THE STRUGGLE FOR A PERMANENT SEAT AT THE SECURITY COUNCIL
THE CONTESTANTS IN 2012
This work set out to investigate the struggle for Permanent Seats At The Security Council: A Critical Assessment of the Contestants in 2012. While observing that there exists a fundamental need to reform and enlarge both the membership and voting pattern in the Security Council in order to reflect geopolitical realities of the 21st Century by making both the organisation and the Security Council in particular to appear democratic while at the same time enhancing its efficiency and legitimacy around the world. It is noted that while all member states of the organisation accept this need and exigency, they however, differed on the modalities, nature and extent of the reform. Moreover, each of the major contestants though enjoys the support of one or the other of the members of the P5, but they at the same time faces opposition from major powers in their respective regions; thereby making the struggle a serious and arduous task. We however, in this study vehemently believe that the structure and composition of the United Nations Security Council must definitely be reformed and reorganized to reflect the wide and varied membership of the organisation. The theory of national interest was used as our framework for analysing the quest and struggles for permanent seat in the Security Council. Data for the study was gathered through observation of the secondary sources like books, journals, Internet, official documents et cetera. Our method of data analysis which involved giving a qualitative description to quantitative information brings simplicity and coherence to our work. Our recommendations were also anchored on the findings of our research work which was clearly articulated in our conclusion.
1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
The membership and structure of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) have been among the most controversial and intractable issues considered by UN member-states since the establishment of the organization in the mid-1940s (Article 23 of the United Nations Charters). Tillema (1989) opined that the importance of the UNSC, particularly the council’s permanent seats, stems largely from the status and prestige associated with its decision-making authority on questions of global peace and security. In fact, permanent membership is equated with “great power” status in the international political system.
As a consequence, it is perhaps not surprising that a number of emerging global and regional powers throughout the world – including Japan, Germany, India, Brazil, Indonesia, Nigeria, South Africa, and Egypt have sought permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council during the past few decades. However, Malik notes that, despite a tremendous amount of discussion and debate, there has been little consensus on the matter of United Nations Security Council restructuring, including to what extent the council ought to be enlarged, how many new permanent and non-permanent members ought to be added, whether the new members ought to be extended the veto privilege and which specific countries ought to be added as permanent members (Malik, 2005: 19).
Although much has been written about United Nations Security Council restructuring during the past decade from an institutional perspective, (Russett et al., 1996; Daws, 1997; Schlichtmann, 1999; Afoaku and Ukaga, 2001; Berween, 2002; Weiss, 2003; Thakur, 2004; Blum, 2005; Malik, 2005; Price, 2005; Soussan, 2005), there has been relatively little focus on the politics of seeking a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council from the perspective of an existing or emerging global or regional power.
Although the United Nations Security Council has been restructured only once in more than sixty years, there have been several attempts over the years to achieve this goal. As a result of several new UN member-states due to decolonization in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Spain and several Latin American countries proposed amendments to the UN Charter in 1956 to increase the number of non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council from six to eight (Bourantonis, 2005). He also notes that after several years of debate and disagreement, including the Soviet Union’s insistence on linking the issue of United Nations Security Council restructuring to the issue of mainland China’s membership in the UN, there was a “breakthrough” on the issue in the early 1960s. In December 1963, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) formally approved amendments increasing non-permanent seats from six to ten, and the amendments were ratified by the required number of member-states in 1965 (Afoaku and Ukaga, 2001; Weiss, 2003; Blum, 2005).
As a result of continued decolonization, overall membership in the UN continued to grow significantly from the mid-1960s to the late-1970s. At the same time, developing countries were increasingly dissatisfied with the abuse of the veto power by the permanent members and the lack of “equitable representation” for Asian and African countries on the various councils of the UN. Bourantonis (2005) noted that consequent upon this scenario, India and several developing countries proposed amendments to the UN Charter in 1979 to increase the number of non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) from 11 to 14. “In 1980, several African, Asian, and Latin American countries proposed increasing the number of non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council from 10 to 16” (Blum, 2005: 637). But as noted by Archibugi (1993) unlike the previous effort to restructure the United Nations Security Council in the early 1960s, these subsequent efforts were unsuccessful largely because of heightened tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during this period.
