UN Security Council faces international pressure to reform

Former Secretary General Kofi Annan says it's time to change up the P5 - Permanent Five - members of the Security Council. They've gripped the reins of power and influence for seventy long years... Should some members of the Security Council's forever-five say farewell?
Lleaders from almost 200 nations gather for the annual general assembly at the United Nations, the world body created 70 years ago. The U.N., established as the successor to the failed League of Nations after World War Two to prevent a similar conflict from occurring again. (REUTERS)
Listen22:49

The world is in New York today as the general debate portion of the United Nations General Assembly is getting under way.

This year's meeting of member states from the entire planet is a momentous one. It's the 70th anniversary year since the body was created following the second world war. And, while the milestone of 70 is cause for celebrations, the birthday is also underscoring long-standing calls that the UN is in serious need of reform.  And nowhere more so than with the Security Council.

The UN's veto-wielding Security Council and how it works:

  • The UN Security Council has five permanent members, known as the P5: The United States, Russia, China, the UK and France. These five members haven't changed since 1946. 
     
  • Each of these countries has the power to veto any resolution before the security council. Since 2001, vetoes have been used 28 times. 
  • In that time, Russia and the United States used their vetoes 11 times each and China vetoed 6 resolutions. France and the UK haven't used their vetoes since 1989. 
     

For a sense of just what those vetos can do -- consider what's happened since 2011, when the Syrian civil war broke out. That's the same war and humanitarian crisis that has given rise to the refugee crisis roiling Europe right now. 

And since that conflict's outbreak, Russia has vetoed four resolutions that would have addressed the situation... China has too. 

Meanwhile.... going back as far as 2001, the United States has exercised its veto power 10 times to block resolutions concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 
Samantha Nutt, of Warchild Canada is hardly the first person to call for reforms of the UN Security Council -- and she won't be the last.
When it comes to the UN security council, the P-5 veto has really hampered any kind of initiative that's been brought forward to try to either put sanctions on the Assad regime or to, to really meaningfully block the flow of of weapons to various armed groups that are participating in this conflict.- Samantha Nutt, Warchild Canada

On Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel repeated the call, saying new power players need to be taken into account.

In fact, numerous attempts at change have been made in recent decades. 

This segment was produced by The Current's Sujata Berry and Julian Uzielli.