By Baboucarr-Blaise I. Jagne,
Retired international civil servant
The much-trumpeted reform of the UN Security Council believed to have heralded a new era in the history of the U.N. seems to be fading away rapidly each day. There is no gainsaying that the UN Security Council as it is composed presently at the level of the Permanent Members or P5 can no longer be justified. It is obsolete, to say the least. The situation that had prevailed in the immediate aftermath of the Second World War that had justified the current composition of the Permanent Members has since been a closed chapter of history. Any meaningful reforms, therefore, should be geared towards the recomposition of the P5. Unless and until that is done, the UN Security Council would see its authority undermined, its actions perceived to be partial, and increasingly out of sync with the expectations of the majority of Member States.
First of all, efforts should be made to make sure that all the continents or geographical/regional groups are adequately represented. In doing so, let it be made abundantly clear that members of the Security Council in carrying out their duties are in effect acting on behalf of the Member States of the United Nations, as clearly spelt out in Article 24 of the Charter, entitled, Functions and Powers. Moreover, a number of criteria should henceforth be put in place for any country aspiring to be a permanent member, as well as the current members, to adhere to strictly: These should include recognition of the fundamental rights of ethnic and religious minorities in their own countries; respect for the equitable application of the rule of law; and strong democratic credentials, only to mention a few.
As pointed out earlier, any meaningful reforms of the UN Security Council must start with the permanent membership status and the use of the veto that goes with it. If it is agreed to carry out these reforms, serious thought should be given to the use of the veto. Either it is abolished altogether, or, it is made mandatory to seek the support of two-thirds of the Members of the General Assembly whenever it is used. In the event that it is not approved by the General Assembly, then the veto is null and void. It would be like the VAR in football these days! This strategy of naming and shaming would send strong signals to any country that it can no longer be business as usual.
Nowadays, it is noticed that whenever the UN Security Council is seized with certain issues of serious concern to the rest of the international community, for example, the so-called Iran Nuclear Deal, Germany is closely involved in the negotiations, and it becomes the P5+Germany. This clearly demonstrates that in the event the UN Security Council is to be reformed and enlarged, Germany would be a strong contender in the Western Europe Group. In that case, the group would then be represented by three countries, namely: the UK, France, and Germany
Currently, North America has one representative, the USA; Asia, one: the People’s Republic of China, Eastern Europe, one: the Russian Federation. Be that as it may, it is time for other continents to be represented as well, notably, Africa, whose leaders have been advocating for at least two permanent seats with veto power on the UN Security Council, as spelt out in the EZULWINI CONSENSUS. The two strongest contenders in my humble opinion are the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and, the Republic of South Africa. In the final analysis, it would be up to the AU Member States to decide.
Latin America and the Caribbean are also not represented. The country that comes to mind, objectively speaking, once again, is without any doubt, Brazil. Again, it would be a matter for their Group to decide.
It would be inconceivable to expand the membership of the UN Security Council without taking into account the other giant of Asia, India.
Another Geographical /Regional Group to be represented are the Pacific Rim Countries. This Group should be allocated two seats as well.
With regard to the non-permanent category, it should be enlarged too in order to enable other countries in the various regional groups to be elected to serve on the Council more often.
It is important to note however, that the UN Security Council is not the exclusive preserve of big countries. Let me point out that the greatness of a country does not depend on its size, but on the quality of its leadership and the national character of its people.
If there is enough political will, the proposed reforms could be carried out for the common good of all countries, big or small. The UN Security Council would emerge from the process in a better shape, as it would be strengthened even more, become more relevant, regain its lost authority, and, its voice heard louder and respected
Bearing in mind that the United Nations was created, amongst others, to maintain international peace and security, the expansion of the UN Security Council in both categories would enable it to carry out its responsibilities efficiently and effectively. If the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations are anything to go by, then there would be no need for foot-dragging with regard to the proposed reforms. The purpose is not about taking away the powers and privileges of any country or group of countries. The whole idea is to make the UN Security Council more relevant and put on a firmer footing in our common endeavour to make this world a better and safer place for all its people.