The reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has been of interest for a number of years and remains a significant topic. As one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, the Security Council is responsible for maintaining international peace and security (UN Charter: art. 24. 1). Over the years, the Security Council has worked to achieve their primary purpose of upholding international peace and security however it continues to be a symbol of a reality of global powers from 60 years ago and not today.
It is becoming out of step with the realities of the world and as new rising powers begin to emerge a better representation of the Security Council is needed. This essay will critically argue why the United Nations Security Council should be reformed and will provide solutions as to how reformation can be achieved. Established under the UN Charter, as one of the six principal organs the Security Council, held its first session on the 17th of January 1946 at Church House, Westminster, London. According to the UN Charter, the Security Council’s main purpose is to maintain peace and international security (UN Charter: art. 4. 1).
Although the Security Council has played its part, its lack of change continues to be a point of issue. The current Security Council is a snapshot in time from the late 1940s, it has failed to keep up with the geopolitical development of the world and this is why a reform is needed. In order to consider reforming the Security Council a key issue to be looked at is the lack of representation in the Council. Since its inception of 1946, the Security Council permanent members (known as the P5: United States of America, Britain, France, China and Russia) have remained identical.
It has been said that the P5 membership “reflects the power relations of 1945, not 2004” (New York Times, 7 December 2004). The matter of geopolitical representation in the Security Council is a critical concern as it brings into question the legitimacy, the effectiveness and the democratic nature of the body. Expansion of membership would be ideal within the Security Council as it is currently “a reflection of the constellation of powers of the end of World War II, which diminishes its legitimacy” (Daniel Trachsler, 2010).
Allocating new seats to four main regional areas; Africa, Asia, Pacific and Americas would be a regarded as a fair representation. The G4 nations (Brazil, India, German and Japan) are regarded as the strongest contenders to be considered part of the Security Council, permanent members. More specifically, India and Brazil have pushed to be part of the permanent members. As the world’s largest democracy, the second most populous nation as well as a nuclear power, India would be a key permanent member. Brazil on the other hand, is the largest, most populous and most prosperous nation in Latin America.
Incorporating Brazil and India would put two representatives from the “Global South” permanently on the Security Council. (Ed Hancox, 2012) Africa has also called for its share of power when it comes to reformation. It has requested that its largest Union, the African Union have a permanent seat on the UNSC along with one more permanent seat and two other non-permanent seats. Africa is the continent which has required the most UN assistance in the past and should have a seat on the Security Council. “The African Union (AU) with its 53 members tabled the third proposal.
The AU demands better representation for Africa” (Trachsler, 2010). By including India, Brazil and an African country as part of the Security Council permanent members, the body would represent a fair depiction of today’s current geopolitical development. The right of permanent members to veto proposed resolutions is a subject that continues to be a main concern. Achieving world order and peace, since its establishment, has been at the core of UNSC ideals. Successful achievement of such ideals has however in recent years eluded the UNSC.
One of the most imperative features of the UNSC lies in its procedural voting and even more importantly in the participation of the five permanent members within the council. It is through the active participation of the permanent members; Russia, United Kingdom, China, France and U. S. A, that conflict resolution and intervention occur however, this form and structure is one of the underlying factors for the recent failure of the UNSC (Archiburgi, 2005: 245). These members can and may single handedly veto any resolution proposed.
Not only have the permanent members within the UNSC failed to gain the moral support of the international society in recent events, but the manner in which these states have exercised their right to veto decisions has also exceeded the intention of the 1945 Charter. (Archiburgi, 1995: 121-152). The power to veto has become a superpower tool used as a display of economic and political supremacy and the proposed protection of lives and maintenance of peace comes second to all (Archiburgi, 1995:121-152).
It is characterized y an order of anarchy within the UNSC through which each member seeks to maintain their power while creating lasting allies with those who share common interests. The fact that permanent members not only veto a decision but are also not obliged to give detailed explanation pertaining to the reasons behind their decisions highlights the flaws in procedures within the UNSC. The Security Council has failed to exercise its main responsibility to protect those whose rights have been infringed upon and face great threats. On July 19th 2012, Russia and China vetoed resolutions put forward proposing sanctions against Syria.
