The United Nations Security Council

This year I came into studying political science believing that the UN was this magical organisation that saved the world. I was incredibly idealistic; but I’ve come to understand that the UN and all of its other substitutes are still human organisations, and therefore they still have flaws, some of these critical flaws.

The biggest thing that I have learnt so far is about the UN Security Council, the P-5 and the Veto power. The UN Security Council is a council consisting of 15 members from 15 states. 10 of these members are from various countries that are on two year terms, ultimately they are rotating members and change every two years. The other 5 members are the P5 or Permanent 5 members which consist of Russia, The United States, The United Kingdom, France and China. The P5 members do not rotate and are awarded an extra level of power called “veto.” This power allows the P5 member to deny any resolution put through to the UNSC, even if there is a majority that want said resolution to occur.

In most recent times Russia has used their veto power twelve times to deny any action from the UNSC to act or intervene in the Syrian Conflict. (BBC) This has led to 7 years of conflict. SEVEN ENTIRE YEARS. Not only this, but it has also led to 11 million people being displaced. (Syrian Refugees) So instead of the UNSC being able to act or create change, Russia has prevented any action from occurring.

This leads to the realisation that these P5 have this extra power, but they still have their ulterior motives, they still have their Home Country’s interests as a primary motive, they do not act for what is the best action for the world or other states. So it leads to the thought, why do these P5 members have this power? Should the veto power be rotated? Should all members of the Security Council be on two year terms? Why is it fair that these five states have more power than the others? I am left with all of these questions that can’t be answered simply, all I know is people are dying, people are losing their homes, children are losing their childhoods and their education, and that Syria was once a beautiful country is losing everything – if this conflict does not come to an end soon, there will be nothing left.

Syria’s use of Chemical Warfare

Yet again we find ourselves witnessing another chemical attack against innocent civilians in Syria. This Chemical attack in Douma although it is not entirely clear it is believed that at least 40 people have been killed and hundreds affected. (NY Times and Al Jazeera) It is also believed that a large number of these casualties are children.

The US has threatened retaliation again, but does this just mean more air strikes? Are more civilians going to be killed by outside nations dropping bombs?

The worst part of all of this in my opinion is that this isn’t the first time that chemical weapons have been used against the Syrian people. Since 2013 we have seen countless chemical attacks with thousands of people affected and so many dead.

The Syrian Government has again been accused for this attack and is said to be responsible. Will the Al-Assad regime ever be held responsible? With the Syrian Government again claiming that the use of chemical warfare was fabricated; What does this mean for the justice of the Victims? Is the rest of the world just going to sit by and watch these human beings suffer? Is it not time to take R2P action? The Government is clearly failing it’s responsibility to protect its citizens, does this not mean anything anymore? Does the slaughter of children not invoke action? This civil war has gone on for far too long and seen far too much bloodshed.

The rest of the world should put aside its differences and save the citizens that are left in Syria. I know that this is incredibly idealistic but it’s beyond the point of return. Al-Assad continues to use chemical weapons on his citizens, and the outside world continues to just bomb strong holds of various groups – which seems to cause more civilian deaths rather than anything else. I don’t know how we can fix this, or how to stop the pointless loss of life, but something needs to change. Maybe every other state that is interfering should withdraw? Maybe the US and Russia should stop with its airstrikes? Maybe the different states should stop funding the various groups? Maybe the rest of the world should take more responsibility and evacuate as many refugees as possible? Maybe countries like Australia should accept more refugees and guarantee safety for these people? I don’t know what the solution is, but there must be something more we can do.

Political Freedoms and Protesting

I’ve been learning a lot lately. I’ve learnt a lot about the UN, Syria, WWII, The Cold War, Freedom, Equality, Democracy and so many other different things in this world that I feel like it has truly opened my eyes.

One thing I’ve learnt that has really hit home is in countries with totalitarian regimes and violent and oppressive leaders citizens; are not afforded the same luxuries as someone from a country with a peaceful democracy. I know this sounds straight forward and may seem quite obvious but have you ever thought about the fact that in Australia you can protest and no real harm will come to you? In Australia you can take to the streets, voice your concerns in a peaceful manner and the worst that could happen is being arrest and taken to the watch house. You won’t be shot on site or killed for standing up for your beliefs; not everyone gets this luxury, not everyone can take to the streets to peacefully protest without risking their lives. With this realisation, I thought it was important to voice it and show whoever will listen how fortunate we are, and how far the world still has to come

George Orwell wrote an entire piece on the effect of peaceful protest called Reflections on Gandhi which in short says that for peaceful/non-violent action to be effective one must presume compassion from the perpetrator, simply put there must be a certain level of freedom and a level of compassion. This is something that I have never considered.

All we have to do is reflect back to China in 1989 where thousands of people (mostly students) took to the streets in protest for the end of corruption, peaceful reform, economic reform and political reform. These protests saw thousands of people detained, imprisoned, tortured and executed. This peaceful protest turned violent and it is known as the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. These citizens expected their Government to listen to them, to do right by them and to change, however instead they were murdered, tortured, and imprisoned.

In more recent times we have the case of Syria. In 2011 many people took to the streets to Protest Bashar al-Assad’s presidency, the rate of unemployment and the high level of poverty. They were basically asking for more freedom and a higher level of dignity for themselves and all citizens of Syria. They wrote songs, danced in public squares, gave roses to soldiers, and peacefully protested for their beliefs. The Government and it’s forces retaliated by murdering activists, shooting protesters in the streets and ultimately starting this civil war. The protesters then took up arms and began defending themselves. This was roughly 7 years ago and this civil war has grown and become a conflict that is so complicated that I won’t go in to it any further (in this post at least). For more information about the Syrian conflict, here is an article by the BBC.

In both of these examples of China and Syria you have a leadership that lacks compassion. The al-Asad regime has been accused of using chemical weapons on their on citizens and China in 1989 was a heavily communist society with high levels of poverty and corruption. You can see how these societies lacked compassion and it is just shown further in their reactions to civilian protest. These citizens lacked the freedom to be able to use non- violent means, and their Governments failed them in not showing them the compassion to do so.

How is it that in the 21st century civilians cannot take to the streets to make themselves heard?

In Australia, people are awarded the luxury to protest for their beliefs. Marriage equality, refugees, pro-choice/pro-life, Adani are all topics in which people have tried to have their voices heard. People have taken to the streets in protest, they have had banners and marches – people didn’t die, no one was shot, people were able to go home and hold their families. These Australian’s had the privilege to speak up against their Government with no (or little) consequences, if nothing else I want everyone to realise how privileged they are, and how lucky they are to be even given the option for that.