According to the UN website, UN has the following functions and powers:

  • to maintain international peace and security in accordance with the principles and purposes of the United Nations;
  • to determine the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression and to recommend what action should be taken;
  • to take military action against an aggressor;

Beside of these UN duty, Why do obvious humanitarian issues like helping wounded and kids, need to be voted on by members of the United Nations Security Council?

I am referring to the latest resolution proposed by Brazil on humanitarian aid and the Gaza hospital, which was vetoed by the US despite 12 votes in favor.

It is an obvious fact that all countries should help children, women and the wounded.

  • 19
    For more context, the resolution called for an immediate ceasefire. The US apparently disagreed that was necessary, although they couched their opposition based on what may seem a technicality, namely that > “this resolution did not mention Israel’s right of self-defence.” The UK, for instance, abstained rather than oppose, on exactly the same grounds. Oct 18, 2023 at 18:25
  • 1
    There is no such thing as an obvious thing in an international context. There are always legitimately different viewpoints.
    – fraxinus
    Oct 21, 2023 at 10:39
  • We went down that road already, @fraxinus, but the comments were tidied up...
    – FreeMan
    Oct 21, 2023 at 13:55
  • This looks like a push question.
    – whoisit
    Oct 21, 2023 at 14:11
  • @whoisity, what is a "push question"? I think there is a chance that the question is legit. Especially if it's a younger person who doesn't have much exposure to the world. Of course, there is always the chance it's a question meant to incite controversy.
    – coteyr
    Oct 23, 2023 at 0:16

2 Answers 2



Why do obvious humanitarian issues need to be voted on by members of the United Nations Security Council?

Not just voted on but pass without any permanent member dissenting, for any action to be taken.

Because none of the world powers were trying to set up an organization where they could / would be over ruled by consensus. That's why they designed the UN to be powerless to act with dissent from a single permanent security council member.

The United Nations was never designed to be a pseudo world government. It was designed as a stage for dialog. Action only when no one objected (the permanent members of security council). That's on every issue. One may find fault with that, however it's a huge improvement on what came before; no stage for world dialog.

  • 19
    @C.F.G They're big on dialog, studies, and voicing opinions. Anything short of taking action. They do take action occasionally if the permanent members can agree. The UN Security Council was able to pass the Korean War measures because the Soviet Union had recently boycotted the Security Council and chose not to participate. Big mistake.
    – user47010
    Oct 18, 2023 at 17:27
  • 8
    The UN was deliberately set up to be permanently under the control of the World War 2 victors. And France.
    – dan04
    Oct 19, 2023 at 0:05
  • 3
    @JMS: I'm not entirely convinced of that. Regardless of history, the present day de facto function of the P5 is to prevent the major superpowers from using UN peacekeeping forces as pawns in a proxy war. Given the history of the Cold War, I shouldn't need to explain why that is a useful function. I don't see how adding more vetoes would make the UNSC stronger, and if the idea is to get rid of vetoes altogether, then you'd have to replace the P5 with something else to prevent a proxy war. What value of "something else" are we contemplating here?
    – Kevin
    Oct 19, 2023 at 7:32
  • 2
    "powerless to act without CONsent," or powerless to act WITH dissent.
    – fectin
    Oct 19, 2023 at 11:35
  • 5
    @NotThatGuy, actually it was arguable designed so it could never function as or morph into a world government. It's absolutely not an oligarchy. Nothing is decided by security council members, things are decided by the security council. Their is an important distinction there. All countries make their own laws. And many countries beyond the security council members are strong enough to resist any international law, given their is no international standing army to enforce those laws.
    – user47010
    Oct 19, 2023 at 13:13

It is an obvious fact that all countries should help children, women and the wounded.

No, it's not. It's not obvious. It's obvious to me, and to a lot of people, but not to everyone. Remember that when we're talking on a world scale, we can not make assumptions about "the obvious".

Even if we could get everyone to agree that we "should" help. How to help is an even more complicated question.

Enforcing our morality, even if it is a majority morality, is a tool that needs to be used with great care. How we enforce our morality is an even stickier problem. We certainly should not go around with an "I'm bigger than you so I am right," mentality.

The UN is structured so that, at least in theory, it avoids this kind of problem, but still brings people to the table. It's certainly not perfect, but it is "better than nothing".

  • 21
    It's far from obvious to me that we have an obligation to undertake any arbitrary action, simply because it's described as "help children, women and the wounded".
    – fectin
    Oct 19, 2023 at 15:53
  • 6
    Dehumanization is a core component. There's always someone saying something like "these so-called children are nothing but the larvae of monstrous beasts, they must be exterminated like the vermin they are to prevent them from harming our good, honorable children."
    – barbecue
    Oct 19, 2023 at 16:33
  • 10
    Not to mention what "help" means. To some, forcing kids to attend school is seen as helping them; to others, it's locking them in a prison every day "for their own good", yet others see it as irrelevant, others as infringement of the rights of the parent or the kids, yet others don't recognize almost any rights of the kids (it's scary how many adults and kids don't have any idea that kids have property rights from birth in the west)... It's really hard to get even a majority to agree on anything, much less everyone.
    – Luaan
    Oct 20, 2023 at 8:41
  • 3
    Its not obvious to me. What do you mean by 'help' the children, women, and the wounded. What is your definition of 'help'? Also in this day and age we have equality among the sexes in theory. so its should be 'help children, innocent civilians, and the wounded'... Women can be soldiers too last I checked. This is not the 19th century.
    – Questor
    Oct 20, 2023 at 19:40
  • 1
    Some might argue that you help the people by minimizing their suffering, which is in turn done by ending them as swiftly as possible, given that they refuse to coexist peacefully with anyone.
    – user47762
    Oct 21, 2023 at 8:17

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .