Russia’s continued hard line stance with regards to Syria, and the ensuing deadlock at the UN Security Council, further illustrates the desperate need for a complete overhaul of the UN body.
The Security Council is comprised of representatives from fifteen states. Of these, the United States, France, Great Britain, Russia, and China are permanent. Every two years, the remaining seats are represented by other UN member states. With the given system, permanent member states have veto power; only one nay vote by permanent member states is necessary to block a resolution.
The system represents a post-World War II global power structure, with Allied nations comprising the permanent member states. While perhaps this was a necessary structure in 1945 when the first convention was held in San Francisco to draft the UN Charter, this power structure no longer serves to benefit the world. As such, the mission of the UN is greatly compromised due to the policy prerogatives of any single permanent member state.
In the case of Syria, Russia continues to prevent substantive action from taking place, allowing the perpetuation of brutal crackdowns by the Assad regime on anti-government protesters. In the face of a weakened governing body, Kofi Annan, currently heading the envoy in Syria, is left as little more than an empty shirt in negotiations with the Syrian regime. Assad has repeatedly failed to implement negotiated cease-fires, and with Russia’s lack of support, it is unlikely that any substantive resolution will be passed.
Meanwhile, Syria’s political situation continues to devolve with Syrian forces launching air attacks on Aleppo. This comes less than two weeks after the death of high ranking Syrian officials, including Assad’s brother-in-law, in blasts that rocked the National Security building during a security meeting between high ranking government and national security figures.
As the fighting intensifies, and more brutal crackdowns are being felt throughout the country, an increasing number of military personnel, including generals, are defecting. Some defectors are hypothesizing that the regime can only withstand another few months in light of diminishing supplies. The limited quantities of weaponry and basic necessities such as food and water are putting additional strain on Assad’s mission. This is little consolation, though, for a population who has been battling the regime for more than 16 months. Though the protests started out small, with the regime able to disperse the first few quickly, a slow momentum has brought the country to the verge of collapse.
In addition to the increasing humanitarian crisis being witnessed within the country, there is an increasing number of Syrians seeking refuge in neighboring countries, with Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq all receiving refugees. Recent data from UNHCR indicates that more than 120,000 people have fled the fighting, averaging 500 per day (PDF) and an additional 65,000 expected by the year’s end.
The tragedy of this situation is only intensified by the fact that the UN is a victim of its own hubris. The antiquated system of power that controls the Security Council is perpetuating a brutal conflict through its own inadequacies. If ever there was a time to overhaul the system, now is it. To perpetuate the current system will only serve to strengthen the permanent members of the Council to the detriment of the world at large. The power paradigm has changed over the last 65 years, and the time has come to democratize the UN for the betterment of global security.