Reform of the United Nations Security Council
||This article is incomplete. (September 2012)|
Reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) encompasses five key issues: categories of membership, the question of the veto held by the five permanent members, regional representation, the size of an enlarged Council and its working methods, and the Security Council-General Assembly relationship. Member States, regional groups and other Member State interest groupings developed different positions and proposals on how to move forward on this contested issue.
The reform of the Security Council requires the agreement of at least two-thirds of UN member states, and that of all the permanent members of the UNSC enjoying the veto right.
- 1 History
- 2 General Assembly Task Force
- 3 Increasing membership
- 4 New permanent member proposals
- 5 Veto reform
- 6 Overall positions on reforming the Security Council
- 7 References
- 8 Further reading
- 9 External links
Even though the geopolitical realities have changed drastically since 1945, when the set-up of the current Council was decided, the Security Council has changed very little during this long period. The winners of Second World War shaped the Charter of the United Nations in their national interests, dividing the veto-power pertinent to the permanent seats amongst themselves. With the enlargement of the United Nations membership and increasing self-confidence among the new members, going hand in hand with processes of decolonization, old structures and procedures were increasingly challenged. The imbalance between the number of seats in the Security Council and the total number of member States became evident and the only significant reform of the Security Council came to pass in 1965 after the ratification of two-thirds of the membership, including the five permanent members of the Security Council (that have a veto right on Charter changes). The reform included an increase of the non-permanent membership from six to 10 members. With Boutros Boutros-Ghali elected as Secretary-General in 1992, the reform discussions of the UN Security Council were launched again as he started his new term with the first-ever summit of the Security Council and thereafter published "An Agenda for Peace". His motivation was to restructure the composition and anachronistic procedures of the UN organ recognizing the changed world.
By 1992, Japan and Germany had become the second and third largest financial contributors to the United Nations and started to demand a permanent seat. Also Brazil (fifth largest country in terms of territory) and India (second largest country in terms of population) as the most powerful countries within their regional groups and key players within their regions saw themselves with a permanent seat. This group of four countries formed an interest group later known as the G4.
On the other hand their regional rivals were opposed to the G4 becoming permanent members with a veto power. They favored the expansion of the non-permanent category of seats with members to be elected on a regional basis. Italy, Pakistan, Mexico and Egypt started to form an interest group, known as the "Coffee Club" and later "Uniting for Consensus".
Simultaneously, the African Group started to demand two permanent seats for themselves, on the basis of historical injustices and the fact that a large part of the Council’s agenda is concentrated on the continent. Those two seats would be permanent African seats, that rotate between African countries chosen by the African group.
The existing permanent members, each holding the right of veto on Security Council reform, announced their positions reluctantly. The United States supported the permanent membership of Japan and India and a small number of additional non-permanent members. The United Kingdom and France essentially supported the G4 position, with the expansion of permanent and non-permanent members and the accession of Germany, Brazil, India and Japan to permanent member status, as well as an increase the presence by African countries on the Council. China supported the stronger representation of developing countries, voicing support for the Republic of India. Russia, India's long time friend and ally has also endorsed the fast-growing power's candidature to assume a seat of a permanent member on the Security Council.
General Assembly Task Force
The General Assembly Task Force on Security Council Reform has delivered a Report (on the question of equitable representation on and increase in the membership of the Security Council) recommending a compromise solution for entering intergovernmental negotiations on reform.
The report builds on existing transitional/intermediary approaches to suggest a "timeline perspective". The "timeline perspective" suggests that Member States begin by identifying the negotiables to be included in short-term intergovernmental negotiations. Crucial to the "timeline perspective" is the scheduling of a mandatory review conference—a forum for discussing changes to any reforms achieved in the near-term, and for revisiting negotiables that cannot be agreed upon now.
2005 Annan plan
On 21 March 2005, the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan called on the UN to reach a consensus on expanding the council to 24 members, in a plan referred to as "In Larger Freedom". He gave two alternatives for implementation, but did not specify which proposal he preferred.
