REFORMING THE UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL: CHALLENGES AND PROSPECTS
This study examines the prospects for and challenges against reforming the UN Security Council based on the 2005 Reform Proposal and the three main reactions that followed (the G4, the UFC and the AU Proposals). The findings are based on review and analysis of relevant secondary sources in the main.
The study found that the Security Council is in need of reform since it lacks representativeness in its membership, accountability, transparency and democracy in its working methods compounded by the anachronistic nature of veto power. Almost all member states of the UN agreed on the need for reform so as to enable the Council to reflect the 21st century realties rather than the period right after the end of the WWII.
However, they could not come up with one common proposal to this end. Countries give precedence to their national interests rather than genuinely striving to bring about changes in the Council’s mode of operation. It is due to this that three major proposals came to the fore following the 2005 Reform Proposal.
All the proposals examined by this study advanced their respective positions on how to reform the membership and working methods of the Council and veto power.
This lack of unanimity greatly hampers the effort of reforming the Council. The study showed that bringing changes in the membership and veto power of the Council require amending the UN Charter, which is really impossible even to go beyond the first step of gaining two-thirds majority in the General Assembly (128 out of the current 192 UN member states) under a condition in which member states are divided on the issue.
In addition, the position of the Permanent Five is an insurmountable impediment in the attempt to amend the Charter since the opposition of one permanent member curtails the effort. This indicates that the position of the permanent members is a cornerstone in reforming the Security Council.
Even if the permanent members support to reform the Council, it is nominal since they put various criteria on how to bring about reform so as to keep their own interests. In this respect, the feasibility of the proposals which call for reforming membership category and veto power is farfetched. Meanwhile, there is the possibility to effect changes in the working methods of the Council since doing so does not require the awkward process of amending the UN Charter. Finally, the study comes up with the conclusion that it is unlikely to reform the membership of the Council particularly the permanent category and veto power in the near future.
The United Nations (UN) was setup after the end of the Second World War (WWII) in 1945 to replace its ill-fated predecessor, the League of Nations. It was founded with the aim of protecting succeeding generations from the scourge of war on the basis of the principle of collective security. Unlike the League of Nations which collapsed after existing for two decades, the UN stayed more than half a century without serious threat through out these years (Khanna, 2004:390).
The Charter of UN, which was signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945 (came to force on October 24, 1945), provided six principal organs. These are: the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the Secretariat, and the Trusteeship Council. The Trusteeship Council lost its relevance after the process of decolonization was completed (Ibid: 383 and UN Charter, Article 7(1)).
Among the organs of UN, the Security Council is the most powerful organ. It has the responsibility for maintenance of international peace and security and it passes resolutions binding on member states. The Permanent Five, namely China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US) wield significant power through their exercise of veto, which includes other privileges such as filling positions in the major UN Secretariat posts, the ICJ, and other decision making bodies of the organization (Kugel, 2009:2).
The Security Council suffers from a quadruple legitimacy deficit in terms of performance, representation, procedural arrangements and accountability. Its performance legitimacy suffers from two angles like an uneven and selective track record. It is unrepresentative from almost any point of view, since only few members of the organization play leading roles.