In order to fulfil its main task of maintaining global peace and international security more efficiently in the 21 century and to live up to its Chapter, the current structure and practice of the SC needs to be reformed. Reforms of the UNSC have been in the centre of contention for more than 20 years, where the criticism of the Council’s lack of representativeness and transparency has increased. In order to address the new challenges to peace and security the former Secretary-General Kofi Annan established the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges, and Change.
And indeed this is what this essay will consider for examination, the panel’s main proposals that call for reform of the structure of the UNSC, in order be more effective, expedient, democratic and efficient in carrying out his role. Therefore my approach in tackling the question will be structured as follows; firstly I shall examine the issue of Veto power of the permanent five members of the SC and the concept of it as a structural weakness of the Council that forestalls decision-making process from reaching adequate actions.
In the second part of my essay I shall take into consideration the two models for enlargement suggested by the panel. I shall examine the advantages and disadvantages of the two models towards a more effective and legitimate SC, in order to strike a balance between the most that contribute and the geographical arrangement of the seats. Put differently will examine the relationship between legitimacy and effectiveness towards a new enlarged SC.
Amongst the reforms proposed by the Panel, one of the most controversial issues that remain unsolved is the Veto power of the current permanent members. The Panel could not find any alternative of changing the existing members’ veto power despite the numerous calls for its removal. Many states and critics argued that the current P5 do not represent the great world powers of the current global power system, they indicate that it is undemocratic and it is a neo-colonial institution that represents the victorious powers of WW2(Schrijver:2007,Verhoeven:2005).
While some like Alounkhed Kittikhoun of Lao’s People’s Democratic Republic rendered the veto power as anachronistic and contrary to the principle of sovereign equality of states, others even question why they should listen to the P5 at all(Afoaku and Ukaga:200:158). However, according to Zhenqiang (2005:4), the argument to abolish the Veto is a bit far stretched. He with some scholars argue that the veto actually strengthened the United Nations (Moore and Pubantz: 2006:131).
Authors argue that once the P5’s have the veto taken away, without securing the big powers, they run the risk of repeating the lesson of League of Nations that is the disbanding of the UN. Some point out that the veto holding members of the UN SC are unique as they are the only countries that have nuclear arsenal according to NPT(Rachman:2008), one of the biggest them being America. Moreover when the organisation was set up ’’ The veto provision was an absolute condition for US participation in the United Nations.
The superpowers would not be subject to any collective coercion. The veto ensured that the General Assembly could not act against any of the permanent five’’. In other words the current permanent members were and would be a law unto themselves (Mehta: 2006) Moreover that is supported by articles 108 and 109 of the United Nations Charter which grants the P5 veto over amendments to the charter, requiring them to approve stripping away their own veto powers. Put differently any changes must meet the P5’s approval.
Another point to be taken into account is made by Mahbubani(2010), he argues that every election of non-permanent members legitimises the permanent members because, by joining the UNSC, the elected members are providing a yearly dose of legitimacy to the UNSC . Thus the panel’s conclusion that as they recognize that the veto had an important function in reassuring the United Nations most powerful members that their interests would be safeguarded, they see no practical way of changing the existing members veto powers(HLP:2005:82).
With no alternatives the panel suggests that that P-5 should use veto only when vital interests are genuinely at stake and that P-5 are made to pledge to refrain from use of veto in cases of genocide and large-scale human rights abuses(HLP:2005:82). While the benefits of using the veto only when vital interest of the P5 are at stake is fairly obvious, Lund(2010) point out that’’ the rules of procedure of the Council are to be decided on by the Council as provided by and in accordance with Article 30 of the Charter’’.
He argues that compromising on that principle could lead to a corrosion of the relationship between the GA and the Council. And on a broader scale, there is a fear that allowing anyone to limit the privileges of the P5 could weaken the whole functioning of the Council. Nevertheless, more problematic is the second part of the proposal. The pitfalls of such a proposal are the definitions of “genocide,” “crimes against humanity” and “serious crimes against international humanitarian law.
” In other words the definitions of what constitutes serious violations of human rights law are indeed divergent. This is the case of Rwanda cited by Wouters and Ruys(2005), where USA and France masterfully controlled the SC agenda and blocked the establishment of a robust intervention force. They used their hidden veto to weaken the definition of the crisis under international law by carefully avoiding the term ‘genocide’.
Furthermore Nahori(2004) and others provide us with the examples where the SC has been able to never discuss crisis where they have political, economical or cultural interests, those instances speak for themselves such as Chechnya, Tibet, Xinjiang, Northern Ireland, Sudan to name but a few that were ignored by the Council (Wouter and Ruys:2005:30) Another important suggestion by the panel is expansion of the Security Council in order to make it more legitimate and effective is the two models of enlargement A and B.