The two options mentioned by Annan are referred to as Plan A and Plan B:
- Plan A calls for creating six new permanent members, plus three new nonpermanent members for a total of 24 seats in the council.
- Plan B calls for creating eight new seats in a new class of members, who would serve for four years, subject to renewal, plus one nonpermanent seat, also for a total of 24.
In any case, Annan favored making the decision quickly, stating, "This important issue has been discussed for too long. I believe member states should agree to take a decision on it—preferably by consensus, but in any case before the summit—making use of one or other of the options presented in the report of the High-Level Panel".
The summit mentioned by Annan is the September 2005 Millennium+5 Summit, a high level plenary meeting that reviewed Annan's report, the implementation of the 2000 Millennium Declaration, and other UN reform-related issues.
Uniting for Consensus
On 26 July 2005, five UN member countries, Italy, Argentina, Canada, Colombia and Pakistan, representing a larger group of countries called Uniting for Consensus, proposed to the General Assembly another project that maintains five permanent members and raises the number of non-permanent members to 20. On 11 April 2005 China "embraced"[clarification needed] this initiative.
New permanent member proposals
|“||The U.N. Security Council reform, being debated since two decades is too long overdue and the necessary expansion must be made considering how much the world has changed.||”|
One proposed change is to admit more permanent members. The candidates usually mentioned are Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan. They comprise the group of G4 nations, mutually supporting one another's bids for permanent seats. The United Kingdom, France and Russia support G4 membership in the U.N. Security Council. This sort of reform has traditionally been opposed by the Uniting for Consensus group, which is composed primarily of nations who are regional rivals and economic competitors of the G4. The group is led by Italy and Spain (opposing Germany), Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina (opposing Brazil), Pakistan (opposing India), and South Korea (opposing Japan), in addition to Turkey, Indonesia and others. Since 1992, Italy and other members of the group have instead proposed semi-permanent seats or the expansion of the number of temporary seats.
Most of the leading candidates for permanent membership are regularly elected onto the Security Council by their respective groups: Japan and Brazil were elected for nine two-year terms each, and Germany for three terms. India has been elected to the council seven times in total, with the most recent successful bid being in 2010 after a gap of almost twenty years since 1991–92.
As of 2013, the current "P5" members of the Security Council, along with the G4, account for eight of the world's ten largest defense budgets, according to SIPRI. They also account for 9 of the 10 largest economies by both nominal GDP and Purchasing Power Parity GDP.
Brazil is the largest country in Latin America in terms of population, GDP and land area. It has the fifth largest population, seventh largest GDP, eleventh largest defence budget, and has the fifth largest land area. It is one of only five countries that ranks among the top ten globally in terms of physical size, population, and GDP – the others being the United States, Russia, the People's Republic of China, and India all permanent members of the UNSC except for India, which is in G4. Furthermore, with Africa and Oceania, South America is one of three inhabited continents without permanent representation on the Security Council.
Brazil has been elected ten times to the Security Council. It has contributed troops to UN peacekeeping efforts in the Middle East, the former Belgian Congo, Cyprus, Mozambique, Angola, and more recently East Timor and Haiti. Brazil is one of the main contributors to the UN regular budget. Prior to the UN's founding in 1946, Franklin D. Roosevelt lobbied for Brazil to be included on the Security Council, but the UK and the Soviet Union refused.
The United States sent strong indications to Brazil that it was willing to support its membership; albeit, without a veto. In June 2011, the Council on Foreign Relations recommended that the US government fully endorse the inclusion of Brazil as a permanent member of the Security Council. Brazil has received backing from other permanent members: Russia, the United Kingdom and France, and from the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), Chile, Indonesia, Finland, Slovenia, Australia, South Africa, Guatemala, Vietnam and the Philippines, as well as from the other G4 nations, who mutually support each other.
