The Great Power Balance, the United Nations and What the Framers Intended: In Partial Response to Hans Köchler

Posted: 4 Jul 2008

See all articles by C. L. Lim

C. L. Lim

The Chinese University of Hong Kong


This article is partly a reply to Professor Hans Köchler, who argues that the total absence of a balance of power has become the fundamental predicament of the United Nations Organization in the 21st century. He locates that problem in the veto power of the permanent five members, saying that it creates an irreconcilable normative contradiction with the doctrine of sovereign equality. On the contrary, this article takes a historical view and argues that the Framers of the United Nations (UN) Charter clearly saw the greater opportunity which greater power brings to oil the wheels of the machinery which they built. Choosing between a Security Council that could act unchecked and therefore decisively and one which evinces a separation of powers in its design, the Framers opted for the latter. The veto separates power. Finally, Professor Köchler argues that the UN has been marginalized in recent events. This article argues that his underlying assumption, that the shift in the global power balance of 1945 to the current unipolar imbalance of power automatically controverts the power balance envisioned in the Charter, is not wholly borne out. The Charter was not simply meant to reflect the actual patterns of global power outside the organization but was intended to foster an enduring understanding of the need to maintain a specific power balance. By putting the veto in several hands, the Framers have required the permanent five members to continuously negotiate and seek agreement among themselves. It is this which, in large part, explains observable attempts by even would-be transgressors today to bring their action within the framework of Charter legality.

Suggested Citation

Lim, C. L., The Great Power Balance, the United Nations and What the Framers Intended: In Partial Response to Hans Köchler. Chinese Journal of International Law, Vol. 6, Issue 2, pp. 307-328, 2007. Available at SSRN: or

C. L. Lim (Contact Author)

The Chinese University of Hong Kong ( email )

Shatin, N.T.
Hong Kong
Hong Kong

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