With the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, there was renewed interest in restructuring the United Nations Security Council to reflect the changes in the international political system (Russett, et al., 1996; Drifte, 2000; Miyashita, 2002). In December 1992, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) approved a resolution sponsored by India calling upon the United Nations Secretary-General to invite member-states to submit proposals for United Nations Security Council reform, resulting in proposals from some 80 countries (Drifte, 2000). A year later, the United Nations General Assembly established an “Open-Ended Working Group” to consider the proposals for United Nations Security Council reform (Daws, 1997; Price, 2005; Schlichtmann, 1999; Bourantonis, 2005). Several options for United Nations Security Council restructuring were among the proposals submitted to the working group, including a proposal by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) calling for an increase in permanent seats from five to nine and non-permanent seats from ten to seventeen (Berween, 2002).
In 1995, the United Nations General Assembly approved the Declaration on the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations, which stated the United Nations Security Council should be “expanded and its working methods continue to be reviewed in a way that will further strengthen its capacity and effectiveness, enhance its representative character, and improve its working efficiency and transparency” (Schlichtmann, 1999:510). Two years later, UN Ambassador Ismael Razali of Malaysia proposed adding five permanent seats (without veto power) and four non-permanent seats to the United Nations Security Council.
The Razali Plan, which permitted the United Nations General Assembly to choose the countries to be given permanent seats, was ultimately blocked by members of the NAM, as well as countries such as Italy, Egypt, Mexico, and Pakistan (Bourantonis, 2005).
After a decade of intense debate on UN reform, the then Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan established a 16-member high-level panel in 2003 to evaluate and recommend specific options. In 2004, the panel proposed two different options for United Nations Security Council restructuring: (1) six new permanent seats without veto power and three additional non-permanent seats; and (2) eight four-year renewable seats and one additional non-permanent seat (Blum, 2005; Price, 2005). After debating these and other options for United Nations Security Council reform during much of 2005, the United Nations General Assembly was unable to come to a consensus on how to restructure the council. Such that Brazil’s UN Ambassador Ronaldo Mota Sardenberg expressed frustration with the outcome of the debate by stating that a “few countries, seeking to avoid any decision on this matter, take refuge on claims for consensus and on allegations on the disruptive nature of the issue” and that the actions of these countries “only contribute to the perpetuation of current inequalities in the structure of the organization, and to the frustration of the aspirations of all members, for a more balanced distribution of power in the work of the Security Council.”
On this background therefore, this study seeks to investigate the prospect of the contestant for the United Nations Security Council’s permanent seat; with focus on Nigeria and other contestants such as Japan, Germany, India, Brazil, Egypt and South Africa etc.
1.2 STATEMENT OF PROBLEM
There has been general agreement over time that the Security Council is an unrepresentative relic and that its composition is a throwback to the immediate Post-World War II global order. Several recommendations for expanding the Council have been proposed since the end of the Cold War. For instance, the Commission on Global Governance recommended establishing a new class of five…
standing members, the intent of which would be to reduce the status of permanent membership; increasing the number of “non-permanent” members from ten to thirteen; and eliminating the veto, except for very exceptional and overriding circumstances related to the national interests of the major powers (Knight, 2005:106).
According to the theory of cognitive dissonance, our minds find it taxing to hold two mutually inconsistent beliefs for a protracted period (Evanston and Row, 1957). The mind seeks to reconcile them over time, if necessary by substantially modifying one of them or by denying its validity altogether in order to relieve the dissonance. Politics, of course, holds innumerable examples of the phenomenon.
At the United Nations, there may be no starker case than that of the protracted and polarizing matter of Security Council reform. On one hand, judging by public statements, it is generally accepted that the Security Council is long overdue for a major overhaul. The calls for its radical reform have come with such frequency and from so many quarters, as to qualify as common wisdom.