|Quick Comparison of G4 and P5 Members|
|Brazil||G4||203,750,000 (5th)||$2,353 (7th)||2.934% (10th)||$34.7 (10th)||318,480 (14th)||NO|
|Germany||G4||80,783,000 (16th)||$3,859 (4th)||7.141% (3rd)||$44.2 (8th)||182,620 (28th)||NO3|
|India||G4||1,265,570,000 (2nd)||$2,049 (9th)||0.666% (27th)||$36.3 (9th)||1,325,000 (3rd)||YES|
|Japan||G4||127,070,000 (10th)||$4,616 (3rd)||10.833% (2nd)||$51.0 (7th)||247,764 (21st)||NO|
|China||P5||1,367,730,000 (1st)||$10,380 (2nd)||5.148% (6th)||$122.2 (2nd)||2,285,000 (1st)||YES|
|France||P5||66,100,000 (20th)||$2,846 (6th)||5.593% (4th)||$52.4 (6th)||215,019 (24th)||YES|
|Russia||P5||146,300,000 (9th)||$1,857 (10th)||2.438% (11th)||$68.2 (3rd)||766,000 (5th)||YES|
|UK||P5||64,105,654 (22nd)||$3,056 (5th)||5.179% (5th)||$57.0 (5th)||191,410 (27th)||YES|
|US||P5||320,213,000 (3rd)||$17,418 (1st)||22.00% (1st)||$600.4 (1st)||1,369,532 (2nd)||YES|
|1US$ billions 2Percent contributed to total UN budget 3Takes part in NATO nuclear weapons sharing agreement|
Germany is the third largest contributor to the U.N. regular budgets next to Japan, and as such, argues for a permanent Security Council seat. Germany has been elected to the Security Council as a non-permanent member three times as a unified state, as well as three times when it was divided (twice for the West, once for the East).
France has explicitly called for a permanent seat in the UN for its close EU partner: "Germany's engagement, its ranking as a great power, its international influence—France would like to see them recognised with a permanent seat on the Security Council", French president Jacques Chirac said in a speech in Berlin in 2000. The former German Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, also identified Russia, among other countries, as a country that backed Germany's bid. Former President Fidel V. Ramos of the Philippines also expressed his country's support for Germany's bid, together with Japan's. Italy and Netherlands on the contrary, suggest a common European Union (E.U.) seat in the Council instead of Germany becoming the third European member next to France and the UK. The former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said that Germany would also accept a common European seat, but as long as there is little sign that France and the UK will give up their own seats, Germany should also have a seat.
The German campaign for a permanent seat was intensified in 2004. Schröder made himself perfectly clear in August 2004: "Germany has the right to a seat." Its bid is supported by Japan, India, Brazil, France, the United Kingdom and Russia, among other countries. Current German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who had initially been quiet on the issue, re-stated Germany's bid in her address to the UN General Assembly in September 2007. In July 2011, Merkel's trip to Kenya, Angola, and Nigeria was thought to be motivated, in part, by the goal of seeking support from African countries for Germany's bid for a permanent seat on the Security Council.
India which joined the U.N. in 1945 is the second largest and one of the largest constant contributors of troops to United Nations Peacekeeping missions. Foreign Policy magazine states that, "India's international identity has long been shaped by its role in U.N. peacekeeping, with more than 100,000 Indian troops having served in U.N. missions during the past 50 years. Today, India has over 8,500 peacekeepers in the field, more than twice as many as the U.N.'s five big powers combined." In supporting India's bid for a permanent seat on an enlarged Security Council last November, US President Barack Obama cited "India's long history as a leading contributor to United Nations peacekeeping mission". India has been elected seven times to the UN Security Council. Most recently India was elected to serve in UNSC from 2011 to 2012 as it had received 188 of the 190 total votes.
The country currently has the world's second largest population and is the world's largest liberal democracy. It is also the world's tenth largest economy by nominal GDP and third largest by purchasing power parity. Currently, India maintains the world's third largest active armed force and is a nuclear weapon state. India and Japan are only two states among G4 that have an independent capability to place satellites in orbit, including production of the necessary launch vehicle. The International Herald Tribune has stated: "Clearly, a seat for India would make the body more representative and democratic. With India as a member, the Council would be a more legitimate and thus a more effective body..." Thomas Friedman of the New York Times, said: "Sometimes I wish that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council could be chosen...with a vote by the fans... Then the perm-five would be Russia, China, India, Britain and the United States. That’s more like it. India is the world’s biggest democracy, the world's largest Hindu nation and the world's second-largest Muslim nation."
