The Problem With the UN Veto Power

The permanent five members of the UN Security Council have a unique power. It's the right to veto — but how has its implementation failed to address humanitarian crises around the world?

Though even the United Nation's fiercest critics admit that it has done a lot of good around the world, it has also been accused of being complicit in corruption, tangled in bureaucracy, and increasingly reactive rather than proactive in addressing the world's crises.

It's also been accused of failing to act to prevent genocides in places including Rwanda in 1994, Bosnia in 1995, and Darfur, Sudan in the early 2000s.

While some have called the UN Security Council totally powerless, the council’s P5 (the U.S., UK, Russia, France, and China) have the right to veto, providing these particular countries with the opportunity to exercise real power

And while some permanent members, like France and the UK, are more open to expansion, Russia, China and the U.S. have been more cautious or directly opposed. It would take a whole lot of support to modify the UN Charter, and to get all five P5 members to agree at the same time to restrict their own power.

But despite all of its flaws, experts generally agree: The UN creates a vital space for diplomacy, mediation, and maintaining international peace.It has indisputably helped save lives, lifted people out of poverty and starvation, and maintained global order.
We're going to break down what veto power really is, and how the P5 obtained it.

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