Is the Successful Reform of the United Nations Security Council Possible or Desirable?

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Is the Successful Reform of the United Nations Security Council Possible or Desirable?

Reform of the United Nations Security Council has the support of the majority of the member states; theoretically, there is consensus on the issue. Ideas for reform include expansion of the number of permanent members of the Security Council and extending the veto powers currently held by the permanent members. However, this consensus has so far proved illusory, because agreement only exists in a vague form. When the debate is teased out it emerges that there is a lot of differing views on what reforms should take place and which states they should include.

This essay aims to argue that UNSC reform is not possible because no consensus exists on who enlargement should include and whether the P-5 should remain the only veto holders. It is the intention of this essay to tiptoe through this political minefield and ultimately to argue that the Security Council must become more representative – that more members should be admitted to better reflect the world and the diverse opinions therein. The purpose of the United Nations is to bring the states of the world together in one place to resolve international issues and there can be no greater issue than that of security; it is imperative that the UNSC reflects world opinion not a minority of states.

The proposed ideas for reform are mainly concerning expansion of the UNSC’s membership. It is argued by many that the power wielded by the P-5 is disproportionate and that this does not fairly reflect the world. As Kofi Annan stated: “in the eyes of much of the world, the size and composition of the Security Council appear insufficiently representative.” (Annan 2002, quoted by Fassbender 2004, p.341). Latin America, Africa and large parts of Asia and the Caribbean all lack a permanent member and that leaves these regions underrepresented in terms of UNSC security policy. It is felt that permanent membership and crucially the veto should be extended to states from these regions of the world. That no longer should the P-5 have such a crucial say in the security of the world, that these powers should be opened up to other states in other parts of the world. The other criticisms of the UNSC P-5 are that although they were the preminent powers in 1945 this is no longer the case. This criticism largely falls upon the UK and France and Russia who in 1945 were global empires but now longer are nowhere near as powerful and influential as they used to be. That there are now many states in the world that can equal the economic and military powers of the UK, France and Russia. It is argued that the UNSC should better represent the great powers of today rather than those of over sixty years ago.

There is some consensus and support for the idea of expansion. However, many states put forward provisos with their messages of support. The United States is concerned that new members should be economically powerful with a large population and has a solid history in terms of democracy and human rights. The joint British-French statement argued the need for representation for Africa and quizzically did not put forward an African candidate and instead named their choices; Germany, Brazil, India and Japan (Joint UK- France Declaration, 2008). India expressed the need for the UNSC to also include developing states and that increase of permanent and non-permanent members was necessary. (India and the United Nations; UN Reform.) Brazil argued that the UNSC does not represent today’s world and the limited number of states in its current composition was not a multilateral approach. The debate about veto reform is a non event as none of the P-5 will accept any reform to their veto rights (Rath, 2006, p.59). There does not seem any way the P-5 could be stripped off the veto without their compliance and without a fundamental change in attitude, veto reform is impossible.

The question of who should become new...
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