International Law Essay

1. The membership of the UN has seen a quantum increase from 60 to 192 countries since its existence. Barring three countries, all other countries of the world are the members of UN Security Council. Keeping the present status and the distribution of the permanent seats in mind the expansion of the UN Security Council’s permanent membership to achieve equitable geographical distribution is now a primary concern and a top priority. It is also important to realise that the future challenges to global security are not going to be global wars but more of asymmetric type of wars, limited wars, insurgencies and terrorism. All of these would be more possibly driven by religious fundamentalism, ethnic strife and ethnic genocide [24] .

2. The current Security Council is widely seen as a ‘mouth piece’ of the G-7 Nations. Its decisions cannot, therefore, inspire the confidence and credibility of the vast majority of developing countries. The Security Council needs restructuring and re-constitution, so as to reflect the changed post-cold war power equations. Reform of the UN has a direct bearing on the established principles of the international system, the world order and the fundamental interests of humanity. Thus, it deserves active participation, vigorous support, collective wisdom and due contribution of the entire international community.

3. For meaningful and widely accepted reforms of the Security Council it is essential to grant reasonable equitable representation to the developing countries which form a majority in the UN Security Council. A number of developed and developing countries from different regions have shown their enthusiasm in applying for a permanent seat of the Security Council. The restructuring of the Security Council should also take into account the effects of global terrorism and the nations like India which have been adversely affected by this tormentor should have adequate representation in the world body in order to enable them to contribute effectively in countering this menace.

Challenges Faced by UN Security Council

4. The UN has to operate today in a global environment that is complex, vastly more challenging and demanding than the world of 1945. It must anticipate, lead and embrace changes. If existing institutions fail to keep pace with the changing world around us and the expectations of citizens, they will fall by the wayside and be replaced by new forms of association. The price of continued relevance and survival of the United Nations is thus continual change, adaptation and learning by the organisation. The issues and preoccupations of the new millennium present new and different types of challenges from those that confronted us in 1945.  The number of actors in world affairs has grown enormously, the types of actors have changed very substantially, the interactions between them have grown ever more dense and intense, and the agenda of international public policy has been altered quite dramatically in line with the changing temper of the times. [25]

5. Civil conflicts are fuelled by arms and monetary transfers that originate in the industrial countries, and in turn their destabilising effects are felt in the developed world in everything from globally interconnected terrorism to refugee flows, the export of drugs, the spread of infectious disease and the proliferation of organised crime. [26]

6. The UN needs to be modern and relevant. It must face the challenges of the 21st Century more comprehensively and more effectively. At the same time, the UN must be able to act early and quickly, in an integrated, sustainable and legitimate manner. Only the UN which is body representing almost all the countries of the world provides legitimacy for necessary, coercive measures. [27]

7. The five permanent members hardly represent the power realities of the 21st Century. Japan and Germany contribute more to the United Nations than almost any other countries in the world, yet they are not represented on the Security Council. India is a rising power with booming economy but still without permanent Security Council seat. The entire continents of Africa, South America and Australia have no representation on the council. More and more countries are questioning the legitimacy and credibility of the Security Council. They wonder why old colonial powers like Great Britain and France have voice but their former colonies do not. Why does China have a veto when it principle rivals, Japan and India, do not? In 2003 the Secretary-General made an unusually strong statement on the need to carry out reform and revitalisation of the UN. He remarked, “We have reached a fork in the road”. He talked about a fork where one direction leads to an improved capacity for finding common solutions to common problems, while the other direction leads back to a world of unilateral decision making. But the Secretary General’s statement on “a fork in the road” did signal a significant change. It gave the Secretary General the opportunity to establish the High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. This has, in turn, created momentum for reform and revitalisation of the UN. The report of High Level Panel deals with terrorism, organised crime, weapons of mass destruction as well bold and forward looking recommendations on institutional reforms.  [28]

8. The Security Council still carries the primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security and has proved to be quite able to adapt to new agendas. It has been effective in many ways. The ban on the use of military force in the UN Charter nearly 60 years ago remains valid. There is no established right to armed aggression, and there is no established right to engage in preventive or pre-emptive warfare. [29] However, it has failed on a number of ocassion

9. A Number of countries like Sweden strongly believe that the Security Council should be enlarged with new members so that it becomes more representative, reflecting today’s realities and thus be effective. One way to safeguard the Security Council’s efficiency would be to limit the use of veto power with the permanent members. That power could be limited in scope. It could, for example, be followed by a requirement in which a member state had to explain the reasons behind its use of the veto power. Many other ideas for reducing the effect of the present veto right have been put forward. And as per another school of thought, the veto power should not be extended to any new permanent or semi-permanent member of the Council.

10. 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.

11. The most important requirement of the UN reform should be to change the composition of the Security Council as well as the representation system and its basic structure. The organisation is to be restructured in such a manner that deserving and genuine countries are given their due place in the Security Council as permanent members with veto power and at the same time the existing permanent countries which have lost relevance and validity to be released of their present role. The following stand as the most urgently in need of remedy:-

The General Assembly of UN has lost its vitality and often fails to focus effectively on the most compelling issues of the day.