In this connection Japan and Germany, the second- and third-biggest contributors to the UN budget, have been campaigning for permanent seat status on the Council. India, the world’s second most populous country, and Brazil, Latin America’s biggest country, also have designs on achieving permanent status on the Council. These four states have banded together to press their case before the UN membership, and they are joined in spirit by the Africans, who want two seats for their continent (perhaps Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa).
None of these proposals for UN Security Council expansion is likely to go far. However, China mistrusts Japan. Italy opposes a permanent seat for Germany and has instead proposed a single permanent seat for the European Union. This latter recommendation is opposed by Britain and France who would have to give up their permanent seats under that scenario. Under the current charter, regional bodies are not UN members and would therefore be ineligible for seats on the Council. Mexico and Argentina oppose Brazil’s quest for a permanent seat on the Council, and Pakistan opposes India’s bid.
The implications of the preceding analysis is that the United Nations Security Council, which is seen as the key organ of the United Nations charged with the responsibility of ensuring international peace and security are both technically and procedurally dominated by the winners of Second World War who shaped the Charter of the United Nations in their national interests, dividing the veto-power pertinent to the permanent seats amongst themselves; thereby giving the council the character of inequity, undemocratic, unrepresentative of the races of world, unaccountable et cetera to the larger world community that make up the organization.
It is in order to address this anomaly that scholars such as Chopra, (2001), Beigbeder, (1994), Rourke (2002), Canton, (1986), Barry (2003), Kegley (1985), Roskin (1993), Roberts (2000), Goodrich (1999), Sheever (1999), Roskin (1993), Huggins (1988), Sigler (2002), (Maya, 2005), Brocker (2000), Hopkinson (1998), Galtung (2000), Cede (1999), Bourantonis, (2005), Afoaku and Ukaga (2001), Weiss (2003), Blum ( 2005), (Archibugi, 1993) and Heinrich (2012) have argued and continue to argue that there is the dire need for the reorganization and reformation of the UN Security Council both in terms of composition and voting pattern to reflect the multilateral character of the organization.
However, while these group of scholars and existing literature on the issue of United Nations Security Council reform largely succeeded in providing the descriptive analysis of the need to reform the United Nations Security Council and the on-going bid by some perceived “developing nations” in all the geo-political regions of the universe for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council is very informative; it contains neither a thorough discussion of the potential strategies for obtaining a permanent seat nor a theoretical framework that might be used to further analyze the bids for these group of countries seeking permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.
Moreover, they fail to provide us with the yardstick with which we can use in ascertaining the method and criteria that can qualify a country to be (s)elected for such position of permanent seat at the United Nations Security Council. On the account of this, the study therefore elicits the following research questions:
- Is the need to reform the United Nations Security Council implicated in the geopolitical realities of the 21st Century membership of the organisation?
- Is the quest to reform and enlarge the structure and voting pattern in the United Nations Security Council aimed at making it more democratic, efficient and legitimate?
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF STUDY
The broad objective of this study is to interrogate the issues involved in the quest and struggle for Permanent Seat at the United Nation’s Security Council: A Critical Assessment of the Contestants in 2012”. However, the study will address the following specific objectives:
- To determine if the need to reform the United Nations Security Council is implicated in the geopolitical realities of the 21st Century membership of the organisation.
- To ascertain whether the quest to reform and enlarge the structure and voting pattern in the United Nations Security Council is to make it more democratic, efficient and legitimate.
