Yuba Nath Lamsal
Otherwise far apart on several international issues, the UN member states have one thing in common—the reforms. This view was explicitly and more loudly expressed in the 65th United Nations General Assembly, which is underway in currently New York, than ever before. From Algeria to Albania, Mongolia to Mozambique and China to Chile, all member states have one voice that the world body needed vigorous reforms in order to make the United Nations more representative, legitimate and efficient so that it can play more effectively its essential role in resolving the global challenges ranging from financial crisis to peace and security to climate change.
However, the disagreements on its institutional modalities, regional rivalries and some structural and bureaucratic hurdles have dogged the much-vaunted agenda of UN reforms. Although the member states are demanding reforms in the United Nations organizational structure for the last 20 years, they are not unanimous on the single model and the modus operandi for the structural change and reforms of the global organization. This demonstrates the fact that the genuine reforms in the United Nations is still far away from realization.
The reforms in the United Nation was long felt and demanded. However, it was not put forth so vocally and strongly as it was done in the in the 65th General Assembly. But members have their own agenda and modalities of reform. The core of the demand is the structural and representational reforms in the Security Council (SC), the main executive organ of the United Nations. Despite the United Nations being the world body, its functions, as it seems, do not reflect multilaterism in genuine sense due mainly to the composition and power structure of the Security Council.
The 15 member-Security Council has two types of membership—permanent and temporary. The five permanent members are United States of America, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China. The rest are non permanent members that are elected by the General Assembly for two –year term with no power to influence the decision of the UNSC. The decisions of the United Nations are influenced by the five permanent members of the Security Council wielded with veto power.
The present structure of the Security Council is not democratic and judicious. The permanent members hold the decision making power in the form of veto, with which they manipulate its decisions. The Security Council obviously cannot take any decision that is against the will and interest of the five permanent members mainly because of their veto power. The non-permanent members are just there to endorse what the permanent members decide.
Countries like Japan, Brazil and Germany want enlargement of the Security Council so that their chances of being included as the permanent member would be high. At the same time, some regional groups are demanding the seats for the regional groups in the Security Council. The ASIAN, OPEC, SAARC, African Union and South American groups are pursuing vigorously for their permanent representation.
Given the present structure of the UNSC, the representation of all five continents has not been even and judicial. Europe has three permanent members—Russia, the United Kingdom and France—whereas Africa and South America have none. This system was devised more than six decades ago when the international scenario was completely different. Now the world has undergone a sea change. The world body also has to be changed in line with the new pattern and order that have evolved in the present day world. The Security Council needs to be restructured in order to ensure equal representation of all continents and people in the world on equitable and judicious manner.
When the United Nations was mooted and founded, the World War II had just been over. The Allied force had won the war. The powers of that time especially the ones that emerged victorious in the World War II decided the modalities of the United Nations. In other way, the United Nations was created as an international luxury club of the allied forces during the World War II. In the World War II, the United Kingdom, United States of America, France and Russia were in one camp that defeated Germany, Japan and Italy. In the post war world order, the victors set the tone and agenda in the international order which was also reflected in the structure of the United Nations. The victors of the war created the United Nations and incorporated the provisions in which they are well placed and have better say in the decision making process of the world body whereas the rest of the world would revolve around them. Otherwise, there should be no justification behind the provision of having three permanent members from a single continent whereas depriving the other continents of their due representation.
The United Kingdom was the global power whose colonies expanded far and wide in the world. As a superpower of that period, it was natural for the United Kingdom to have its secured place in the Security Council with veto power. The inclusion of the USA in the Security Council can be duly justified as it represents the North American continent. Russia was given the permanent seat because it represented the communist and socialist bloc in the world. The seat of permanent member of the Security Council was given to France to represent the vast majority of Francophone countries mostly in Africa which were either French colonies or under influence of France. China's seat in the Security Council is for the representation of Asian continent and also for the one fifth of the world's population.
Although defeated in the war, Japan and Germany were the powers to reckon with. But their role was not recognized and they were not given due place in the World Body but treated like any other states in the world, which may not be justified. Since they were defeated in wars, the victors treated Germany and Japan so badly that they were forced to accept any decisions made by the victors. Japan and Germany were compelled to remain under the security umbrella of the victors.
The international situation has changed drastically. The post World War II international scenario no longer exists at present. The divided Germany has now been unified. Both Japan and Germany have emerged as the economic powers. The United Kingdom is no longer a global power but acting just like an extended arm of the United States. Soviet Union was disintegrated into several countries. Russia is exercising the permanent seat of the Security Council as an inheritor of the Soviet Union. Russia is no longer a communist or a socialist country and does not represent the socialist bloc. Just being a part of the erstwhile Soviet Union, Russia cannot be the successor of the Socialist Soviet union. France, too, does not represent the entire Francophone countries. Against this backdrop, the question of rationality regarding the permanent membership of the United Kingdom, France and Russia is being raised seriously worldwide. Now Germany deserves place in the Security Council more than UK, France and Russia.
Africa is rising vibrantly and the African countries have already started asserting their legitimate share and say in the United Nations' decision-making process. It is an injustice to Africa to deprive permanent seat in the Security Council. Moreover, more than 50 per cent issues that the Security Council deals are pertaining to the African continents. Similarly, South America, too, is feeling pinch of being alienated in the UN decision-making process. Brazil, which is an emerging global power, has already started asserting its share in the UN Security Council to represent South American continent.
The organizational and power structure of the United Nation also needs to be reformed and changed to cope with new realities. As long as the present composition of the United Nations Security Council continues, it, at all, will not represent the present geopolitical, geo-strategic and geo-economic realities. The first and the foremost job of the UN reform should be to change the Security Council's composition, representational system and structure. It has to either scrap the provision of veto power of permanent members or restructure the entire organization. Mere enlargement of the Security Council, as some countries are demanding, would not address the changed international realities. It has to be restructured in a way that genuine and deserving countries are given place in the Security Council as the permanent members with veto power whereas some countries that have lost relevance and validity to be permanent members should be released of their role.