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In 1945, with the ending of World War II, a pattern of winners and losers occurred. That same
year, the United Nations was founded, and the founders aimed for the organization to play a
central role as the leading forum for managing threats to international order (Bourantonis 2005:
4). To do this they needed the victorious countries of the war to play an active part in the
organization. The Security Council was therefore established, as the organ with primary
responsibility for international peace and security. In the Council, the five great powers in the
aftermath of the war, The United States, The Republic of China, The Soviet Union, France and
The United Kingdom were given permanent seats and the right to veto any Council decision in
which they disagreed. In addition to the permanent five, known as the P5, there were six nonpermanent members, distributed among the other members of the United Nations according to a
certain pattern. The non-permanent members did not have the right to veto decisions. It soon
became clear that the ones that mattered in the Security Council were the P5. Through their
permanent seats and their veto power, they were able to control the Council.
The quest for reform started already about ten years after the United Nations was founded. In
1965, after years of efforts, four non-permanent seats were added to the Security Council. The
membership now counted 15 members, including the P5. The P5 in the Security Council agreed
to a reform in 1965, even though this reform to some extent diminished the power of the P5
(Leigh-Phippard 1998: 428). Although the quest for reform had been met and the geographical
representation to some extent had improved, it did not take long before the debate flared up
again. However, apart from small adjustments in working methods and membership, the Security
Council has largely remained unchanged since 1965. The process of reforming it has been in a
deadlock for decades, despite years of debate and several demands for reform. Although the
reform debate might be in a deadlock, it is certainly not dead.
After World War II, the United Nations was set up to end all wars, enhance respect for
international law and promote human rights and peoples’ well-being. The U.N was established as
an association of nations which accepted the values of civilized life and agreed to co-operate
together for the good of all. According to Tomuschart (2002:45), the U.N was founded as it is
enshrined in the Charter, to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.
As stipulated in its Charter, the principal function of the U.N is to maintain international peace
and security. Other roles include international cooperation, coordinating social, economic and
cultural covenants as well as international conventions and other humanitarian problems,
notably, in areas of promoting human rights and fundamental freedoms. The U.N mainly
comprises of the Security Council (UNSC), General Assembly UNGA, the Secretariat and
specialized agencies. As Sydney (2001:40) argues, The United Nations General Assembly
consists of all the small and large, greedy and generous, allied and neutral, democratic and
tyrannical, arrogant and diffident member states of the United Nation. When the U.N was
established, the core responsibility for maintaining international peace and security was entrusted
to the UNSC. This organ is made up of five veto power wielding permanent member countries,
the United States, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and China, requiring it to act in
accordance with the purposes and principles of the U.N.
According to Rourke (1995:363), in the U.N Security Council, any of the permanent members
can, by its single vote, veto a policy statement or action favoured by the other 14 members.
Between 1946 and 1990, the veto was cast 246 times, with each of the members using its special
prerogative to protect its interests. The use of veto by permanent members has led to some
questioning whether or not the UNSC can still be the custodian of international peace and
security. As Young (2003:56) puts it, the UNSC operates, by and large, according to the golden
rule – those who have the gold make the rules.
In the century prior to the UN’s creation, several international treaty organizations and
conferences had been formed to regulate conflicts between nations, such as the International
Committee of the Red Cross and the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907. Following the
catastrophic loss of lives in World War I, the Paris Peace Conference established the League of
Nations to maintain harmony between the nations. This organization successfully resolved some
territorial disputes and created international structures for areas such as postal mail, aviation, and
opium control, some of which would later be absorbed into the UN. However, the League lacked
representation for colonial peoples (than half the world’s population) and significant participation
from several major powers, including the US, USSR, Germany, and Japan, failed to act against
the 1931 Japanese invasion of Manchuria, the Second Italo-Ethiopian War in 1935, the 1937
Japanese invasion of China, and German expansions under Adolf Hitler that culminated in World
War II, Berlie (1986).
