All week long, countries of the world have been auditioning for the roles of permanent Security Council members, justifying respective claims to a place in the world’s most powerful political body. Among the strongest claims, are those for a permanent seat for Africa, Japan and the Gulf Co-operation Council.
Among ths issues to be resolved are how entire continents can be represented in a fair way against single countries such as the UK and France. One solution that has been proposed, is that the current members should be replaced by regional blocs, such as the EU and North America.
At the close of the 2010 UN Summit in New York, Musa Kousa, the head of the Libyan delegation, called for a world parliament to better represent citizens of the world, instead of the current system of permanent members of the security council. He said:
“The reform, which we are calling for and aiming to achieve, is to make the General Assembly the real legislator.
“Thus, we will ensure the representation of all people on earth, and the anti-democratic and frustrating veto [power] shall not be the exclusive privilege of the few.”
His comments have been echoed throughout the summit from poorer and smaller nations who seek parity with the “Big Five” nuclear weapon nations who are permanent members of the security council and who hold the power of veto on UN matters: UK, USA, Russia, France & China. The number of non-permanent members of the Security Council was increased from six to 10 in 1965.
Witold Sobkow, Poland’s Ambassador to the UN, appealed for an additional non-permanent seat for the Eastern European Group:
“We need to take into account changes in the international system brought about after the end of the Cold War, and at the same time, preserve the Council’s cohesion and the feasibility of the decision-making process.
He was supported by Alexandru Cujba, Moldova’s Ambassador to the UN.
Permanent Representative Jorge Valero of Venezuela, told the UN Assembly:
“The Bolivarian [Venezuelan] Revolution plans to contribute to the rebuilding of the structure and agenda of the United Nations, which reflects the existing and unjust power relationships in the world.
“This forum – as it is today – helps to reproduce those unjust relations inherited from the Second World War, becoming more exclusive and authoritarian as neo-liberal globalization advances.
“Venezuela proposes to suspend the right of veto enjoyed by only five members of the United Nations. This remnant of the Second World War is incompatible with the principle of sovereign equality of States. Venezuela also proposes an increase of the membership of the Security Council in its permanent and non-permanent categories. Why are developing countries deprived of the right to partake in this forum?”
South Africa’s Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told the General Assembly’s annual general debate that a transformation of the United Nations will not be complete until there is a “fundamental reform” of the Security Council. Three African nations are pushing for permanent respresentation on the Council; Swaziland, South Africa and Republic of Congo.
Rwandan President Paul Kagame also spoke out against the current two-tier system within the UN:
It has become clear that the UN has evolved into a two-tier organization, reflecting a world that seems to be divided into two categories: one with inherent laudable values, rights and liberties, and another that needs to be taught and coached on these values.
The implication is that the UN holds a certain standard for some countries, and another for others – especially on international issues where every single member should be treated equally under the law.
President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria joined the call for an African seat on the Council:
“The exclusion of Africa from the permanent member category of the Security Council can no longer be justified.
“We urge the UN to quicken the pace of its reforms. Not only to better reflect the current global realities but also to ensure that it enjoys genuine legitimacy.”
Sheikh Nasser al Mohammad al Ahmad al Sabah of Kuwait called for representation of Arab and Muslim countries on the UN Security Council. He was supported by Bahrain’s Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander, Prince Salman Bin Hamad al-Khalifa.
Belize’s Foreign Minister Wilfred Elkington called for less donor-driven decision making:
We need a United Nations that reflects a more equitable North-South representation and that can effectively deliver. The process of decision-making must ensure coherence and be inclusive. And, above all, equity and justice must inform our mechanisms for delivery. The reform we seek goes much deeper than the changing of the guards. It is a reform that would rebuild trust amongst each other and confidence in the system.
Proposals for a regional-bloc system of representation has been forwarded as a method of overcoming disparities in the UN voting system, and greater UN powers have been suggested as a way of overcoming the reticence of richer nations to submit to UN rulings.
Bhutan’s Foreign Secretary’s Dasho Daw Penjo said:
How can we members of the UN credibly espouse equity among nations and peoples if we fail to practice it among ourselves? After 39 years of membership, Bhutan continues to believe that the UN still has room and role for smaller States, as equal partners in global affairs, including the maintenance of international peace and security.
The UK Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, agreed with the sentiments of change within the halls of the General Assembly:
“The UN Security Council must be reformed to reflect the new geography of power. The UK is clear and unambiguous in our support for permanent seats for Brazil, India, Germany and Japan, and for African representation. Put simply, the UN cannot speak for the many if it only hears the voices of the few…
“Let us be frank. Without a radical overhaul, the UN will not provide the leadership the world seeks from it, and needs from it.”
Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan entered the fray, saying that Japan is: “well-suited to play a role in the Security Council in the 21st century,” owing to its unique experience as the victim of nuclear bombs, rather than the possessor of them.