The Prime Minister of New Zealand, John Key, took to the podium of the General Assembly today to deplore the lack of action by the Security Council, the United Nations body with legally binding powers, over its failure to end the bloodbath in Syria, blaming in particular the paralyzing power of veto held by the body’s five permanent members.
“All Council members carry responsibility for ending the misery in Syria and beyond,” said Mr. Key, whose country is currently a non-permanent member of the 15-member body, calling for the right of veto to be limited in cases of mass atrocities.
“The consequences of inaction are not theoretical. The human toll is real. A three-year-old boy dead, washed up on a Turkish beach; hundreds of thousands killed and millions forced to flee their homes,” he added, citing the Council's failure to act over the past four years.
“It is time for the Council to step up. It's time for it to stop talking about what's right and do what's right. It's time for the Council to do the job for which it was created. It's time for its members to set aside their vested interests and historical alliances in order to stop the violence and end the suffering,” he declared.
“It's time for the Council to do its duty for those who have lost their lives and loved ones, and for the millions who have been displaced. We cannot afford to let the Council go from an institution with failings to a failed institution.”
Mr. Key said the veto power held by the five permanent members – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and United States – creates an extraordinary imbalance that is exacerbated by their practices of pre-negotiating outcomes before engaging with the 10 elected members, and of taking no action when one of them does not agree.
“The permanent members have become used to exercising power and are protective of their privileged position,” he declared, calling the veto a constraint on the Council’s effectiveness and voicing support for proposals to limit the use of veto in mass atrocity situations.
“The conflicts and human suffering in Syria, Yemen, South Sudan and a long list of other countries, show how far we are from achieving the aspirations of our founders and of today's members.”