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A case for reform of the UN Security Council. By Lauren French

by on September 1, 2012

Nothing is as effective at highlighting how hapless the United Nations Security Council is as a political force than its inaction on conflict in other countries. Currently the situation in Syria has divided the UNSC and thus no effective plan to resolve the conflict has been drawn up.

The UN was founded in 1945 to replace the League of Nations, in a new post-World War Two order. The Security Council was established to make decisions on peace and security, and has five permanent members with veto powers (USA, UK, France, Russia and China), and ten non-permanent members that change every six months and do not have veto powers (currently Colombia, Germany, India, Portugal, South Africa, Azerbaijan, Guatemala, Morocco, Pakistan, and Togo).

The selection of the permanent members comes from the victors of the Second World War, and the same treaty that established the UN forbids Germany and Japan from being in the SC and thus having veto powers on issues of global peace and security, because how could they be trusted after starting a war? I think it matters that they are now both functioning democracies that play by the rules.

Well, things change. The Cold War had arguably already started, and created a polarised world. Germany and Japan became allies of the West against communism; West Germany aided in gathering intelligence from the Eastern Europe Soviet satellite states, and Japan was used to monitor the situation in Southeast Asia, such as Vietnam and Laos.

Also, Germany and Japan became important capitalist economies after their recovery from war. Why aren’t they included in the permanent members of the SC?

It has to be for a combination of rather petty reasons. Firstly, the more permanent members the lesser the likelihood of a consensus and the greater the likelihood of deadlock and no resolution and so more conflicts that rage on for years and cause a great deal of human suffering. The five current members’ interests rarely mesh as it is. Importantly, bi-lateral relationships would be complicated with the additions of Germany and Japan. For instance, Japan and China have a long and difficult history which means they often struggle to work together. Similarly, the Japanese have a troubled relationship that hasn’t changed since the Cold War, especially in relation to Russia’s relationship with China, and the disputed Kuril Islands.

Despite the obvious difficulties of two additional member states to the SC, I believe that Germany and Japan would bring different perspectives that the other members would benefit from. Japan would be an alternative Asian power to look toward, and admire their pacifistic stance on wars that the over-militant nations of the current Security Council do not seem to consider. Germany is to be admired for its post-war economic recovery, and its dominance in Europe as the greatest of the great European economies.

If nothing else it would be an incredible experiment, and would promote greater tolerance and understanding (hopefully leading to democracy), which the modern world certainly needs. And possibly, eventually, there could be a representative from one of the Middle Eastern nations, although this is less likely than say, Brazil being added as a permanent member.

There is a definite necessity for reform of the United Nations Security Council if it is going to be a force for good, and a force to be reckoned with. There could be other reforms, but I believe the most simple and effective way of promoting unity is the addition of Germany and Japan. That in itself would progress the UN out of the post-World War Two era, and out of the Cold War world order. It would be a tragedy if the one international body that includes all nation states couldn’t perform the very task it was intended for.

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From → Foreign Affairs

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