The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is the United Nation’s (UN) primary vehicle for maintaining global peace and security. In awarding the 2001 Nobel Prize for Peace jointly to the UN and its outgoing Secretary-General, Kofi A. Annan, the Norwegian Committee aptly concluded, “the only negotiable route to global peace and cooperation goes by way of the United Nations.”
Since its foundation on October 24, 1945, the UN has grown from 51 to 192 member nations. Despite this semblance of world-wide unity, fair treatment amongst nations is still lacking. The “law of the jungle” and “survival of the fittest” mentality still dominates many international relationships. On the world stage, the UN is unable at times to prevent invasions, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and global terrorist threats. Recently, the Iraq war has plunged the UN into its biggest crisis.
Only a radically reformed UNSC can achieve sustainable peace and prosperity. There are two aspects that need to be reformed. The first relates to the veto power of the permanent member nations and the second relates to the number of member nations on the Council.
Although the political structure of the world has changed dramatically since the creation of the UN in 1945, the UNSC is still dominated by the same five permanent member nations (P5) —Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, and the USA. The P5, the main victors of World War II, still retain veto power that can be used to protect their national interests irrespective of the costs to humanity at large. The veto makes the Security Council ineffective in cases where the P5 are not in unanimous agreement. If one of the P5 says “no” to a resolution, then it is “no” even if the rest of the world supports it. This cannot be called democratic. To create a democratic structure, the first step to UNSC reform should be to eliminate the veto power altogether.
The current 15-nation Security Council -- five permanent and ten non-permanent, rotating nations that hold office for two years -- could be enlarged to ensure equitable geographical distribution of its member nations. Suggestions have been made to enlarge the membership by adding influential nations like Japan, India, Brazil, and Germany. However, this is likely to meet with strong opposition from their neighboring nations. Therefore, a lasting solution, as difficult as it may sound, would be to replace member nations with appropriate regional representation that may eventually evolve into unions like the European Union. Already, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, the European Commissioner for External Relations, has suggested that the United Kingdom and France should merge their permanent seats on the Security Council to form a single European Union seat.
The second step to UNSC reform should be to replace its member nations with appropriate regional unions. In a proper hierarchy, states make a nation, nations would make a regional union, and regional unions of nations, in turn, would make a global community. Thus, regional unions would become the necessary links between nations and a world body. This reform would encourage the evolution of democratic regional unions of independent nations world-wide, following the model of the European Union. The proposed membership of regional unions, representing the entire world population, in the Security Council would eventually raise the United Nations’ status to that of a true world governing body.
With the rapid advancements in science and technology, the world has now become a closely knit unit. In this age of globalization, the UN needs to replace “might is right” with “right is might.” This means, changing the priorities of a world system that currently spends 3 billion dollars a day on armaments, when 3 billion people – almost one-half of the world’s population – live below the poverty line of less than $2 a day.
It is time for the member nations of UNSC to move from narrow national self-interest to a global vision that embraces the interests of all humanity. Strengthening the UNSC by removing the right to veto and introducing the membership of regional unions can make this vision a reality. Without these democratic reforms, the UN will fail just like its predecessor, the League of Nations, did after the First World War. It is universalism and humanism—not nationalism or militarism—that can ultimately empower the United Nations to spread peace and prosperity in the world.
[Shiv R. Jhawar is author of the book, “Building a Noble World” and founder of Noble World Foundation. A Chartered Accountant by profession, he is enrolled to practice before the IRS. He welcomes your feedback at www.nobleword.org].