UNSC reforms: Need and challenges

UNSC reforms: Need and challenges

Updated on 24 May, 2019

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News: Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj Called For UNSC Reforms at SCO Meet.

About UNSC

  • United Nations Security Council was established by 51 countries in 1945.
  • The Security Council comprises five permanent members—China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States—collectively known as the P5. All of them have the power to veto any resolution.
  • The council also have 10 non-permanent members. Each of them serves a 2-year non-consecutive term and none of the elected members has veto power.
  • It is not possible to be re‑elected immediately after holding a seat in the Security Council.
  • Subsidiary organs that support the council’s mission include ad hoc committees on sanctions, counterterrorism, and nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.

Election of non-permanent members Non-permanent members are elected by a two-thirds vote of the UN General Assembly. The main criterion for eligibility is contribution “to the maintenance of international peace and security,” often defined by financial or troop contributions to peacekeeping operations.

Has UNSC ever been reformed?

UNSC has been reformed once in 1965 when the number of non-permanent members was increased from 6 to 10.

Why there is a need for UNSC reforms?

The world is changing, but not the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), it still reflects the geopolitical architecture of the Second World War and a lot of developments have taken place since then, that requires reforms in its formation composition.

Changed dynamics

  • Global population has increased threefold since the creation of UNSC.
  • Since the last reforms, the membership of the United Nations has increased from 113 to 193 without any change in the composition of the UNSC.
  • The Security Council is not representative of the geopolitical realities of the modern world. Both Africa and Latin America lack a permanent seat on the Council, while Europe is overrepresented and Asia is underrepresented.
  • Transnational threats such as terrorism and cybercrime are straining national capacities, while globally armed conflict has risen.

Binding decision: UNSC decisions, unlike general assembly, are binding on the member states, if necessary, it can encroach upon the sovereignty of nations. Exercising this wide range of powers would only be right when a decision is taken with the involvement of all major countries.

Misuse of Veto power The members of the P5 have exercised the veto power to varying degrees. Many times, it has resulted in inaction in the face of mass atrocities. For example

  • In 2017, China and Russia vetoed a resolution on Syria, which would have sanctioned entities involved in the production of chemical weapons.
  • In 2018, the United States vetoed a resolution condemning Israel for Palestinian civilian deaths during border protests in Gaza.
  • China has been a frequent user of veto power to protect the terrorists in its friendly countries like Pakistan.

Transparency:  There is a need for more transparency and coordination between the Security Council and the General Assembly and Economic and Social committees. And the use of Veto power must be regulated by some guidelines.

Sanctions committee: Some of the countries suggested that including non-Council members in Sanctions Committees might not only reduce the deliberative deficit, and thereby enhance the effectiveness of the Council, but also improve the implementation of sanctions regimes.

What are the challenges on the way of reforms?

  • It will require an amendment to UN charter. This amendment involves a two‑stage process:
  1. In the first stage, General Assembly must approve the reform by a two‑thirds majority (i.e. at least 128 states).
  2. In the 2nd stage, amended Charter must then be ratified by at least two‑thirds of the member states, including the five permanent Council members, in accordance with national procedures.
  • This process includes all Security Council’s permanent member and they may not take a step to curb their own powers.
  • During 1963 reforms, the process took around one-and-a-half years
  • There is no coherence in the approach of supporters of UN reforms, The G4 bid has been opposed by few countries, whereas other groups like Coffee Club opposed adding countries as permanent members, and instead proposed that members be elected on a regional basis to create more parity in representation
  • 13-member group that includes Pakistan and known as United for Consensus (UfC) has been in opposition to adding more permanent members to the council.

Why India should be admitted as a permanent member?

  • India has served as a non-permanent member of the UNSC for 7 terms and put forward its candidature for the 2021-22 term.
  • India contributions to the UN’s missions for maintenance of international peace and security have been huge, thus it is a prime candidate to become a permanent member of UNSC.
  • more than 100,000 Indian troops having served in U.N. missions during the past 50 years. India has over 8,500 peacekeepers in the field, more than twice as many as the U.N.'s five big powers combined."
  • By any objective criteria such as population, territorial size, GDP, economic potential, civilizational legacy, cultural diversity, political system, India is eminently suited for permanent membership of an expanded UNSC.
  • India’s performance as a non-permanent member of the Security Council during 2011- 2012 has also significantly strengthened India’s claim to permanent membership.
  • India’s bid for permanent membership has been supported by all of the Security Council Permanent members except China.
  • The Charter of the United Nations, alongside the call for a geographically balanced distribution of seats, also expressly states that countries that make considerable contributions to the UN should be members of the Security Council.

Steps were taken by India

  • India along with Brazil, Japan, and Germany (together known as the G-4) has proposed an expansion of the membership of the UNSC in both the permanent and non-permanent categories. It supports an extended SC of 25 members, among them 6 new permanent members (G4 members and 2 African states) and 4 newly elected.
  • India is spearheading a group of around 42 developing countries from Asia, Africa, and Latin America – called the L.69 Group – which has demanded urgent action on the UNSC reform front

Also read: Masood Azhar Blacklisted: UNSC 1267 Committee Critical Analysis of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ)

 
 


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