The United Nations Security Council
Prior to the establishment of the United Nations, the lack of legal-binding international agreements, as well as a collaborative reaction from the international community in the face of growing fascism and militarism precipitated the second World War that saw the tragic loss of over 60 million lives. World leaders recognized an imperative need for an international institution which can facilitate dialogues and negotiations. As a result, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was created in 1945 as an effort to coordinate the peacekeeping efforts of countries around the world.
Unlike other institutions within the United Nations, the UNSC's resolutions are legal-binding documents, which means the actors specified in these resolutions are compelled to realize the required actions, or risk facing sanctions and other forms of punishments from the international community. There are 15 members, 5 of which are permanent (China, France, Russia, the United States of America, the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland - generally referred to as the P5) and 10 are non-permanent members chosen from United Nations' members. Each resolution of the council must be passed with at least 10 votes from the members, and receive no vote against from any of the 5 permanent members. This voting procedure gave a de facto veto for the P5.
Criticism of the UNSC
One of the most common criticism is that the list of permanent members is not reflective of current world politics. As Mo Ibrahim, a renowned African philanthropist puts it: "The Security Council represents the situation from 1945 - you had the Allies who won the war who occupied that. The defeated guys - the Germans and Japan - were out." A number of countries have been having a more and more significant voice in international politics, such as Germany, India, Japan or Brazil. These countries feel that the inclusion of more voices in the council would better reflect the balance of power in current world politics.
Another criticism of the UNSC is that it is considered the embodiment of great power politics, where decisions are being made solely by the powerhouses and reflect their interests only. Since each power has its own interests to keep, world peace comes second in any debate. The veto power grants the P5 an enormous power to block any unwanted decisions that could potentially undermine their agenda. As of 2018, Russia/USSR have used 112 vetoes, followed by the United States with 81. During the Ukrainian conflict, Russia vetoed every resolution pertaining to the question of Crimea. In the controversial decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israeli capital, the US was the only country opposing a draft resolution condemning the decision of President Trump. The abuse of the veto power and the lack of a counter mechanism were even publicly confirmed by Elliot Abrams, former foreign policy adviser to President Bush and current Special Representative for Venezuela. He said that "The U.S. has the power to block all anti-Israel moves in the Security Council, not just some of them, and to do so without agreeing to unfair, damaging compromises."
The UNSC is also suffering criticism for the lack of equal representation. There is no country from Africa or the Arab world holding permanent member status. 3 of the 5 permanent members belong to the Western European bloc, and with 2 other members from the same bloc among the 10 non-permanent members, 1/3 of the members are from Western European bloc. It is difficult to claim that the UNSC reflect the interests of bringing world peace if the representation of regions around the world is not there at the council.
There is a growing consensus that the UNSC needs to be reformed in order to become a better functioning council and fulfill its duty with efficacy. There are several different reform proposals by different countries and actors, yet the challenge of mediating countries' interests remains. In the dawn of revived extremism and populism worldwide, the need for the UNSC to change is more and more urgent.