Current UNSC structure does not reflect rise of new powers, needs urgent reforms: UN envoys and policy experts
Jun 02, 2023
The UN Security Council in its current structure is "perverse and immoral", a perpetuation of the colonisation project and does not reflect the rise of new powers and shifting geopolitical landscape, envoys and policy experts said here, asserting that the time for reform is now and status quo is untenable.
Speaking at a Roundtable on Security Council Reform at the UN headquarters hosted by the Permanent Missions of Brazil, India, South Africa and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines here on Thursday, India's Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Kamboj said, "The current composition of the Security Council no longer aligns with the realities of our interconnected and multi-polar world.'' ''The Council structure, designed in a different era, does not reflect the rise of new powers, the shifting geopolitical landscape and the aspirations of nations striving for a fairer and more equitable global order," she said.
The roundtable was held with the aim to bring in the perspective of the Global South on the long-pending issue, keeping in mind the pressing urgency for a reformed multilateralism architecture in the United Nations representative of contemporary geo-political realities.
Kamboj stressed that the urgency of UNSC reform is also underscored by the unprecedented global challenges that transcend borders.
"Climate change, terrorism, pandemics, and humanitarian crises require collective efforts and shared responsibilities," she said, adding that a reformed Security Council will "enable us to pool resources, expertise and perspectives from a wider range of countries, empowering us to confront these issues with greater effectiveness and unity." Asserting that the "time for Security Council reform is now," Kamboj called on the Member States to "seize" the opportunity to revitalize and strengthen the United Nations by making it more inclusive, representative and responsive to the needs and aspirations of all nations.
President of India's leading think tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF) Samir Saran said that in a deeply heterogenous, multipolar world, it is "untenable" that a group of victors of war from another century should be in charge of managing the world of today.
"The war is history and so is the influence and capabilities of some of the members in the room. I think the current structure of the UNSC is perverse and immoral. It is a perpetuation for many of us from the Global South of the colonisation project. The burden of the war was borne by the colonies while the privileges of peace benefited the colonisers and their allies," he said.
Saran noted that in the past decades, "we have seen how the will of the comity of nations has been negated by one or more of the permanent members" of the Council. China, France, Russia, the UK and the US make up the five permanent members of the 15-nation Council.
"More recently, Ukraine presents a classic example of the Security Council's failure to deliver and is a stark reminder of why status quo is untenable," he said.
"The voting patterns, the abstentions on Ukraine matter clearly point to the need to bring in others who can contribute to the global efforts around peace and stability." Calling the current UNSC as inefficient, undemocratic and non-representative, Saran questioned ''How can we accept a structure that shuts out Africa, Latin America and democratic Asia, including the world's largest nation and democracy,'' making a reference to India.
Kamboj underlined that the inclusion in a reformed UNSC of emerging economies and regions with growing political influence is not just a matter of fairness but a ''pragmatic necessity." Panellists at the roundtable ‘Shifting the Balance: Perspectives on United Nations Security Council Reforms from Global South Think Tanks' included Professor of International Relations at FGV (Brazil) and Visiting Scholar at Princeton University Matias Spektor and Senior Researcher, South Africa Institute of International Affairs Gustavo de Carvalho.
The event was attended by the President of the UN General Assembly Csaba Kőrösi, UN Ambassadors, delegates, civil society and think tank members, policy experts and thought leaders.
Deputy Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN Ambassador João Genésio de Almeida said academia and experts would have a fresh, different and more comprehensive view of UNSC reform.
He said diplomats may not agree with each other all the time, but "agreement is a by-product of engagement, of negotiating in good faith, of trying to understand. When we cross this road of negotiation, then the agreement is just natural," he said. Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the UN Inga Rhonda King referred to the two primary models of expansion that have been proposed within the context of the Inter-Governmental Negotiations on Security Council reform - expansion in both permanent and non-permanent categories and expansion in only the non-permanent category with the introduction of the longer term non-permanent seats.
"However, I would like to invite you to dig a little deeper, recognising that these are completely different models. Do you see scope to merge any of the elements to arrive at a compromise model that would garner the widest possible political acceptance?" she said.
Deputy Permanent Representative of South Africa to the UN Xolisa Mabhongo referred to remarks by de Carvalho, who noted that in 1945 only four African countries were members of the UN and that number has now grown to 54 countries.
"So this historical injustice to Africa still persists after seven decades," Mabhongo said.
He lamented that the privilege of being a P5 member ''actually extends beyond the Security Council. We know that in the UN, there is a certain level of entitlement, for example, to certain key positions by P5 members. This is another level of perversion," the South African envoy said. He further termed as "quite jarring" the fact that the five permanent members play a very important role in the appointment of the Secretary General of the UN.
"We do participate in the selection of the SG in the General Assembly but we know very well that there's special power that is given to the P5. So after seven decades, the P5 members still play a very big role in the appointment of the SG of the UN," he said.
Mabhongo agreed with Saran's assessment that by not changing the permanent category of the Security Council, "we would in fact be continuing with this perverse and immoral situation."