The United Nations Security Council voted to provide humanitarian aid to the people in northwest Syria for the next six months. According to Reuters, the opposition-controlled region receiving aid consists of about 4 million people and has been receiving this aid—mainly consisting of food, medicine, and shelter—since 2014. Despite Russia’s historical support of Syria’s government, they supported the vote to continue the flow of assistance, making the vote between the 15-member Security Council unanimous. The council even managed to avoid their usual fights about aid deliveries from Turkey to Syria, even with the West’s opposition to Russia’s violent invasion of Ukraine, which began almost a year ago.
Even though the Russian ambassador to the U.N. Vasily Nebenzya agreed to the continuation of aid, he still believes this aid provided by the U.N. fails to respect “Syria’s territorial integrity and its sovereignty.” However, Nebenzya claims that the vote to support was not a change in Russia’s position on the issue. Ambassadors from the United States, Britain, and France initially proposed a 12 month extension, saying at least a year was needed to allow aid groups to “procure, hire, and plan” in an effective manner. According to the same article from Reuters, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, “This resolution represents the bare minimum,” to the council. However, a main focus of the vote was to avoid conflict with Russia, meaning other countries on the council had to compromise.
To understand why the vote went this way, it’s important to understand how voting works in the Security Council. According to Article 27 of the U.N. Charter, each of member of the Security Council has one vote, and nine out of 15 votes must vote yes for something to pass. However, veto power was given to countries considered vital to the forming of the United Nations in 1945. These countries are the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China and the former Soviet Union, now the Russian Federation. These countries are also permanent members of the council. If just one of the permanent members casts a veto on a resolution, it is thrown out and will not be approved. It’s easy to discuss the simple solution regarding just this one decision: representatives from each country must work together for the good of the world as a whole, not just for their own national interests. However, the more complex issue addresses the entire structure of the Security Council. In theory, this council is beneficial to world peace and has a collective goal of protecting those in positions where they cannot protect themselves. With five nations wielding unlimited power over the council, there is no way for it to be fair, and it has been proven to fail to protect regular people time and time again. Though further aid has been approved for Syria, it is unclear if it will be effective, considering the short length of the program.
When the aid program was originally established by the U.N. in 2014, aid was delivered from Iraq, Jordan, and two points in Turkey. In the nine years since, Russia and China have knocked it down to just one delivery point in Turkey, and Russia is continuing to fight for aid to be sent from inside Syria itself. However, those who oppose the Syrian government worry aid from within the country could fall under government control, never reaching the rebels in the north.
There needs to be a fundamental and logistical change in the United Nations, especially in the Security Council, to work to protect human rights effectively across the globe. The world is a completely different place than it was in 1945, and the U.N.—along with other programs like it—need to adjust to the modern age.
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