Role and Relevance of UNSC in Interstate Conflicts Prevention and Mitigation: An Analysis from the perspective of Russia-Ukraine Conflict

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The decisions and actions of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) still possess relevance in the international system whenever a conflict arises between two nations. The case is not different at the present precarious situation.

The Russia-Ukraine Conflict

The Russia-Ukraine conflict is all over the news nowadays. The conflict primarily escalated when the Russian President, Vladamir Putin, authorised a special military operation in a televised address. The Russian forces simultaneously fired missiles at several Ukrainian cities and also landed troops inside the territorial borders of Ukraine on the 24th of February 2022. The situation has continued to intensify. 

A school building in Ukraine destroyed by Russian shelling
Image courtesy- Reuters

The conflict has violated the fundamental human rights of multiple civilians. Russia has even dropped missiles on various cities without considering the residents in those places. Schools, airports, roads lie in ruins, and health facilities and hospitals are under attack. However, this conflict goes beyond human rights violations. 

The operation is wreaking havoc on global trade by instigating the imbalance that first came because of the pandemic. Various countries have put sanctions on Russia. However, it is causing a ripple effect, as Russia is a significant importer of crude oil, grains etc. Various cargo-carrying ships are stranded across ports and the Black Sea, as they cannot unload the goods. Additionally, the speculation of a nuclear war is making the situation worse. 

“Whether it be Russia and Ukraine, or even the USA, NATO and the European Union, countries and international organisations have become intertwined in this situation directly or indirectly, giving rise to legal complexities and political and ethical conundrums.” 

Furthermore, as the situation continues to attract international attention, the world is anxious to get a solution for this conflict. 

Read more about what has led to the current conflict between Russia and Ukraine here!

United Nations- A Brief 

United Nations is known worldwide to be an intergovernmental organisation established with the following aims-

  • Maintenance of international peace and security
  • Promotion of good relations among States 
  • Providing for holistic development of all nations at large
  • Promotion of international cooperation etc. 

The objectives for establishing the United Nations do not end here. It also strives to encourage nations to take actions over various other subject matters apart from peace, including sustainable development, environment protection, economic development, better standard of living etc. 

United Nations Office, Geneva

Witnessing the lack of effectiveness of the League of Nations, established post World War I to prevent any future wars, the United Nations materialised in the year 1945 after World War II. It consists of six principal organs-

  • United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)
  • United Nations Security Council (UNSC)
  • Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) 
  • International Court of Justice (ICJ)
  • The Trusteeship Council
  • The Secretariat 

It also consists of various sub-organs, agencies and committees that work on specific subject matters like human rights, protection of the environment, international trade etc.

Over the years, the UN membership has grown consistently. It is looked forward to for answers whenever an international dilemma arises. Similarly, when it comes to the ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict, the world continues to look at the UN for help since it is the pioneer of peace.

The UNSC

The UN Security Council is the main organ for dealing with crisis management and focuses on maintaining peacekeeping commitments. When it comes to war-like situations, the UNSC is considered the prime organ responsible for the re-establishment of peace.

UN Peace Keeping Force. UN employs the forces to maintain and re-establish peace in an area of armed conflict.
Image courtesy- USIP

Chapter VI of the UN Charter allows the Security Council to help nations settle disputes through resolutions, arbitration, dialogue, and other pacific means. However, if these measures fail, Chapter VII allows the UNSC to go into a proactive mode and use sanctions or force to reinstate international peace and security. 

Nevertheless, the UNSC has been considered ineffective in diffusing crises and fulfilling the objectives it aims to establish worldwide. One of the abysmal failures of the UNSC is the Syrian civil war, which has been going on since 2011. The entire series of debates and disapproved resolutions has not been able to mitigate the suffering of the Syrian civilians. 

Images from the Syrian Civil War. The UNSC failed in Syria by not fulfilling its primary objective, i.e., maintaining
international peace and security.

The situation in Ukraine appears to be quite similar here. 

The Role of UNSC 

The UNSC is structured to play a pivotal role in mitigating the situation in Ukraine. Unlike other organs of the UN, the Security Council has been vested with the power and authority to use force to reinstate international peace and security, in case no other means work. In lieu of the same, a draft resolution was proposed recently by Albania and United States, condemning the Russian Military Operation. The resolution considered the act to be a violation of Article 2 of the UN Charter- refrain from threat/use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of a State. 

UNSC meeting on February 17, 2022, at UN headquarters, New York analysing the
Russia-Ukraine conflict

Image courtesy- News18

The draft also directed the Russian Federation to retreat and cease the use of force in the Ukrainian territory. However, the entire series of social dialogue turned futile in the end. 

The Veto Paradox 

The UNSC consists of 15 members, out of which five are permanent, and ten are non-permanent members. The five permanent members-P5 nations- are the United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China. 

The catch here is that the P5 nations have the ‘veto’ power. If any permanent member does not wish to approve a resolution, it can simply veto it. This has given rise to a paradoxical situation. The P5 nations were given the veto power by virtue of their strong position post World War II, as they could use their veto power to stand in solidarity against war and promote peace. 

The P5 nations enjoy the veto power in UNSC
Image courtesy- NATO Association of Canada

Unlike the true vision behind the veto power, the P5 members now use it to block each other’s efforts at making peace. For instance, the draft resolution failed to pass as Russia vetoed it. 

This is precisely why the Security Council is in a tricky position. While it aims to maintain international peace and security, the loophole in its structure is causing a detrimental effect on all the efforts of both the UN and other countries. Moreover, considering this, the only contribution the UN has been able to make towards the recent developments in the Russia-Ukraine conflict is verbally condemning the former for the use of force.

Aftereffects of the UNSC Structure

The significant drawback here is that the United Nations Security Council is in a loop due to Russia’s position on the Council. Furthermore, as a result, the loss of life and property in Ukraine will continue since the SC is unable to do its role to intersect and thereafter mitigate the situation. 

The effects are not limited to Ukraine. The conflict has already hit the global market, and oil prices are on an escalation. The world was already facing inflation, and the stock prices were tumbling due to the pandemic. The Russia-Ukraine conflict has only made the solutions to these problems hazier. 

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia at the UNSC meeting on February 25 2022. Russia vetoed the draft resolution against
them on the Ukraine invasion.
Image courtesy- Reuters

Potential Solutions 

The world has been witnessing the inability of the Security Council to act aptly due to its structure for a while. The root cause of this has been the misuse of veto power by the P5 members in most cases. The concept was considered essential post World War II. 

One of the primary reasons for the failure of the League of Nations and the happening of World War II was the lack of solidarity among nations. However, it has transitioned into a mere tool used by the P5 countries to make situations favourable to themselves. Another tricky part is that changing the structure or adding new permanent members is also a challenge, as the P5 will also veto such an idea. 

Way Forward

The only potential solution to this infinite loop is a change in the UNSC structure. It does not necessarily need to be the dissolution of the veto power. Instead, the veto needs to be limited so that the UNSC does not face limitations in doing its intended work.

About the author

NIKITA CHAUHAN

Nikita has a penchant for reading and writing, and naturally, she is a research enthusiast. Being a law student with a specialisation in International Trade and Investment Law, her interest areas include Intellectual Property Law, Cyber Law, and International Law. She has written various articles and research papers about global issues related to IPRs and Cyber laws with the aim of acknowledging these issues, addressing potential solutions, and spreading awareness about the same.

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