NEN YORK, September 20, 2023 – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy delivered a powerful address at the United Nations Security Council, urging for substantial reforms within the UN body, including an expansion of its membership and an overhaul of the right of veto granted to its permanent members. In his historic in-person speech, President Zelenskyy highlighted the need for changes to address the global challenges of the 21st century.
President Zelenskyy began his address by criticizing the existing UN system, stating that the current structure grants an undue level of influence to a few permanent members, with Russia’s misuse of its veto power being a prominent example. He asserted that this imbalance undermines the effectiveness of the UN and negatively impacts its ability to address crises.
“Regardless of who you are, the current UN system still makes you less influential than the veto power possessed by a few and misused by one: Russia. That is to the detriment of all other UN Members,” President Zelenskyy emphasized.
He further stressed that the UN finds itself in a deadlock when it comes to addressing acts of aggression, particularly in light of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, which has entered its 20th month. President Zelenskyy argued that humankind no longer relies solely on the UN for the defense of sovereign borders, seeking alternative platforms and alliances.
However, the Ukrainian President remained optimistic about the potential of the UN Charter to work effectively for global peace and security. To achieve this, he called for the transformation of long-standing discussions on UN reform into a viable process, focusing specifically on the use of veto power.
“The right of veto should not serve those who are obsessed with hatred and war,” President Zelenskyy asserted. He advocated for giving the General Assembly, representing all UN Member States, the real power to overcome the veto.
President Zelenskyy expressed support for proposals to expand the Security Council to better reflect current global realities. Currently, the Council consists of fifteen member states, with five permanent members possessing veto power, and ten non-permanent members serving two-year terms.
“Ukraine considers it unjust when billions of people do not have their permanent representation in the Security Council,” he remarked.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in his remarks at the meeting, reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity. He condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a clear violation of the UN Charter and international law, further emphasizing the need for multilateral cooperation to address global challenges.
While President Zelenskyy’s call for UN reform and an end to veto power has garnered attention, the Security Council meeting also witnessed dissenting voices. Russia’s Ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzya, questioned the sequence of speakers and the inclusion of President Zelenskyy ahead of Council representatives.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking on behalf of Russia, emphasized the importance of fully respecting the UN Charter’s principles, including the sovereign equality of states and non-intervention in domestic affairs.
As the debate on UN reform and the role of veto power continues, President Zelenskyy’s impassioned plea for change has added momentum to the ongoing discussions about the future of the United Nations and its capacity to address global conflicts and crises effectively.