1.4 SIGNIFICANCE OF STUDY
The study has both theoretical and practical significance. Theoretically, the study will provide a comprehensive insight into the looming and cyclical issue of United Nations reforms, especially in to the United Nations Security Council reform by giving a detailed account of both the remote and immediate factors that necessitate the call for the reformation of the structure of the council and its voting pattern; it will also account for the reasons why the current veto wielding members (the so-called big five) have been giving the move a sort of lip service and lackadaisical attitude, rather than giving the issue the seriousness and attention that it deserved. It will also provide the reading public with a clear cut meaning and nature of the functions of the United Nations Security Council, its structure and the provision of the United Nations Charter as it regards the membership and power of the Security Council. It shall equally add to the extant body of literature that borders on United Nations Reform and the Quest for permanent seat in the world especially as it concerns Africa, which Nigeria is part and is vehemently positioning itself as the beautiful bride to be crowned with one out of the two proposed slots (seats) that is to be allocated to Africa.
Practically, it shall be of immense benefit to diplomats, public policy formulators, politicians and high level representative at the international level especially policy makers that are saddled with the task of devising appropriate institutional mechanisms for the smooth and foreign policy thrust that will enable their home government to adequately lobby and canvass for the its allocation or (s)election. For the United Nations Security Council, It will also provide the basis to scholars for further research into the United Nations Reform and the expansion of the composition of the security for both the permanent and non-permanent categories.
1.5 LITERATURE REVIEW
This review focused primarily on those documents and commentators that comments and contributes to the on-going debate on the reformation, reorganisation and expansion of the United Nations Organisation especially as it relates to the call to reform United Nations Security Council both in composition, representation and in voting pattern because the use of Veto by a select few is causing disquiet among the rest of the world.
The Politics of Veto in United Nations Security Council (Uses and Abuses of Veto Power)
One of the most distinctive features of the UNSC is that it is the only U.N organ in which there is a formal rule of unanimity or ‘right of veto’. The UNSC is part parliament and part secret diplomatic conclave. As Beigbeder (1994:18) asserts, “the Charter declares that decisions of the Council shall be by the affirmative vote of nine members and that, except for procedural matters, the votes shall include the concurring votes of the permanent members”. The only exception to this Charter rule is that in decisions relating to the pacific settlement of disputes, a party to a dispute shall abstain from voting. Thus, if nine or more of the 15 members vote in favor of a proposal but one of the five permanent members votes `no’, the proposal will be nullified. The UNSC can veto virtually any decision including the proposals by the UNGA as a whole. A closer analysis however, reveals that there is no reference in the U.N Charter to the ‘right of veto’. What is called the ‘right of veto’ is intrinsically linked to permanent membership. Article 27 (3) of the U.N Charter merely calls for the ‘concurring votes’ of the permanent members when the UNSC takes substantive decision.
The model on which the U.N was built has been proved to be too ambitious. The U.N Charter had been drafted on the assumption that the victors of the WWII would continue to co-operate as they did during the hostilities. Paradoxically, from the beginning, the U.N had been unable to function as designed. The working of the UNSC, a body designed to ensure the strong beat of the heart of the U.N Charter and its collective security provisions has over the years attracted widespread criticism. Instead of fostering co-operation, it became apparent in the early days of the U.N that the Post-War differences that had developed between the U.S and the then Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) significantly limited the ability of the UNSC to take action. As Chopra (2001:42) argues, “The superpowers were inevitably on opposite sides of most issues and the U.S controlled the votes in the council”. The USSR’s interests being frequently threatened, and because of its conspicuous minority position in the UNSC, it was left with the veto as its sole weapon within the U.N machinery to thwart any action it considered injurious to its interests.
Since the U.N originated from a coalition of victorious wartime allies, “the organization faced for roughly several decades questioning on how those ‘converted’ to the antifascist side of peace might be admitted to the club” (Beigbeder 1984:45). Over the years, vetoes have been cast to block the admission of member states as well as nominations for the U.N Secretary General. As argued by Rourke (2002:34), “Despite all 14 other UNSC members having supported Boutros Boutros Ghali, the U.S veto ended his tenure as the U.N Secretary General”. As the Cold -War evolved, within an economically and ideologically diametrically opposed world, the U.S and the USSR approached this issue of new U.N membership, not from the viewpoint of who sided with whom during the WWII, but rather who sided with whom in the Cold-War.
