The decision-making procedures used in the UN Security Council – chiefly the veto granted to its five permanent members – have frequently been criticised on the basis that they prevent agreements being reached on key issues. This criticism has been particularly acute with respect to the failure of the Security Council to agree joint positions on the ongoing crises in Syria and Ukraine. Thomas G. Weiss argues that while such arguments have been made for decades, there remain no easy answers. Nevertheless, despite the recent criticism, the Security Council is likely to remain as relevant to international peace and security as it ever was.
The ongoing weeping and gnashing of European and other teeth over Ukraine reflects the most serious East-West confrontation since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The inability of the United Nations to agree on concerted action in the face of the downing of the Malaysian Airlines flight in July by Russian-backed rebels – like earlier paralysis before Russia’s February invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea – brings sharply back into relief an issue that was front-and-centre for the first 45 years of the world organisation’s history.
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Thomas G. Weiss is the Director of the Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies, Presidential Professor of political science at the CUNY Graduate Center, and co-Director of the Future United Nations Development System (FUNDS) Project.