UNITED NATIONS, (IPS) – As he packs his bags to head home to South Korea, the outgoing UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has been sharply critical of the decision-making process in the world body – specifically the veto powers in the Security Council and the increasing “consensus” rule in voting – where a single country can defy the rest of the 192 members, particularly on politically and financially sensitive issues.
Pointing out that member states had failed to agree on a formula for reforming the Security Council, he said he had initiated a major reform proposal to improve fairness and effectiveness in the United Nations.
But these proposals have been blocked in the name of “consensus”, sometimes by a single country, he told delegates in his farewell address during the opening session of the General Assembly in September.
Ban, who steps down on December 31 after a 10-year long tenure, regretted that “essential action and good ideas had been blocked” not only in the Security Council but also in the General Assembly and in the budget process (in the Administrative and Budgetary Committee) and elsewhere.
Is it fair, he asked, “for any one country to wield such disproportionate power and hold the world hostage over so many important issues?”
But he refused to identify any countries by name, although he has singled out Russia and China for using their veto powers to block resolutions on Syria.
“Consensus should not be confused with unanimity,” he said, urging the General Assembly President to explore the creation of a high-level panel to search for solutions.
Ambassador Anwarul Chowdhury, a former Under-Secretary-General and High Representative of the UN, told IPS: “I can empathize with the frustrations of S-G Ban as he leaves office later this month.”
But the convoluted process of decision-making has been a matter of major concern for a long time at the UN, he added.
“It does not take two terms for an S-G to comprehend that—and that too in the last months (of his second five year term). Also, he should have mentioned how the Secretary-General of the UN is chosen by a few every five years”.
“I have found that when it suits its purpose the leadership of the UN Secretariat does not have any qualms about the convoluted decision-making process.”
The Secretariat leadership should have taken up the issue long ago and repeatedly directly with the countries concerned on both sides.
The tyranny and irrationality of the majority has been a point of contention as the contentious decisions were taken by majority votes marginalizing the “big players”, he argued.
“The tyranny and unilateralism of a few big financial contributors to UN in the consensus process is also a major concern”, declared Chowdhury, a former Chairman of the UN’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee in 1997-1998 which approved (former Secretary-General) Kofi Annan’s first reform budget.
Meanwhile, there has been longstanding speculation that the consensus rule was introduced in the 1970s when Western powers realized they were being outvoted by developing nations—even as the Group of 77 developing nations increased its membership to 132, ranking as the largest single coalition in the world body.
The United Nations was founded largely on the principle of one-country, one-vote – and where majority rules.