The earliest concrete plan for a new world organization was begun under the aegis of the US
State Department in 1939. US President Franklin D. Roosevelt first coined the term ‘United
Nations’ as a term to describe the Allied countries. The term was first officially used on 1
January 1942, when 26 governments signed the Atlantic Charter. (Ganghof, 2003: 7-8)
In mid-1944, the Allied powers met for the Dumbarton Oaks Conference in Washington, D.C. to
negotiate the UN’s structure, and the composition of the UN Security Council quickly became
the dominant issue. France, the Republic of China, the Soviet Union, the UK, and US were
selected as permanent members of the Security Council; the US attempted to add Brazil as a
sixth member, but was opposed by the heads of the Russian and British delegations. The most
contentious issue at Dumbarton and in successive talks proved to be the veto rights of permanent
members. The Soviet delegation argued that each nation should have an absolute veto that could
block matters from even being discussed, while the British argued that nations should not be able
to veto resolutions on disputes to which they were a party. At the Yalta Conference of February
1945, the American, British, and Russian delegations agreed that each of the “Big Five” could
veto any action by the council, but not procedural resolutions, meaning that the permanent
members could not prevent debate on a resolution.
On 25 April 1945, the UN Conference on International Organization began in San Francisco,
attended by 50 governments and a number of non-governmental organizations involved in
drafting the United Nations Charter. At the conference, H. V. Evatt of the Australian delegation
pushed to further restrict the veto power of Security Council permanent members. Due to the fear
that rejecting the strong veto would cause the conference’s failure, his proposal was defeated
from twenty votes to ten.
The UN officially came into existence on 24 October 1945 upon ratification of the Charter by the
five then-permanent members of the Security Council and by a majority of the other 46
signatories. On 17 January 1946, the Security Council met for the first time at Church House,
Westminster, in London, England.
The background of this study is expected to broaden my knowledge on the formation of the
United Nations Security Council, its functions, therefore I shall focus mainly on the modification
of the principles, policies and responsibilities of the body.
The Security Council has primary responsibility, under the UN Charter, for the maintenance of
international peace and security (UN 2010a). Furthermore, is it designed to maintain
international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United
Nations (UN 2010b).
According to (Bailey and Daws 1998: 226), the United Nations and Security Council is “so
organized as to be able to function continuously, and a representative of each of its members
must be present at all times at UN Headquarters.
The Presidency of the Council rotates monthly, according to the English alphabetical listing of
its member States” (UN 2010a). The Council consists of fifteen members. Apart from the
permanent five there are ten elective members, each of them elected by the General Assembly
for a period of two years and five of them on election each year. The ten elective seats are
distributed between the regions. The distribution of seats in the Security Council was not as
equal due to the capacity and economic involvement of the member states.
It is obvious that amendments through subsequent practice cannot impinge upon the number of
SC members. It is also difficult to conceive of practice giving rise to a custom limiting the right
of veto.
Since the establishment of the U.N, global politics has been facing major systematic challenges.
Throughout this period, the UNSC did not fully live up to peoples’ expectations as a guarantor of
international peace and security. The incessant calls for reform result from the fact that the
UNSC today still reflects the global power structure of 1945, though its non-veto membership
was expanded from eleven to fifteen in 1965. The four World War II victors have held on to their
privileged status. They are permanent and can veto any UNSC decision that affects their
respective interests. Considering the current geopolitical context, it is no longer possible to
conceive of and implement an international peace and security which is restricted to the
maintenance of order. Hence, in a bid to adjust the UNSC to new global governance and geopolitical realities, consistent calls for reform have become louder.
Since it has often been argued that the use of the veto has blocked the ability of the Council to
take effective, timely action to safeguard peace and prevent the massive loss of life (Lund 2010:
4). Only the P5 of the Council have the opportunity to cast a veto (and only on non-procedural
matters). When this is done the member exercising the veto is not required to explain for what
reasons the negative vote (the veto) has been cast. The report from the High-level Panel states
that even outside the use of the formal veto, the ability of the P5 to keep critical issues of peace
and security of the Security Council`s agenda has further undermined confidence in the body`s
work. Furthermore, the institution of the veto has anachronistic character that is unsuitable for
the institution in an increasingly democratic age, but sees no practical way of changing the
existing members veto powers (UN 2004 art. 256).
