By: Liaofan Mohanty
The essay question elicits a personal solution to the problem of veto-politics. My solution is best described by the historic October 21, 1967 “Flower Power” photograph in which a person, advocating ending the war in Vietnam, is seen putting flowers into the barrel of a National Guardsman in the U.S.A.
The premise on which the movement in that photo rests is the entire philosophy of Gandhi, Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr. It is the philosophy that fire cannot extinguish fire. While some of us may come up with solutions that may include repealing the veto power altogether, or, allowing more countries into the permanent membership of the UNSC [United Nations Security Council] with award of veto right, I propose a solution negotiated with the past and the future for the now. The permanent members may not be in a position to give up their inertia: that is their past, the inertia being “Being the exclusive five member kitchen cabinet of discretionary power”; They too may not want to welcome their future: the future, I believe, being a free market of negotiations without any use of force, including veto, to secure interests.
I propose to reform the United Nations Security Council by introducing primarily two institutions of “Registration of opinions”. I believe mindfulness of the present warrants that the non-members of the UNSC be a given a position of registering their opinions within the process of vetoing matters in the UNSC. This proposition rests on the premise that “Injustice anywhere is a threat to Justice everywhere” as said by Martin Luther King Jr.. In our context, it means allowing voices to participate in the process of veto-voting to ensure procedural and substantive justice to all actors within the UNSC system.
I do this by leaving the whole of Article 27 of The United Nations Charter untouched but introducing two formally mandatory procedural conventions:
- Allowing the UNSC non-members to exercise voting in a secret ballot on whether a matter can be classified as procedural or substantive, before the UNSC votes to identify the nature of the matter at hand. However, the results of the UNSC non-members voting will be non-binding on any member of the UNSC.
- Allowing the UNSC non-members to cast their “Flowers” on whether a veto on a substantive matter be allowed in the event action is taken: A) In favour of a matter. b) Against the matter. However, the results will be non-binding on any of the UNSC members.
Example may be the question on military intervention by Country A in the soil of Country B:
- The veto can allow action by Country A.
- The veto can forbid the action. The above exercise can be undertaken a day before or days before the substantive matter is put to vote in the UNSC.
The exercise of casting flowers is different from casting votes. While a future with a free market for negotiations without a veto is a goal I favour, in the present time, casting flower means casting a coloured vote in the secret ballot not supporting the exercise of a veto. When the question arises “Can the veto be cast for allowing military intervention?” and countries do not support the fact that veto is a solution in this context and either all the members of the UNSC agree or any member abstain so that the action without any veto is undertaken, “Red Flowers (red colored vote)” may be cast. The countries who favour status quo of the situation, that is believe that, no action is the best action may cast “Amber Flowers (amber coloured vote)”. This means signalling the UNSC to reach non-action irrespective of the use of veto but preferring unanimity of the UNSC permanent members or abstinence of any.
When the question stands, “Should veto forbid military intervention?” Here casting amber flowers would mean “No action should be taken: status quo to be maintained” and red flowers would mean veto in the instant question is not the solution and the course of action without any veto should be undertaken in the way mentioned earlier. Hence casting flowers can mean no to neutral but never in favour of a veto. The results of the instant exercises will be non-binding on the UNSC members.
What is the use of these non-binding conventions? They are the flowers in the barrel of UNSC’s veto shots. They are passive cleanings for the ego in the veto. Though the cleansing can take time to fully purify the system, that is, free UNSC of veto, yet history in Gandhi, in Mandela and in Martin Luther King Jr., has proved time and again the efficacy of the method.
This commentary by Liaofan Mohanty from Bhubaneswar, India, was a finalist of the 2016 Nextgen Essay Contest.