Under model A the new permanent non-veto seats will increase, proponents of such enlargement like Hurd argues that involvement in the decision-making will contribute to the Council’s legitimacy which in turn will lead to increased effectiveness of the SC(Hurd:2008:199). In Porter’s (2007) view countries like Japan, Germany, India and Brazil are most suitable. He indicated that while the former two pay the most towards the UN budget and on time, the latter two are raising powers, with India been one of the sixth of the world’s population of Brazil is one of the biggest contributor of military personnel.
However while acknowledging this suggestion Verhoeven(2005:103) and Reisman(2005:374) argue that such an expansion in the SC would not increase the effectiveness and would lead to unequal distributions. Simply because the new seat would have the same responsibilities and obligations as the current P5 do not always contribute what is expected from them. Moreover Verhoeven(2005:103) and Lund(2010) see this model as causing more rivalries between the candidate States for the new permanent non-veto seat .
For example in the European region, according to the model it is one seat with two strong candidates in the shape of Germany and Italy, the aftermath of whomever gets the seat could bring complications in the power relations within the EU(Matarazzo and Rebasti:2005:9) . In other words the criteria for selection remain unclear. In difference to model A, in model B each region is allocated with eight four-year renewable seats, in order to broaden the SC to be more representative.
However Sten argues that this automatically creates troubles for legitimacy and representations. In this scenario, the position of European and the American region would be strengthened and the influence of Africa is non-existent(Verhoeven:2005:103, Morris(2000:273). Moreover it is more debatable for the reasons that, it poses questions upon the African’s representation. Morris’ (2000:273) viewpoint is that although this proposal addresses the geographical distribution, the manner in which regional representation would be in practice remains a matter of conjecture.
He believes that the representation will be in its most minimalist form as nothing guarantees that the state in the regional seat would not advance its own national interests and displace the regional. Furthermore the poverty and the internal armed conflicts in the African region combined with their cultural differences could create obstacles for the regional representative of the state-to-be. Also as Morris and Verhoeven argue, this composition would not contribute towards more credible and legitimate SC(Morris:2000:273, Verhoeven:2005:103,Blum:2005:634).
Therefore the panel’s proposal for a change in the structure of the SC and its expansion in order to make it more legitimate and representative, to increase its effectiveness and make it more accountable and democratic remains problematic. Because as Luck (in Heibecker and Goff:2005:150) some scholars argue how this new enlarged SC will be able to take decisions more expediently when firstly ,with the current structure the SC is still slow to do so, for example, the case of Rwanda or Iraq. They argue that it remains doubtful that an enlarged SC would be more effective.
Secondly, according to art 30 the current P5 ‘’ adopt its own rules of procedure’’ therefore with no new veto powers the degree of influence of the new members and the political dynamics within the SC would be significantly affected (Weiss:2005) Thirdly, without any suggestions in the panel’s proposals for reform of the current procedures instantly makes it unworkable. The report does not indicate how many affirmative votes would be required for decisions on either procedural or non-procedural matters in the proposed enlarged Council.
And last but not least according to the panel’s report it states that in 2020 the HLP would review the SC’s composition and the contributions of the members to the SC’s effectiveness(HLP:2005:82,Luck in Heibecker and Goff:2005:150,Blum:2005:640) . Here Lund (2010) argues that if they have lowered their contributions they risk losing their seat. In other words their performance would be more accountable and scrutinized compared to the P5 who has no body to be accountable to.
Therefore the models proposed, as referred by many seriously question the added value to the SC and bring more inequality and problems than it was supposed to solve. Weiss (2003:152) concludes that ‘this entity is a microcosm of a perpetual problem in the organization as a whole: the UN is so consumed with getting the process right that it often neglects the consequences’. In other words ‘’less is more’ (Miles in Reisman 2005, p. 374) The panel’s report represents that a reform of the Security Council is a major challenge for the United Nations.
The arguments to have the veto removed is like ‘trying to get rid of politics’, in other words the UN would not be able to function properly without the world’s most powerful states as the panel concluded that there is no other alternative. Furthermore the issue of enlargement to bring effective decision-making and equitable representation to the UNSC is proving to be debatable; the models proposed appear to be incompatible and would only complicate and dysfunction the SC. Therefore the permanent members should make some effort to make the Council not only more representative, but also to make it more democratically accountable.
Thus, the council remains the main global organisation that brings legitimacy to the world affairs. Although not perfect it remains the only institution that represents on the world stage the interests of the member states for global peace and security. References: Afoaku O and Ukaga. O. (2001) “United Nations Security Council Reform: A Critical Analysis of the enlargement options”. Journal of Third World Studies. 18:2. pp. 149-169 Blum Y. (2005) “Proposals for UN Security Council Reforms’’ American Journal of International Law,99:3, pp. 632-649.
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