India's bid for permanent member of UNSC is backed by permanent members namely France, Russia, the United Kingdom and United States, although the United States initially opposed India's candidacy on grounds of nuclear proliferation, as India has acquired nuclear weapons and not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. On 15 April 2011, China officially expressed its support for an increased Indian role at the United Nations, without explicitly endorsing India's Security Council ambitions. However, recently China has expressed its support for Indian candidacy as a permanent member of the Security Council if India revoked its support for Japanese candidacy,
Countries that explicitly and openly support India for UNSC permanent seat are – Armenia, Australia, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Brunei, Bulgaria, Cambodia,Chile, Croatia, Cuba, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ethiopia, Finland, Ghana, Guyana, Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Jamaica, Laos, Lesotho Liberia,Libya (under the Gaddafi government), Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Micronesia, Mongolia, Morocco, Myanmar, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Palau, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Qatar, Senegal, Singapore,Slovakia, Suriname, Swaziland, Syria,[broken citation] Tajikistan, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia. As a whole, the African Union also supports India's candidacy for permanent member of UNSC.
Japan, which joined the UN in 1956, is the second largest contributor to the UN's regular budget. Its payments had surpassed the sum of those of the United Kingdom, France, China and Russia combined for nearly two decades before 2010. Japan has been one of the largest Official Development Assistance donor countries. Thus, Japan, along with India, are considered the most likely candidates for two of the new permanent seats. China has stated that it was ready to support India's move for a permanent seat on the UNSC if India did not associate its bid with Japan. This may be contrary to the Indian stand since Japan and India are both members of the G4 and support each other's candidature. Japan has been elected to the Security Council for ten terms as a non-permanent member.
While U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, speaking at Sophia University in Tokyo, said, "Japan has earned its honorable place among the nations of the world by its own effort and its own character. That's why the United States unambiguously supports a permanent seat for Japan on the United Nations Security Council." Her predecessor, Colin Powell, had objected to Japanese permanent membership because Article 9 of the Constitution of Japan forbids the country from going to war unless in self-defense.
||This section's representation of one or more viewpoints about a controversial issue may be unbalanced or inaccurate. (October 2013)|
Some other Asian nations have expressed support for Japan's application, including Mongolia, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and Vietnam—all major recipients of loan and/or foreign investment from Japan. The other G4 countries, Germany, Brazil, and India, who are also bidding for Security Council seats, along with France and the United Kingdom, also back Japan's bid. Australia, the Cook Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, Fiji, Kiribati, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, New Zealand, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu support Japan since Japan agreed to increase financial aid to the region, even though some of these countries are very concerned with Japanese whaling in the region.
For instance, Katsuyuki Kawai, then secretary for foreign affairs, member of the Japanese parliament, and special envoy to Nepal, was sent to Kathmandu to lobby for the Nepalese government's support for Japanese membership in the UNSC. Kawai met with King Gyanendra and told the press, "If Japan loses its bid this time, Japanese people will think the support Japan has been providing to the world for the last 60 years has been futile." Japan donates significantly to Nepal.
Membership of a Muslim-majority nation
||This section possibly contains original research. (May 2015)|
Since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the partitions of the Middle East by the victors of the First World War, the predominantly Muslim Middle East has been an area of persistent international conflict, and the periodic flare-ups in the region have been the subject of many UN Security Council debates and resolutions. Therefore, the prospect of introducing a permanent Islamic member to the security council is highly sensitive, especially if such a member were to be granted the power of veto. Outside the Muslim world, commentators have raised concerns that a veto-wielding Islamic member could use it to restrict the UN's ability to act forcefully in the Middle East or on the boundaries of the Islamic world, rendering the UN impotent in those regions.