The UNSC planned to establish a peace keeping operation named The United Nations Supervision Mission in Syria however, the unwillingness of Russia and China to commit to current resolutions not only means that countries such as Syria will continue to live in violent conditions but allows for the continuation of suffering and instability within Syria ( Rianovost 2012). This is a clear demonstration of the intrinsic value of economic and political power above that of moral responsibility. To improve the effectiveness and responsiveness to the international security reforming the veto voting system would be ideal.
Key solutions would include: limiting the use of the veto to vital national security issues, which would require agreement from multiple states before exercising the veto. Abolishing the veto entirely would be a crucial key resolution however the likeliness of that is slim. Humanitarian intervention regarding the Security Council has been a constant controversy over the years. The Security Council has intervened in numerous countries yet their lack of consistency as well as failure to meet their goals of ensuring international peace and security in certain countries is troubling. Nolls, 2013) The ongoing terrorist attacks in Somalia, are a significant example of failed intervention by the Security Council.
Although the Security Council has attempted to intervene in their attempts have been unsuccessful. The UNSC has failed to maintain disarmament of terrorist groups and restore the rule of law. On account of its failure to come up with a resolution to the problems that continue to prevail in Somalia, to this day the government has failed to re-establish peace and security. (Nolls, 2013) The Syrian civil war which began in March 2011 is another good case that illustrates he failure of the UNSC to intervene and introduce sanctions in order to ensure peace and security. According to the UN Charter, the Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to peace and decides where peacekeeping operations should be deployed. It is evident that the Security Council has not accomplished these goals regarding Syria.
Despite the fact that the country is characterised by a full-scale civil war and over sixty thousand people have been killed, the Security Council does not deem this as a threat to peace and security that needs immediate intervention. Nolls, 2013) (UN Charter: art. 24. 1). According to Michelle Nolls, numerous member states urged the Security Council to ensure accountability for the crimes that seem to have and continue to be committed in the Syrian Arab Republic and send a clear signal to the Syrian authorities. Regardless of this request and international cry for the Security Council to intervene, China and Russia blocked the resolution. These points back to the issue of veto power, which in this case prevented a resolution that could have saved thousands of lives and restored the country into order.
The use of the veto power exhibits the extent of authority the permanent members of the Security Council have and the abuse of such as a power and the pursuit of national interests rather than global security concerns. (Nolls, 2013) The Security Council’s inability to ensure international peace and security in not only the above mentioned states but others highlights its unreliability. Its failure to administer intervention in countries with such prevailing catastrophic conditions is the reason why it should be reformed.
It has failed to maintain its promise of being the international body that maintains global peace and security. (Nolls, 2013) Furthermore the lack of consideration regarding the views of non-permanent members proves how their power is in fact undermined due to the veto. The purpose of the Security Council reform is to enable it to better discharge its responsibility for maintaining international peace and security presented by the United Nations Charter. Priority should be given to the lack of representation of the developing countries. Membership of the Council should not be judged by the standard of national wealth.
Any method of reform that shows prejudice against the developing countries will not work. Measure should also be taken to improve the working methods of the Security Council, in order to better the efficiency and transparency of the Council’s work. (Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the UN 2013) The reform of the Security Council bears on the vital interests of every Members States. In this connection, every single reform proposal should be fully scrutinized by the United Nations Membership.
Efforts for expansion of the Council should not be bound by any imposed time. Permanent Mission of the People’s Republic of China to the UN, 2013) In conclusion, various UN failures have shown that a reformation of the Security Council is essential. Reforming the Security Council, will inevitably be a challenge however by reforming the body more states will be able to enjoy the benefits that only seem to be enjoyed by its permanent members. Change in the Security Council working methods is probably the most likely reform in the near future and has already shown some success. Improving the Security Council’s openness and transparency is without doubt a step in the right direction.
Courtney from Study Moose
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