The Security Council is required to be more proactive in the future. For this to happen, the countries which contribute most to the Organization financially, militarily and diplomatically should participate more in the decision-making of Council, and those who participate in Council decision-making should contribute more to the Organization.

The countries under stress and countries emerging from conflict needs to be addressed in a better manner to help it overcome the past and provide it a stable government. Such countries often suffer from attention, policy guidance and resource deficits.

The Security Council has not harnessed the potential advantages of working with regional and sub-regional organisations.

There is a need of better institutional arrangements to address the economic and social threats to international security.

The Commission on Human Rights suffers from a legitimacy deficit that casts doubts on the overall reputation of the United Nations.

There is a need for a more professional and better organized Secretariat that is much more capable of concerted action.

Conflicting Views on Expansion of Security Council

12. There is a marked compatibility gap between the motivations and interests of the affluent and powerful nations like USA on one side and the developing countries on the other, though these form the majority. The developed countries act as activists and interventionists in order to maintain global peace and ensure observance of human rights and economic standards, which they consider appropriate. The developing countries like India on the other hand wish to strengthen the United Nations by making it more democratic, particularly in regard to the composition of the United Nations Security Council and the various other organs and subsidiary bodies. These countries are opposed to undue intervention in the internal affairs of their states on any ground or pretext whatsoever. They wish the United Nations to be stronger for the purpose of defending their sovereignty and territorial integrity and helping them in development, removal of poverty, disease and protection of the environment.

13. During 2004, the UN Secretary General established a High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, to examine the issue of the reform of the UN system including the expansion of the Security Council [30] . The Panel submitted its report in December 2004. The report is a comprehensive document dealing with all aspects of the reform of the United Nations. Only one of these Chapters deals with the expansion of the Security Council and out of 101 recommendations of the Panel, only six deal with the expansion of the Council.

The Proposed Models for the Restructuring of Security Council

14. During the 59th session of the UNGA in 2004, the G-4 countries i.e, Germany, Japan, Brazil and India made a joint declaration asserting their claims to permanent seats on the Security Council. This was designed to pool their resources and votes in pursuit of their ambitions. They also succeeded in persuading the High Level Panel to include a proposal for six new permanent seats on the Council albeit without the right of Veto. In its report, the Panel proposed two possible models for expansion. Both models propose a 24-member Security Council, with the seats equally distributed to four regional areas proposed by the panel i.e. Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe and the Americas including North America, Latin America and the Caribbean states. The shape of the two models is briefly described below.


15. Six new permanent seats with no Veto power (two for Asia-Pacific, two for Africa and one each for Europe and for the Americas), and three new non-permanent seats. The new distribution of seats would be:

(a) Africa. Two permanent seats and four non-permanent seats for Africa, thus a total of three additional seats.

(b) Asia-Pacific. Three permanent seats including China and two new countries and three non-permanent members. Asia-Pacific would also get three additional seats.

(c) Europe. Four permanent seats (Russia, UK, France and one new country) and two non-permanent seats. The region would not get any additional seats. One non-permanent seat would be converted into a permanent seat.

(d) American Continents. Two permanent seats including USA and one more country and four non-permanent seats. America would also get three additional seats.


16. No new permanent seats but a new category of eight 4-year renewable-term seats and one non-permanent and non-renewable seat valid for two years, with each of the four regions getting two 4-year seats. The distribution would be as follows:

(a) Africa. No permanent seat, two seats for a term of four years and four seats for a term of two years. The group would be allocated three additional seats.

(b) Asia-Pacific. One permanent seat (China), two seats for a term of four years and three seats for a term of two years. The group would get three additional seats.

(c) Europe. Three permanent seats (France, Russia, UK), two renewable seats for a term of four years and one non-permanent seat. It would not get any additional seats. Two of its existing 2-year non- permanent seats would be converted into seats for a term of four years.

(d) The Americas. One permanent seat (US), two seats for a term of four years and three seats for a term of two years. The region would get three additional seats.

17. The Panel proposed that preference for permanent or longer term seats would be given to those states that are among the top three contributors, in their relevant regional area, to the regular budget, or the top three voluntary contributors from their regional area, or the top three troop contributors from their regional area to the United Nations peacekeeping missions. It suggested that there should be a review of the composition of the Security Council in 2020.

Basis for Restructuring of UN Security Council

18. It is essential to analyse and assess the capabilities of the countries laying claims for the permanent seat in the UNSC. Certain criteria, which are required to quantify this assessment and make it more objective are as listed below:-

(a) Capability and assurance to provide their military assets to the United Nations for universal security management when called upon to do so, without any preconditions or reservations, especially in operations against terrorist organizations.

(b) Capability and commitment to share expenses for global security management including expenditure in establishing a global anti-terrorism infrastructure.

(c) Capability and commitment to share expenses for peace-building operations including rehabilitation process of civilians and surrendered/captured terrorists in affected areas where and when required.

(d) A stable democratic State with sound economy and strong clout in the international affairs.

(e) The present anomaly of inequitable geographic representation in the Security Council should be eliminated by ensuring just and equitable representation from all regions of the globe.

(f) In continuation with the concept of equitable representation the Security Council should include representatives from developed, developing and the poor countries in order to be more democratic and have a broader representative base.

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