Thus, the U.S ensured that USSR allies applying for membership were denied the required UNSC majority. On the USSR side, in a bid to keep out Western- sponsored applicants, it used its veto recurrently (Canton 1986). In the early days of the U.N as Barry (2003:38) argues, “The USSR Commissioner and later Minister for Foreign Affairs, Vyacheslav Molotov said `no’ so many times that he was known as `Mr Veto’.” Vyacheslav Molotov regularly rejected bids for new membership because of the U.S refusal to admit the Soviet republics. This state of affairs led in 1955 to a compromise deal which resulted in the admission of sixteen members of the U.N. As Kegley (1985:128) asserts, “This compromise between the superpowers allowed the great powers to support a politically balanced package of applicants, including pro-Easterners, pro-Westerners, and neutrals”. The compromise deal opened the floodgates and by 1980, the U.N had more than 150 members, roughly three times the original number.
It is apparent that the U.S and USSR would probably not have accepted the creation of the U.N without the veto power. This is because some exceptional privileges denied to Great Powers in the days of the League of Nations or in other security associations, the veto represents that right which was prerequisite of all sovereign states in the pre-UN world not to be overruled by other members. As Roskin argues:
Stalin at Yalta in 1945 insisted on the veto provision, Churchill and Roosevelt went along. Stalin felt [correctly] that the USSR would be so outnumbered by non-Communist countries that it would suffer permanent condemnation. On the same basis, Stalin got the bizarre provision giving three UNGA votes to the USSR, whose constituent republics of Ukraine and Beloroussia were counted as U.N members. (Roskin, 1993:362)
One may observe that since the UNSC was originally intended to deal with most critical issues of national interests, and because these Great Powers hold the preponderance of means for the enforcement, such an arrangement may be considered a necessary departure from the complete abandonment of unanimity. Though it is impossible to escape the fact that the primary purpose of the veto is not to foster co-operation but to prevent action, the use of veto is often in contradiction to the literal terms of the U.N Charter and has been manipulated for national interests. The veto strangles the UNSC and prevents a broad consensus from guiding its work across a wide range of issues surrounding global politics. This device however, in international politics helps Great Powers to make sure that their vital interests are not surrendered.
According to Roberts (2000:41), “there was discontent when the U.S and Britain systematically blocked council action to impose economic sanctions on South Africa during hay days of apartheid regime and/or policy in the country in the 1980s”. Goodrich (1999:60) notes that, “there was dissatisfaction when France and Britain blocked action on Suez in 1956; when the U.S refused action on Vietnam in the 1960s, 70s and when the USSR prevented action on Afghanistan in the 1980s”. Today, the opposition is conspicuous because the UNSC, rather than failing to act, is now acting in ways that often seem motivated by geopolitical interests of permanent members. Currently, there has been sign that Russia and China are willing to veto any resolution punishing Iran because of its drive to control the nuclear fuel-cycle.
Expressing the role of veto in the U.N system, Sheever (1999:59) notes that, “no important action can be undertaken by the U.N with any reasonable prospect of success in the face of U.S opposition. Conversely, if the U.S gives full support to a proposal, its chances of being adopted must be considered very high, unless of course the veto operates”.
Similarly Roskin observes:
In speeches and corridor conversations, diplomats often point out that four out of the five permanent members are ‘European’ (a concept that includes the U.S). He adds that ‘Four out of five are `industrialized’ countries. The four-fifths of humankind that live in the poor countries of the global South, they say, have only one voice, namely, China (Roskin, 1993:63).
The Chinese role in representing Third World Countries founds expression in President Robert G. Mugabe’s speech, during his state visit to China where he implored to the Chinese leaders that Britain wanted to use the U.N Special Envoy for Zimbabwe, Anna Tibaijuka’s report to put Harare on the UNSC agenda, but expressed hope that China a staunch ally since the days of the liberation struggle would use its veto to thwart such action. In Beijing, the Zimbabwean President said, China, as a member of the United Nations Security Council, we appeal to you to act in defense of innocent people and nations in the Third World. My country at the moment is being brought into an arena of international publicity unnecessarily (Southern Times, 2005).