At the end of this research, I should be able to examine the way and manner how the power its
being wielded among the members of the council and to provide a formidable recommendations
that could address the use of veto in the council.
i. To examine how the unilateralist approaches to global changes exercised by vetowielding countries militates against the objectives of the UNSC.
ii. To assist decision-makers in Governments, international organizations and members
of international community on how these reforms will affect the activities in areas of
foreign policy and diplomacy.
iii. To examine whether or not the inclusion of new permanent veto-wielding members
will result in powerful states being limited in taking a unilateral military action
without the express endorsement of the UNSC.
iv. To answer how the veto powers affected the reform processes and to what extent the
outcomes can be explained by the veto player theory.
My research question is as follows:
1. How has the veto powers in the Security Council affected the reform process in these
three cases?
2. To what extent can the outcomes been explained by the Veto Player Theory?
3. To what extent can military action be taken to influence any veto power among the new
member states without the endorsement of the UNSC?
Following the structure of the United Nations, the major objective of the body, was to ensure that
all Member States recognize that the Security Council has the primary responsibility for the
maintenance of international peace and security and agree to be bound by its decisions. It is
therefore of vital importance, not only to the Organization, but to the world, to understand that
the Council is equipped in order to carry out its responsibilities by creating enabling environment
in peace-keeping and security among member states (UN 2005 art.167).
The study will serve as a supportive tool for effective action in the responsibilities of the United
Nations Security Council. That is, modification of the UNSC‟s policy will re-address the
unjustified veto power by the actors of the Security Council.
Another significance of this study is that, both the permanent and non-permanent members of the
UNSC will breed a spirit of oneness for a formidable relationship among the member states.
The third world countries that are deprived of social welfare, peace and security, modification of
the policy of the UNSC would influence quick attention on the affected member states.
Since the topic is based on the question whether the United Nations Security Council should be
reformed or reconciled, in this study, I have decided to base my argument on reformatory aspect
and it could be traced through the major actors that were actively involved in the reform. The
light of United State, China and other permanent seat members were in the front line with a
particular motive in reforming the UNSC‟s policies.
The research work will be divided into five chapters. Chapter one will primarily focus on the
introduction which will form the basis of analysis in understanding the background to the study,
statement of the study, objective of the study, scope, limitations and research questions. Also
Chapter two deals will methodology; Chapter three will focus on the literature review and
theoretical framework, which further elaborates on the main arguments of the veto player theory
in addition to a further explanation as to why I consider the theory a suitable framework for my
analysis. The chapter also includes a short outline of the game theoretic approach and the
concept of rational actors. Furthermore, I outline some examples on use of the veto player theory
and mention some of the main critique against game theoretic approaches in general. Chapter
four contains a broader presentation of how the theoretical definitions translate into practice and
can therefore be seen as an introduction to the analysis. The Chapter also offers an analysis of the
reform in 1965. I present the course of events leading up to the reform and discuss to what extent
the outcome could be explained by the veto player theory. The Chapter also stressed further to
offer an analysis of the reform proposals which did not succeed; starting with the Razali Reform
Paper from 1997, and followed by the proposal submitted by Kofi Annan in 2005. I present the
proposals and discuss them in light of the veto player theory.
Chapter five offers the main conclusions concerning the reform in 1965 and the two reform
proposals which failed. My aim is to answer how the veto powers affected the reform processes
and to what extent the outcomes can be explained by the veto player theory. I show how the P5‟s
reluctance towards a change of status quo has made a reform of the Security Council seem
impossible in the two latter cases. Furthermore, I conclude that while the veto player theory can
be seen as a useful tool for explaining the process and the outcomes in 1997 and 2005, the
theory`s explanatory power concerning the reform in 1965 is rather limited.


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