Kingdom can’t be a cheerleader at UN

Kingdom can’t be a cheerleader at UN

Believing in the collective work of the United Nations, Saudi Arabia had been vying for a Security Council seat as a non-permanent member to help the world body resolve longstanding issues in the region. To this end, the Foreign Ministry had been making arrangements for the past three years to prepare its ace diplomats for assignments at the UN.
During these years, however, the Security Council proved to be ineffective in addressing vital issues threatening peace and security in the world. The issues such as the Palestinian-Israeli dispute, nuclear proliferation in the region and recently the Syrian crisis have continued to linger on as the UN took no action to resolve them. Instead, the Security Council during these years became a platform for its permanent members — with veto powers — who manipulated the world body to advance their own interests, while the rest of the world represented by the non-permanent members of the council kept watching helplessly. This double standard and failure to safeguard world peace and security eroded Riyadh’s confidence in the Security Council.
As a non-permanent member has no veto power, its presence in the council is only to give an impression that the decisions taken by members with veto powers carry international consensus, meaning a non-permanent member is considered to be part of a unanimous decision taken by the UN. The Syrian crisis is a living example of the UN’s indifference. The objective of establishing the world body was to protect the international community from crimes and atrocities committed by dictators and tyrants and to help resolve disputes that endanger peace and security. The UN has identified acts of genocide, use of chemical weapons and attacks against civilians as crimes that violate international law, which warrant Security Council action to prevent and stop their occurrences.
The Syrian regime of Bashar Assad has committed genocide, used chemical weapons against its own people and systematically and indiscriminately murdered them, which are crimes that demand immediate action by the Security Council. But the council remained indifferent to the plight of the Syrian people. The council could have intervened by either authorizing military action, imposing sanctions or launching peacekeeping operations, but it did nothing. These valid Saudi concerns were noted by France that said, "We share their frustration after the paralysis of the Security Council."
All of a sudden, these grave issues have been turned into an issue of dismantling the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons, while the killings of Syrian civilians continue unabated. The inaction of the Security Council prompted Riyadh to believe that its participation in the collective work of the Security Council in the hope of making it meaningful would only be a waste of time and efforts, and most importantly damage its reputation in the world. Saudi Arabia deserves a better position than playing a role of a cheerleader at the Security Council.
Given these facts, Riyadh decided to turn down the offer of a non-permanent seat at the Security Council so that it does not participate in the legitimization process of acts described by the UN and international criminal and humanitarian laws as illegitimate.
According to a Foreign Ministry statement, "Saudi Arabia ... is refraining from taking membership of the UN Security Council until it has reformed so it can effectively and practically perform its duties and discharge its responsibilities in maintaining international security and peace."
An honorable and sound role at the Security Council can only be possible by reforming the system of the Security Council to make it more effective in addressing vital issues that threaten world peace and security. This council would be viewed respectfully by the people of the world if it upholds the international law and acts against its violation. A true international consensus on the decisions of the Security Council can only be achieved by giving veto power to non-permanent members of the world body. Saudi Arabia cannot be a cheerleader at the Security Council.

• Dr. Abdulrahman Al-Zuhayyan is a Saudi academician based in Riyadh. This article is exclusive to Arab News.
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