In the same vein Huggins (1988:41) commented that, “it became the practice to use the veto more broadly both to stop the possibility of any sanction directed against permanent members, even to stop a mere critical resolution directed against an ally”. It is for this reason that Sigler (2002:67) posits that “the U.S use of veto has traditionally been tied to Israel with the U.S vetoing anything critical of the Israeli’s at the Security Council”. In September 2003, the U.S vetoed a resolution drafted by Syria that denounced Israel’s threat to remove the then Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat. Washington said the resolution was `flawed’ because it did not include a robust condemnation of acts of terrorism by Palestinian militant groups (Maya, 2005). “In 2002 the U.S again blocked another draft resolution criticizing the killing by Israeli forces and the destruction of the World Food Programme (WFP) warehouse in the West Bank” (Sigler, 2002:67).
These above illustrations depict how relations among veto-wielding permanent members’ interests impinge as well as determine the shape, nature and character of global events within a particular epoch. The veto power was deliberately inserted in the U.N Charter by the Great Powers and universally accepted by others as an automatic switch off, to prevent the UNSC from becoming involved in a great power showdown. Considering the end of the Cold-War, the less used veto now serves as a mechanism:
To prevent an ad hoc UNSC majority from ganging up on one of its permanent members, such as China for its human rights record. In addition, it forces the majority to consider minority positions in its resolutions, such as softening the sanctions against Libya for its failure to turn over those wanted for the airline bombings (Brocker, 2000:42).
In the Libyan case, it is when the sanctions were softened; China (and other members) abstained, allowing the resolution to pass.
On Reform, Composition and Voting Power in the Security Council
The U.N reform, in the sense of changing the organization so that its capacities to fulfill the goals of its Charter are strengthened, has been a continuing matter of concern and the object of serious research. According to Trevor (2000:81), “The U.N’s failure to fully understand and doctrinally adjust to the new circumstances surrounding global politics brought the world body to the point of outright strategic failure”. As Hopkinson (1998:50) has put it: “The world balance of power has changed dramatically in the years since the United Nations was established but the composition of the Security Council has not”. Hence the need for reform has persistently been suggested.
Over the years, a variety of proposals to amend the structure of the UNSC, to align it with the current geopolitical realities have been proffered. However, the veto power aspect has become a stumbling block, as the five permanent members have been ever ready to quash any attempt that may lead to the amendment of Article 108 of the U.N Charter. It was on the basis of this that Rourke declared that:
The continuing importance of the veto in practice, its value as a symbol of big power status, and the difficulty of amending the Charter mean that the veto authority is likely to continue without major revision despite arguments that its existence is in the hands of an unrepresentative few countries and is undermining the legitimacy of the UNSC (Rourke, 1995:363).
Advocating the overhaul of the U.N, Galtung observes that:
Abolishing the Security Council, revising the contribution structure, significantly reducing the level of the United Nations salaries, the dewaldheimization of the United Nations system, greatly reducing the power and authority of the executive heads, and moving the United Nations headquarters out of New York will make this international body more efficient and reliable (Galtung, 2000:98).
The special status enjoyed by the five Permanent members of the Security Council has become a simmering issue in the U.N. As Rourke (2002:169) argues, “The most common argument against the arrangement is that the existing membership has never been fully realistic and is becoming less so as time goes by”. Many global and regional powers that do not have the veto power have been pressing for changes in the UNSC structure. In the same vein, less powerful countries have jumped on the bandwagon. This can be illustrated by the Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga who once called on the UNSC “to become more representative and more responsible to the general membership of the United Nations” (Rourke, 2002:169). The Sri Lankan President’s sentiments were echoed by Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa who emphasised that “the Security Council can no longer be retained like the sanctuary of the hollies with only the original members acting as high priests, deciding on issues for the rest of the world who cannot be admitted” ( Rourke, 2002:169).
