The reform agenda has been on continuous annual consideration since 1993 but there has been a lack of consensus on the issue, primarily due to “institutional inertia”. There has been a demand for the addition of new permanent members such as India, Germany, Brazil, Japan, Africa, Membership based on religion.
It entails discussions on following areas:
- Categories of membership
- The question of the veto held by the five permanent members
- Regional representation
- Size of an enlarged Council and its working methods
- The Security Council-General Assembly relationship
Member States, regional groups and other Member State interest groupings developed different positions and proposals on how to move forward on this contested issue.
CRITERIA TO PASS A RESOLUTION?
- Any reform of the Security Council would require the agreement of at least two-thirds of UN member states in a vote in the General Assembly and must be ratified by two-thirds of Member States.
- All of the permanent members of the UNSC (which have veto rights) must also agree.
WHY THERE IS A NEED FOR REFORM?
- Changing Geopolitics: UNSC still reflects the geopolitical architecture of the WWII despite the change in power relations in the world. The developing nations, including India, now play a larger role in both the international economy and politics, yet are not represented in the forum.
- Reforms Long Overdue: It was expanded only once in 1963 to add 4 non-permanent members. Although the overall membership of the UN has increased from 113 to 193, but no change in the composition of the UNSC happened.
- Inequitable Economic and Geographical Representation: Major economic and regional powers like Germany (Europe), Japan, & India (Asia) and Brazil (Latin America) are not yet a part of UNSC. Similarly, there is no permanent member from Africa, despite the fact that 75% of its work is focused on Africa.
- Crisis of Legitimacy and Credibility: various issues including it’s Interventions in Libya and Syria in the guise of responsibility have put the credibility of the institution in jeopardy.
- North-South Divide: The permanent UNSC membership of P5 today only portrays the big North-South divide in the decision making of security measures.
- Emerging Issues: Issues such as transnational threats, deepening economic interdependence, worsening environmental degradation also call for effective multilateral negotiations for reforms yet all critical decisions are still being taken by the veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council.
REASONS FOR DELAY IN REFORMS
- Lack of Political Will: The UN’s rules state that changing the composition of the P5 involves changing the UN’s charter which will further require the backing of two- thirds of the General Assembly including the current P5 which is difficult to obtain due to lack of political will among them.
- Diverging Demands: There is a lack of consensus among the Member States and regional groups like G-4, L.69, African Group, UfC, Organization of Islamic Conference, Accountability, Coherence, and Transparency, etc. Veto power- There are various countries and groups demanding permanent membership and veto power, which the P5 are not ready to accede.
ARGUMENTS IN FAVOUR OF INDIA’S BID FOR PERMANENT MEMBERSHIP
- India was the founding member of UN.
- India is the world’s largest democracy and both demographically and geographically holds a significant position.
- India is the second fastest growing economy in the world making it an ideal destination for foreign investment and future growth.
- India has been the second largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping operations.
- India’s elevation will also be an acknowledgement of its rise as a global power, ready to play a key role in the council’s objectives of international peace and security.
Given the current circumstances, it has become crucial for the UNSC to adopt various suggested reforms to uphold its legitimacy and representativeness in the world. However, the inherent paradox, that is impeding any progress, is that for the Security Council to reform the five nations holding ultimate power have to vote to give some of it up.
Thus, for any change in the structure of the organization would require:
- Further extensive discussions and deliberations among the stakeholders.
- Gradually building consensus on issues that are holding back the changes.
- A strong political will on the part of P5 and other members of UNSC.