UN Needs Restructuring to Ensure Equal Representation of All Continents

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At a time when members are vigorously debating on the agenda of reforms in the United Nations system, Nepal seems to be unconcerned with this issue. It seems that Nepal does not have its own view on how the United Nations should be reformed or what should be the modus operandi of the UN reforms.

The demand for reforms in the United Nations in general and the structure of its executive body-the Security Council-in particular is not a new one. Member states have been demanding reforms in the UN structure for a long time, perhaps for more than 20 years. But the voice became stronger and more vocal in the 65th General Assembly meeting.

All member states are of the opinion that the structure and working style of the world body needs to be changed in order to make the United Nations more representative, legitimate and efficient so that it can more effectively play its role in addressing the global challenges ranging from financial crises to peace and security to climate change.

The structure of the United Nations has remained unchanged ever since it was created in 1945. Time and again member states have spoken of the needs for the change and reforms in the United Nations.

Some countries have proposed different modalities of reform. The core demand calls for structural and representational reforms in the Security Council (SC), the most powerful organ of the United Nations. Despite the United Nations being a world body, its functions do not seem to reflect multi-lateralism due mainly to the composition and power structure of the Security Council.

It is true that the present composition of the Security Council does not represent the geopolitical, geo-economic and geostrategic reality. Rather it reflects the international power equation of the post World War II period when the United Nations was created.

The 15-member Security Council has two types of membership – permanent and temporary. The five permanent members are the 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 a 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 who wield veto power.

The present structure of the Security Council is neither democratic nor just. As the permanent members hold veto power, the Security Council obviously cannot take any decision that is against the will and interest of the Big Five. The non-permanent members are just there to endorse what the permanent members decide.

Countries like Japan, Brazil and Germany want an enlargement of the Security Council so that they too can be included as a permanent member. At the same time, some regional groupings such as ASEAN, OPEC, SAARC, African Union and South American groups are pursuing vigorously for permanent representation in the Security Council.

Given the present structure of the UNSC, the representation of all the five continents has not been even. 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 need to change in line with the new pattern and order that have evolved in the present day world. The Security Council needs to be restructured to ensure equal representation of all the continents and people in the world on equitable terms.

The United Kingdom was a global power, whose colonies expanded far and wide. As a superpower of that period, it was natural for the United Kingdom to have secured its 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 a permanent seat because it represented the communist and socialist bloc in the world. France represented the vast majority of Francophone countries mostly in Africa which were either French colonies or under the influence of France. China’s seat in the Security Council represented the Asian continent and also because it accounted for one fifth of the world’s population. Although defeated in the war, Japan and Germany were powers to reckon with. But their role was not recognized, and they were not given due place in the world body.

Africa is rising 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 it a permanent seat in the Security Council. Moreover, more than 50 per cent of the issues that the Security Council deals with pertain to the African continent.

The organizational and power structure of the United Nations also needs to be reformed and changed to cope with the new realities. As long as the present composition of the United Nations Security Council continues, it 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 be restructured in such a way that genuine and deserving countries are given a place in the Security Council as permanent members with veto power whereas some countries that have lost relevance and validity to stay on as permanent members should be released of their role.

In the present changed international scenario, the UN also must change its structure as well its working style to become a genuine world government. So far the United Nations has been dominated by bigger powers. Europe is over represented while South America and Africa are not represented at all.

Even some Asian countries are demanding more representation in the Security Council. India and Japan are chief contestants in the race from Asia.

If Asia is to be given more seats in the Security Council, Japan would be the legitimate country. Against this background, Nepal should make its stance clear on the structure and modality of UN reforms and accordingly play its role in the world forum.

By Yuba Nath Lamsal