At the same time, the draft G4 reform proposals may leave over 1.7 billion Muslims worldwide (which is not limited only in the Middle East, and includes areas from West Africa to Southeast Asia) without any permanent representation on the UN security council. This is a highly controversial issue within the Islamic world and might adversely impact the UN's credibility in portions of the Middle East and in the Islamic world. In June 2005, the foreign ministers of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC) called for a permanent Muslim seat on the UN Security Council.
Recent resistance to the reform draft proposals emanating from the G4 states can be attributed in part to this highly sensitive issue. The US and several Western states[which?] have objected to any proposal that gives new members any veto powers, and, within the African Union, Egypt has led resistance to a proposal by Nigeria to adopt a version of the G4 proposals that removes the right of veto for new members, and may enable the creation of a reformed council that does not have any permanent members with a predominantly Muslim identity.
Another reason given in opposition to the inclusion of an Islamic nation is the religious aspect to which it is linked. Other religious nations might also request to be provided with permanent membership in the name of religion, nations with large populations of Buddhists.
Currently, no country in Africa has a permanent seat on the Security Council. Although no one nation from Africa has formally been put forward as a candidate for membership on the Security Council, Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, South Africa, and Nigeria are seen as the strongest choices. Algeria has gained a great deal of respect for its neutrality over the years and its great commitment to African development; Egypt has the biggest military on the continent, was one of the founding members of the United Nations and enjoys great influence in Africa and in the Arab world; Ethiopia was also one of the founding members of the United Nations and holds the seat of the African Union Commission; South Africa has the second largest economy on the continent; and Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa and consistently contributes large numbers of troops to UN peacekeeping operations.
The UNSC "power of veto" is frequently cited as a major problem within the UN. By wielding their veto power (established by Chapter IV of the United Nations Charter), any of the UNSC's five permanent members can prevent the adoption of any (non-"procedural") UNSC draft resolution not to their liking. Even the mere threat of a veto may lead to changes in the text of a resolution, or it being withheld altogether (the so-called "pocket veto"). As a result, the power of veto often prevents the Council from acting to address pressing international issues and affords the "P5" great influence within the UN institution as a whole.
For example, the Security Council passed no resolutions on most major Cold War conflicts, including the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, the Vietnam War, and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Resolutions addressing more current problems, such as the conflict between Israel and Palestine and Iran's suspected development of nuclear weapons, are also heavily influenced by the veto, actual or threatened. Additionally, the veto applies to the selection of the UN's Secretary-General, as well as any amendments to the UN Charter, giving the P5 great influence over these processes.
Discussions on improving the UN's effectiveness and responsiveness to international security threats often include reform of the UNSC veto. Proposals include: limiting the use of the veto to vital national security issues; requiring agreement from multiple states before exercising the veto; and abolishing the veto entirely. However, any reform of the veto will be very difficult. Articles 108 and 109 of the United Nations Charter grant the P5 veto over any amendments to the Charter, requiring them to approve of any modifications to the UNSC veto power that they themselves hold.
Overall positions on reforming the Security Council
According to a formal statement by the U.S. Department of State:
The United States is open to UN Security Council reform and expansion, as one element of an overall agenda for UN reform. We advocate a criteria-based approach under which potential members must be supremely well qualified, based on factors such as: economic size, population, military capacity, commitment to democracy and human rights, financial contributions to the UN, contributions to UN peacekeeping, and record on counterterrorism and nonproliferation. We have to look, of course, at the overall geographic balance of the Council, but effectiveness remains the benchmark for any reform.
According to a formal statement by President of the United States Barack Obama in an address to a Joint Session of the Parliament of India:
We salute India’s long history as a leading contributor to United Nations peacekeeping missions. And we welcome India as it prepares to take its seat on the United Nations Security Council. As two global leaders, the United States and India can partner for global security—especially as India serves on the Security Council over the next two years. Indeed, the just and sustainable international order that America seeks includes a United Nations that is efficient, effective, credible and legitimate. That is why I can say today, in the years ahead, I look forward to a reformed United Nations Security Council that includes India as a permanent member. The United Nations exists to fulfill its founding ideals of preserving peace and security, promoting global cooperation, and advancing human rights. These are the responsibilities of all nations, but especially those that seek to lead in the 21st century. And so we look forward to working with India—and other nations that aspire to Security Council membership—to ensure that the Security Council is effective; that resolutions are implemented, that sanctions are enforced; that we strengthen the international norms which recognize the rights and responsibilities of all nations and all individuals.
