations will continue on as a goliath and usually benevolent NGO, with some special powers. It can never be a forum for the kind of global governance that is needed today. How Did This Happen? The UN was set up in 1945. Its purpose was to promote world security post World War II. Special privileges (the power to veto any decision) were given to themselves by the winners of the war. Fair enough. Back then security, not governance, was paramount. There were 2.3 billion people in the world (there were 14 cities in the world with over a million people). Interconnectedness between peoples was limited. International conflicts were represented by border wars. Resources were plentiful . Now it is 2022. The global population is over 7 billion (there are 1,400 cities with over a million people). People have the ability to affect the interests of one another from afar – on purpose (eg cyber), or by accident (eg pollution). Resources are not plentiful. Common sense global regulation in response to our capacity to pollute, shoot and commute to each other from one side of the world to the other is needed. It is true that the UN has expanded its functions since 1945. But not nearly enough. One of its functions is not (and has never been) global governance. So, what to do? Sit here, and watch it all unfold? After all, no matter how real and urgent the need for global governance, it can’t happen, right? For a start, we can assume the five veto members of the Security Council will not be the ones to raise the issue of structural reform. Why would they? Well, maybe it is up to the rest of us. Maybe it is up to the other two thirds of us to say something. So, when the US, for example, sets about negotiating a framework for India to become the sixth permanent member of the Security Council, as it did in January 2015, people across the world need to take notice. To object. To say out loud: “Is it in the world’s interest for the veto system to become even further entrenched!?” The truth is: the status quo is less secure for everyone than a functioning UN. And the truth is also: that ‘who won the Second World War’ should no longer be a relevant factor in the structure of global politics. What To Do We now need to move to an era of actual global governance. This is necessary for the security of all of us. The first step on the way to global governance is that people more widely understand the existence of the current predicament and the reason for it. At the moment, our leaders seemingly give no thought to this roadblock that is causing a crisis in global governance. Talking about this will not help them win their next election. And this is precisely where the interests of national governments and their constituents diverge. It is not their business to care about global politics. It is a thing that is not importnt to them, albeit it is important to you. Just as your family business is not theirs, and your local council business is not theirs, and your state or province governance is not their business, your national leaders are not in the business of global politics. Not only that, a government’s survival agenda is different to that of a person. Your national government's survival interest is in getting over the line at the next election. Our survival interest is whatever it takes to benefit the future of our children So, we need to look beyond our governments on this one. We need to look to ourselves, as global citizens. Ultimately, we all as global citizens will need to engage; to petition, pressure and cajole the UN veto powers to let go of their privileges and make way for a new, more democratic and more powerful United Nations or equivalent body. It is asking for a lot. But what is the alternative? Sit here and watch as seawaters rise? As self appointed tyrants do as they please, simply because there is no power above them? If structural reform to the UN is needed to best protect the personal security that we all strive to keep and maintain, then this is what must happen. This is the conversation that we need to have. The political structure of the whole world. Do not fear global democracy. The less democratic a political structure, the more likely tyrants will hold sway. [this taken from my blog on]
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