Spotlight: China props Security Council amid concerns over its authority

Source: Xinhua| 2018-05-18 23:40:14|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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Chinese ambassador to the United Nations (UN) Ma Zhaoxu (1st R, front) speaks at the UN Security Council high-level open debate on upholding international law for world peace and security, at the UN headquarters in New York, on May 17, 2018. While concerns about the authority and mandated duties of the UN Security Council were raised at a high-level open debate on Thursday, China threw its considerable weight behind it, one of the six UN principal organs for maintaining international peace and security. (Xinhua/Li Muzi)

by Xinhua writer Wang Jiangang

UNITED NATIONS, May 17 (Xinhua)-- While concerns about the authority and mandated duties of the UN Security Council were raised at a high-level open debate on Thursday, China threw its considerable weight behind it, one of the six UN principal organs for maintaining international peace and security.


As the "gate-keeper" and upholder of international law for the UN 193 member states, the Security Council must quickly rectify failures in prohibiting the use of force and maintaining global peace and security, speakers said at the Security Council open debate on upholding international law for world peace and security.

Representatives from more than 70 member states participated in the day-long discussion about a wide range of issues, from escalating humanitarian crises to conflicts, and debated ways to take action.

"Our credibility depends on it," said Sweden's delegate Olof Skoog. At a time when international law was being challenged, the Council must hold perpetrators accountable and bring justice to the peoples whom the UN Charter had been promulgated to protect.

"We don't need to reinvent the wheel," said Ethiopia's delegate Tekeda Alemu, emphasizing that the rules-based global order was the foundation for the promotion and maintenance of international peace and security as well as for fostering friendly relations and cooperation among states.


A large segment of the debate touched on the use of force and states' expansive interpretation of the Charter and international law.

Brazil's representative Frederico Salomao Duque Estrada Meyer noted that even though 2018 marked the 90th anniversary of the Briand-Kellogg Pact, also known as the Pact of Paris, which prohibits the use of force as national policy, the current world pockmarked with war, humanitarian crises and lingering conflicts calls for alarm and swift action.

Worried about the trend of states invoking the use of force for protecting human rights or forestalling international crimes, he said that if subjective, unilateral criteria continued informing such decisions, sustained peace would be a distant objective.

"Our collective resolve to stop human rights violations or to defeat terrorism cannot make us turn a blind eye on international law," he said, warning that new self-defense narratives were based on conceptual uncertainties, with the international community even lacking a common definition of terrorism.

Authorizing the use of force must be limited and the Council must demand adequate reporting because "those troops might not be wearing blue helmets, but they act on the authority and legitimacy of a blue text."


The Council must become the driving force to ensure adherence to international humanitarian law, human rights law, the UN Charter and other relevant rules, said Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, Chef de Cabinet, delivering a statement on behalf of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

"Against a backdrop of grave threats and growing turmoil in many regions, the unity of this body and the serious commitment of the entire international community will be crucial in preventing human suffering and defending our common humanity," she said, highlighting the links between the Council and the International Court of Justice in leading the way.

Elaborating on how to strengthen that relationship, Hisashi Owada, Senior Judge and President Emeritus of the International Court of Justice, suggested the Council pay more attention to its discretionary power to refer a legal dispute to the Court and to consider making use of the Court's advisory opinion under the Charter.

Theodor Meron, president of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals, said that in many respects, the Council had been a gate-keeper, deciding whether one situation should be subject to accountability measures.

He suggested it was time for a paradigm shift whereby the Council would refer possible violations of international law to appropriate judicial actors for further action, rather than risk becoming stymied in debates about whether atrocities occurred.

Doing so would enhance accountability and increase confidence in the courts' ability to assess evidence fairly.

Other delegates also drew upon similar examples, with many calling for the strict application of Charter provisions and suggesting ways to boost the Council's credibility and effectiveness.

Polish President Andrzej Duda said where peaceful dispute settlement was not applied, the Council, to protect international law in its darkest hour, could introduce targeted sanctions, as coercive measures were often crucial in defending international legal principles.

If and when the Council makes itself irrelevant by inaction, other avenues will have to be explored to ensure fundamental international norms were upheld, said Dutch Foreign Minister Stephanus Abraham Blok.

Ahead of the next General Assembly, the Netherlands would consult and explore such options with the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, which comprises 27 small- and medium-sized states that aimed at improving Council functions.


Amid worries, concerns and proposals as well, China again displayed its determination and enthusiasm of safeguarding the authority and mandatory duties of the Council.

Chinese ambassador to the UN Ma Zhaoxu said that amid spreading local conflicts and rising security threats, efforts must be strengthened to overcome those challenges.

To do so, he made several suggestions, including that member states must adhere to all UN Charter provisions and safeguard the Council's mission and authority.

The Council represented the will of all member states and its role should be supported, Ma said. Further, all states must adhere to the peaceful resolution of international disputes, he said, adding that actions not authorized by the Council violated the Charter and international law.

Moving forward, the international community must renounce the cold war mentality and facilitate global governance, ensuring that international law was applied equally, without double standards and that sanctions outside the Council's authority were abandoned.

Win-win cooperation was a general trend and the common aspiration of the people must be respected alongside the rights of states.

Dialogue must replace confrontation, he said, emphasizing that a new philosophy must shape a sustainable security system to address threats and ensure a shared future of peace and stability, he said.

The Security Council, as the core of the UN collective security mechanism, shoulders a major responsibility in tackling international security threats and challenges, which is a herculean task, he said.

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