United Kingdom and France
The United Kingdom and France hold similar views on reform to the United Nations Security Council. According to a formal statement made by 10 Downing Street:
Reform of the UNSC, both its enlargement and the improvement of its working methods, must therefore succeed. We reaffirm the support of our two countries for the candidacies of Germany, Brazil, India and Japan for permanent membership, as well as for permanent representation for Africa on the Council. We regret that negotiations towards this goal remain in deadlock and are therefore ready to consider an intermediate solution. This could include a new category of seats, with a longer term than those of the current elected members and those terms would be renewable; at the end of an initial phase, it could be decided to turn these new types of seats into permanent ones. We will work with all our partners to define the parameters of such a reform. UNSC reform requires a political commitment from the member states at the highest level. We will work in this direction in the coming months with a view to achieving effective reform.
— Part of a joint UK-France Summit Declaration—27 March 2008
The UN must rationally adapt itself to new world realities. It should also strengthen its influence and preserve its multinational nature and integrity of the UN Charter provisions. The reform of the UN Security Council is an essential component of its revitalization. The time has come to speed up the search for a compromise formula of its expansion and increased efficiency of its work.
— Dmitry Medvedev, 23 September 2009
As per the official website of India's Permanent Mission to UN:
Activities of the Security Council have greatly expanded in the past few years. The success of Security Council's actions depends upon political support of the international community. Any package for restructuring of the Security Council should, therefore, be broad-based. In particular, adequate presence of developing countries is needed in the Security Council. Nations of the world must feel that their stakes in global peace and prosperity are factored into the UN's decision making. Any expansion of permanent members' category must be based on an agreed criteria, rather than be a pre-determined selection. There must be an inclusive approach based on transparent consultations. India supports expansion of both permanent and non-permanent members' category. The latter is the only avenue for the vast majority of Member States to serve on the Security Council. Reform and expansion must be an integral part of a common package.
— India's Permanent Mission to UN
It is common knowledge that the United Nations is often unable to exert an effective influence on global economic and political issues of critical importance. This is due to its what may be called as "democracy deficit", which prevents effective multilateralism, a multilateralism that is based on a democratically-evolved global consensus. Therefore, reform and restructuring of the United Nations system can alone provide a crucial link in an expanding chain of efforts to refashion international structures, imbuing them with a greater degree of participatory decision-making, so as to make them more representative of contemporary realities. The expansion of the Security Council, in the category of both permanent and non-permanent members, and the inclusion of countries like India as permanent members, would be a first step in the process of making the United Nations a truly representative body.
— Dr. Manmohan Singh, 23 September 2004
The United Nations has spent 15 years discussing the reform of its Security Council. Today’s structure has been frozen for six decades and does not relate to the challenges of today’s world. Its distorted form of representation stands between us and the multilateral world to which we aspire. Therefore I am much encouraged by the General Assembly’s decision to launch negotiations in the near future on the reform of the Security Council.
— Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, 23 September 2008
According to a formal statement by South Africa's International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane speaking in the South African parliament in Cape Town:
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) urgently requires reform to rectify inequitable power relations. We reiterate that the reform of the UNSC is urgent and would go a long way in rectifying inequitable power relations within the Security Council.
— Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, 1 June 2011
The 15-member Security Council must be enlarged so that it is more representative, transparent and efficient. In our view it is illogical that countries like Brazil or India that have today an irreplaceable economic and political role are still not permanent members of the Security Council. Africa also deserves consideration to take due account of the remarkable political and economic progresses that we have witnessed in that vast continent.
— José Sócrates, September 2010
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