In his report in 2005, titled “In Larger Freedom: Development, Security and Human Rights for All”, the then Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, stated that, no overhaul of the U.N would be complete without reform of the Security Council. Dissatisfaction with the UNSC has spawned many plans to revise it. However, any change in the membership of the UNSC requires an amendment to Article 108 of the U.N Charter which needs the consent of all the permanent veto-wielding members. As such, it is highly unlikely that any formal changes concerning membership of the permanent members or their veto power will materialize.
As Cede (1999:35) argues, “five seats are attributed to the Afro-Asian group, two for the Latino-American, two for the Western European and others and one for the Eastern European group”. The term is for two years, with half of the number elected by the UNGA (Art. 23) each year. As Article 23(2) stipulates “a retiring member shall not be immediately re-elected”. The principal officer of the UNSC is the President who, rather than being elected, is appointed monthly, in rotation, according to alphabetical order. This rule gives each UNSC member (permanent and non-permanent) a chance to hold the Presidency.
Bourantonis (2005) asserted that as a result of the entrance of several new member-states into the United Nations Organisation due to decolonization in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Spain and several Latin American countries proposed amendments to the UN Charter in 1956 to increase the number of non-permanent seats on the UNSC from six to eight. Bourantonis equally argues that after several years of debate and disagreement, including the Soviet Union’s insistence on linking the issue of UNSC restructuring to the issue of mainland China’s membership of the UN, there was a “breakthrough” on the issue in the early 1960s. In December 1963, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) formally approved amendments increasing non-permanent seats from six to ten, and the amendments were ratified by the required number of member-states in 1965 (Afoaku and Ukaga, 2001; Weiss, 2003; Blum, 2005).
As a result of continued decolonization, overall membership in the UN continued to grow significantly from the mid-1960s to the late-1970s. At the same time, developing countries were increasingly dissatisfied with the abuse of the veto power by the permanent members and the lack of “equitable representation” for Asian and African countries on the various councils of the UN. Consequently, India and several developing countries proposed amendments to the UN Charter in 1979 to increase the number of non-permanent seats on the UNSC from 11 to 14 (Bourantonis, 2005: 31). In 1980, several African, Asian, and Latin American countries proposed increasing the number of non-permanent seats on the UNSC from 10 to 16 (Blum, 2005). Unlike the previous effort to restructure the UNSC in the early 1960s, these subsequent efforts were unsuccessful largely because of heightened tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during this period (Archibugi, 1993).
According to Schlichtmann (1999: 510) the UNGA approved in 1995 the Declaration on the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations, which stated that the UNSC should be “expanded and its working methods continue to be reviewed in a way that will further strengthen its capacity and effectiveness, enhance its representative character, and improve its working efficiency and transparency”.
Heinrich (2012:1) showing the insignificant character of the non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, posed the question; “there are 10 non-permanent members on the UN Security Council – name three”. He went on to assert that beyond a handful of policy wonks, no one pays much attention to non-permanent members, which is indicative of how little prestige such a seat bestows. Although non-permanent members vote, they exercise no veto and so lack any pretence to a powerful say on the council, much less a decisive role of the kind enjoyed by their permanent, veto-wielding counterparts.
Continuing he opined that indeed, the powerlessness of the council’s non-permanent membership betrays its real purpose. Elected in regional blocs (by a process that makes selecting a World Cup host look transparent), it exists to provide the UN Security Council with a democratic veneer, to legitimise the non-democratic decision-making of the permanent five. So which countries make up the numbers? Most non-permanent members sit within three informal categories. The first are the ”great-power wannabes”, countries such as India and Germany. Next are the ”minnows” – Togo and Azerbaijan, for example – so lacking in diplomatic weight that a UN seat is one of the only ways they manifest international presence. The third category comprises countries with geopolitical situations so benign they can afford a UN seat as a diplomatic comfort zone.
