By Luciano Anzelini (for Safe Democracy)

Luciano Anzelini analyzes the challenges that the United Nations will face in taking on the undeniable reform of its Security Council, suggested by Kofi Annan in 2005. In Anzelini‘s opinion, the stagnation of the reforms process is due to the fact that the Security Council is an exclusionary organism, which fails to faithfully represent the international reality. In order for the United Nations to finally advance to the path towards democratization, Anzelini outlines some reforms that should, and should not, be taken.

Luciano Anzelini is a political scientist, professor at the University of Buenos Aires, and investigator at the University of Quilmes (Argentina). He is a grant holder at the National Agency for the Promotion of Science and Technology in Argentina with a seat at Torcuato Di Tella University.

IN 2005, THE COUNTRIES MAKING UP THE UNITED NATIONS were unable to agree on an organizational reform.

Among the principal issues taken up in the reforms project were the distribution and functioning of the Security Council. Despite numerous attempts to reach an agreement in voting, existing opposing coalitions stopped the reforms dead in their tracks.

The reforms process was not included on the agenda of the UN in any of its 61 sessions and will undoubtedly remain static for sometime; moreover, having been eliminated from the UN’s agenda, the question of reforming the principal organism of the United Nations continues to be an issue of great importance.

In March of 2005, the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, presented a report called In Greater Liberty: Development, Security, and Human Rights for All. In it, he explained his ambitious plan to transform the organism, bringing up various conclusions of the High Level Group that had previously convened to discuss reforms in December of 2004.

The novelty was that this document offered a definition of security that transcends the classic sphere of disputes between states.

With a new definition, threats can be recognized within all fields of international politics: transnational, international, and intranational.

Nobody doubts the necessity of transforming the international organism to meet the challenges presented by new global threats. Classical, international conflicts – like the War in Iraq of 2003 and the escalation of the American-Iranian conflict over Iran’s nuclear program -have only recently laid bare the geopolitical forces that have paralyzed reform in the UN for so long.

Under this framework, it is clear that an ample administrative reform of its organisms – the General Assembly, the Secretary and the Security Council – is vital; however, the inability of the Security Council to adapt to the current international reality has made reform so impossible up until this point.

The structure of the United Nations is based upon two components: democracy, represented by the General Assembly; and realpolitik, represented by the Security Council.

The General Assembly is the main deliberative organism of the organization. In it, all Member States are equally represented, each counting for one vote. At least in the Assembly, the principle of sovereign equality holds true for all of its members.

The Security Council, on the other hand, is an exclusionary organism, which has held onto its discriminatory status in order to perpetuate the powers that were strengthened by the Yalta Agreement of 1945: US, France, Great Britain, the Russian Federation (a seat previously occupied by the Soviet Union) and the People’s Republic of China (a seat previously occupied by Taiwan).

This hierarchy of the five permanent members has the unique power of veto established by the unanimity rule of the larger powers. What this means is that if one of the five countries disagrees with a decision of the Council (let us not forget that the Council has a total of 15 members) it can issue a negative vote and paralyze all action.

In this manner, the composition of the Security Council shows evidence of a flagrant disregard for the international reality. The lack of representation of the majority of UN member states in the Security Council has generated intense debate about possible models of reform.

The most discussed suggestion is to expand the number of seats. But the crucial problem with this proposal is how many members to add to the Council, and in what capacity?

Two different postures have been taken regarding this question. One of them comes from the High Level Group convened by the General Secretary, proposing the incorporation of 9 more seats, distributed following two alternative models.

1) The first would provide for six new permanent seats, and three non-permanent seats, none of them with the right to veto.
2) And the second would not incorporate any more permanent members, but would rather lengthen the renewable mandate of non-permanent members from two years to four.

Of these formulas suggested by the High Level Group, the second allows for the most efficient adaptation to the challenges confronting the United Nations today.

When the United Nations was formed, its mission was to guarantee international peace and security, for which the expansion of democracy within the organization is an indispensable requirement.

The world tendency, since the process of decolonization after the world war until modern day, has shifted towards a general democratization. Why, then, would there be a proposition to strengthen the oligarchy of the Security Council by adding more permanent members?

The proposal to add new permanent members is not only anti-democratic in its desire to maintain and extend the privileges associated with the right to veto of the most powerful but it also presents a potentially hazardous situation of destabilization within the various regions of the world that would vie for a permanent status.

The best solution to this dilemma would be for the countries with seats on the Council to hold their position of power with the endorsement of their neighbors.

In this way, it would be possible to limit the oligarchy of the Security Council, and begin to make progress towards fixing the belittled and undermined process of democratization of the United Nations.

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