YOUTH VOICE: Action needed to end human-rights atrocities

'I hope and pray that 2017 is the year that brings peace in our world,' writes columnist Japreet Lehal

It is truly a tragic time when innocent civilians are being killed, while the international council that is supposed to protect human rights has failed to take strong action for years.

When political and economic agendas and ulterior motives are put before human life.

When a murderous regime, which has even used chemical weapons, is propped up by certain countries because of their corrupt agendas.

More than 400 000 people have been killed in Syria, yet because certain member countries vetoed the resolutions of the UN Security Council, the people of Syria continue to suffer.

The future of thousands of children has been cut short. Families have been separated. Thousands have been forced to flee, because of the bombs and gun fire that has destroyed their homes and lives.

After numerous vetoes on previous proposals, the council was finally able to pass a resolution earlier this week to allow UN monitors to be present to ensure the safe evacuation of residents from Aleppo and the security of medical and aid workers who are providing assistance.

Since 2011, draft resolutions were vetoed, which proposed, amongst other measures, bans on weapon transfers to Syria, an end to violence against civilians and a referral to the International Criminal Court for war crimes committed in Syria.

Canada’s role in helping refugees is commendable. We can play a further role by advocating for reform of the UN Security Council, so that no innocent person is left abandoned while their life is under threat.

A major change in the council is needed because it has failed to uphold its mission of human rights and justice.

The veto power has prevented action from being taken.

Many UN member countries support the idea of not using the veto in cases of mass atrocities. Other arguments are in favour of removing the veto power altogether, making decisions based on a supermajority, and increasing the number of seats for new permanent and non-permanent members so that the council is more representative of the world community.

Canada can help lead a movement for change on the world stage and reinvigorate advocacy on this very important issue, because the decisions of the security council can mean the difference between life and death for thousands of people.

Would the decision of a reformed UN Security Council prevent a country with a powerful military from acting unilaterally and disobeying the decision? Not necessarily.

But if other countries took strong action to prevent atrocities and violations of human rights, it would delegitimize the violator’s actions, and open it up to sanctions from many countries.

I hope and pray that 2017 is the year that brings peace in our world.

Japreet Lehal is a Simon Fraser University graduate pursuing a law degree. He writes monthly for Peace Arch News.