According to the http://www.dw.de/dw/article/0,,5999729,00.html, the G4, (an alliance of some developed countries made up of Germany, Japan, Brazil and India) been pushing for an overhaul of the UN system as part of the G-4 alliance. A move which has seen them campaigning to join this elite group (United States, Britain, France, Russia and China hold permanent seats on the UN Security Council and the power to veto all resolutions) as part of a more comprehensive project to revamp the Council for most of the past decade. The G-4 group has been calling for the addition of six permanent seats to the Council without the power of veto, and a further four non-permanent seats.
The fall of the Berlin Wall and the unipolar stand of the United States have also added to the urgent need for a radical reformation of the entire UNSC structure and operations. Akpotor and Agbebaku (2010) observed that at the end of World War II, the United Nations was born with the Big Five negotiating them into the Security Council which is the most powerful organ of the U.N.O. But since 1955 there had been clamour for changes and reforms of the UN especially the Security Council which is regarded by many as a prestigious exclusive club. The calls for reforms increased with the collapse of the USSR in the 1990s. This made the United States too powerful and many times going against the decisions of the Security Council especially in the area of collective security as in Iraq.
Tanin (n.d) commenting on the issue of Reform of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) argued that the reform 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.
On the United Nations Reform and the Position of Africa in the Security Council
On his part Kasese-Bota Zambia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, argued that the African proposal for permanent seat in the UN Security Council sought to redress the historical injustice to the continent through the Security Council composition and processes. Thus:
It is the position of the African Group that there should be expansion in both the permanent and non-permanent categories with the new permanent members exercising all privileges and obligations that go with permanency tenure. (Kasese-Bota, 2012:5).
He also added: “However, Africa exercises flexibility on issues of maintaining or abolishing the veto for all permanent members of the Security Council.” (Kasese-Bota, 2012:8).
In the same vein, Charles Ntwaagae, (2012) Permanent Representative of the Republic of Botswana to the United Nations, maintained that Africa remained committed to reforming the Security Council to make it more representative, more accountable, more democratic and inclusive in its composition and methods of work. He however, said that the identification of the candidate countries to occupy the Permanent Seats should be left to the wisdom of African leaders to decide on.
Responding to the double standard nature of the UN membership Security Council, Ambassador Wilfred Emvula, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Namibia to the United Nations, said his country was strongly opposed to any second-class permanent membership status for African countries or any other member state:
The fact that the agenda of the Security Council has dealt more with issues concerning Africa than any other region is a compelling case for the continent to play an active part in deciding upon matters affecting its wellbeing (Emvula, 2012:3).
Moreover, Coordinator of the C-10 Group negotiating on behalf of the African Group, Ambassador Shekou Touray, Permanent Representative of the Republic of Sierra Leone to the United Nations, said that support for the African Common position continued to receive support in the continent’s quest to claim permanent membership in the Security Council and address the historical under-representation.
Arguing further he observed that:
The UN Security Council was the principal decision-making organ in matters relating to international peace and security. Currently the UN Security Council is composed of five permanent members — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States of America — and 10 non-permanent members of which only South Africa and Togo are from Africa, the continent with the largest number of members of the UN (Touray, 2012:6).
Commenting on the issue of reforming the UN Security Council Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan (2012) called for a reform of the United Nations (UN) and support for Nigeria’s quest for permanent membership of the UN Security Council. President Jonathan made the call when he received the visiting UN Secretary General, Mr. Ban Ki-Moon, at the State House. President Jonathan decried the situation whereby no African nation is represented in the permanent category of the UN Security Council said the reforms were necessary to bring the world in line with the global current realities.
World Opinion Leaders and the United Nations Reform and Expansion
According to the http://www.wikipedia.org (2011) the existing five 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.
On his part the United Nations Secretary General, Ban ki Moon (n.d) opined that the UN 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.
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.
India’s permanent representative to the UN commenting on the need for a reform of the Organisations, said that:
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.
Moreover, the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh during the General Debate of the 59th Session of the United Nations General Assembly observed:
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 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 (Manmohan Singh, 2004:13)
During the General Debate of the 64th Session of the United Nations General Assembly
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