Ireland’s UN ambassador wants to reform the Security Council

Ireland’s ambassador to the United Nations has said the UN Security Council needs reform.

In a word

Geraldine Byrne Nason, Ireland’s ambassador to the UN, said on Friday that the veto power of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council is “anachronistic” and a “historically unjust instrument” which “should not exist “.

Speaking to the Journal, Byrne Nason said “we need reform in the Security Council”.

She pointed to the veto power as a particular problem, as Russia is able to abuse this privilege in the council at the moment and other states such as the United States and China have done so. in the past.

Neither the French nor the British have used their right of veto directly in the past 20 years.



Russian President Vladimir Putin holds a video meeting with members of the Security Council at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow on April 15, 2022.

Reforming the Security Council

Over the past three years, Ireland has worked with other countries, led by Liechtenstein, to present a reform proposal to the Security Council.

Byrne Nason explained that under the proposed reforms, the right of veto enjoyed by the permanent members of the Security Council would be retained but, if used, the country would be called before the United Nations General Assembly “to s ‘to explain “.

“It is an obligation to account for the use of this veto”, explained Byrne Nason.

the United States is even one of the sponsors of this veto initiative.

“So they will join countries like Ireland, because to be honest, I think people now see how lacking in credibility it is for an abuser who is blocking a discussion,” Byrne Nason said.

She added that although the Security Council will not be reformed next week, she is a “hopeful member” of the Irish delegation to the UN.



Members of the United Nations Security Council meet to discuss the current situation in Ukraine at United Nations Headquarters on April 11, 2022 in New York

How the UN Security Council Works

there are 15 members of the Security Council, five of which are permanent members – Russia, the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China. Ireland is a temporary member of the council. The five permanent members have a right of veto.

Last week, the Security Council passed a resolution condemning Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Unsurprisingly, Russia used its veto.

China, India and the United Arab Emirates all abstained on the resolution.

Now the issue has been brought before the United Nations General Assembly. Russia was unable to veto it because it is a procedural matter and not a formal declaration.

Although Ireland currently has a seat on the UN Security Council and has used that vote to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, that does not stop the war.

“Ireland can diplomatically push or try to advance issues in the Security Council, but it will always be vetoed by the five permanent members,” said Andrew Cottey, professor of international security at UCC.

To put it even more bluntly: “Nothing will be decided or approved by the Security Council,” according to Cottey. “Ireland’s ability to achieve anything is inherently limited.”



Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addresses the United Nations (UN) Security Council via video link on April 5, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

This does not mean that Ireland has nothing to do, as the Foreign Office and Irish diplomats can try to push issues forward in various contexts. They may not be able to depend on a vote, but there is some ability to steer the conversation.

“It’s the kind of painstaking day-to-day work of diplomacy that the average woman or man on the street doesn’t see,” Cottey said.

The Russian veto prevents the Security Council from doing much, but Cottey stresses that Ireland has work to do to push issues such as humanitarian aid, international law and war crimes.

The limits of the UN Security Council

What is happening in Ukraine has once again highlighted the limits of the United Nations.

“This is the most outrageous violation of the principles on which the UN has been founded since its inception in 1945,” Cottey said.

“And yet, what the UN can do about this is very limited because the UN is its member states and the UN Security Council.” If they don’t agree – how could the UN do it?

“The sad reality is that in theory the Security Council is the primary decision-making body on global security, but sometimes it’s just marginalized, even to the point of being irrelevant,” Cottey said.

“Whatever happens in Ukraine can happen in Ukraine. What is discussed or decided in the Security Council may have little or no bearing on this.



TOPSHOT – Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting via video link in Moscow on March 11, 2022. – On March 11, the Russian president backed plans to allow volunteers to fight in Ukraine, where he sent thousands of Russian soldiers in what he calls a “special military operation”. (Photo by Mikhail KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP) (Photo by MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV/SPUTNIK/AFP via Getty Images)

It should be noted that when the United States decided to invade Iraq in 2003, the Security Council did not even vote on a resolution because it was not believed that they would get a majority vote. Iraq was invaded without UN support.

The invasion of Ukraine is far from the only violation of human rights or sovereignty that the UN Security Council is aware of, but there is little it can do to stop it. – he couldn’t stop the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“Often a country doesn’t even need to use its veto,” Cottey explained. “The mere fact that everyone knows that one of the five permanent members has veto power means that the issue is not even brought before the Security Council.”

Political calculations may even prevent atrocities from being discussed.

“Think of the situation in Xinjiang in China, where you have this appalling crackdown on the Uyghur minority by the Chinese authorities,” Cottey said.

“But the United States and the Western powers actually didn’t bring this to the Security Council because they know China and Russia would use their veto power and it doesn’t make sense.

“It would probably be difficult even to mobilize a majority in the Security Council to criticize China, because many states have concerns about state sovereignty.

“Part of what is different with the Russian situation is that Russia’s action is such an outrageous violation of state sovereignty and international borders that it has created a rare situation where there is very broad support among members of the UN and members of the Security Council to criticize Russia.

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