[TOPIC: REFORMING THE UNSC] Proposed reforms for UNSC and Veto power

Reform themes

Decision 62/557 of the General Assembly denotes five key themes in reforming the Security Council:

  1. Categories of membership

  2. Regional representation

  3. Size of an enlarged Security Council and working methods of the Council

  4. The question of the veto

  5. The relationship between the Council and the General Assembly.

Predicated upon these themes, the agenda of the GA Committee focuses on the following considerations:  

a. Enlarging the Security Council: Toward Inclusive Regional Representation

With many of the blocs and groups discussing the Security Council reform, a few commonalities can be made. One of them is membership expansion (both permanent and non-permanent), particularly to states in Africa and Asia, which have grown significantly under the current shift in geopolitics. If the ideas discussed regarding representation end up being passed, then one could certainly expect more inclusive discussions and considerations for different political, as well as cultural standpoints in the council. We would even see some of these countries becoming full-fledged permanent members of the UNSC.

However, joint efforts this regard are likely to intensify bilateral and regional contentions. It should also not be forgotten that states prioritize national interests over the interests of their region or continent. With limited seats in the Security Council, even when any sort of expansion takes place, prominent countries are prone to compete for an exclusive seat, a means to advance their national interests. To further complicate the issue, among various indicators or parameters of power, which should constitute the qualification for membership?  

b.Challenging The Veto System: Toward Effective Decision Making

The veto system is often criticized as the embodiment of great power politics, enabling the great powers to determine or sabotage international agendas, contravening the UN’s principle of “every country is equal”. This concern can be mitigated through a reformation entailing the removal of the right to veto in cases pertaining to mass atrocity crimes. Other proposals include adding more permanent members to the UNSC to restructure the currently existing balance of power, which would possibly result in more multifaceted discussions in the council.

Many countries oppose the abolishment of the veto system as they still see values in keeping such a potent prerogative. Security concerns in the international arena always precipitate the polarization between two opposing blocs led by great powers. In these situations, a powerful bloc might find the use of military forces and sanctions to punish atrocious acts tempting. However, states often disagree on what constitutes “atrocity” and intervention based on humanitarian concerns might be used as a veil to conceal political agenda. The veto power, arguably, among other checks and balances on foreign intervention, is necessary to ensure that no prominent bloc or country can employ UN mandates to take any politically-motivated and direct action against other nations.

Bloc-Proposed Reforms

  1. G4 proposes for an expansion of the permanent membership to include Japan, India, Germany, and Brazil in addition to two African countries. They also suggest the council incorporate 3 more non-permanent seats.

  2. Uniting for Consensus bloc only proposes to increase the number of permanent members from 10 to 20 seats while keeping the number of permanent members. They also emphasize the need to delegate the election of the regional representative to each regional groups.

  3. African Group insists that any reform must have African countries in both permanent and non-permanent seats. They propose to have 2 African countries as permanent members and 5 African countries as non-permanent members.

  4. L.69 Group of Developing Countries calls for an expansion of the Security Council that ensures equitable and fair representation without any specific suggestion.  

  5. Arab Group calls for broader representation of Arab and/or Muslim countries and the abolishment of the veto system.


References

IGN. "Revised Elements of Commonality and Issues for Further Consideration." https://www.un.org/pga/72/wp-content/uploads/sites/51/2018/03/IGN-Security-Council-Reform.compressed.pdf

"Arab Group Says UNSC Reforms "vital" for Fair Representation, Development." KUNA. https://www.kuna.net.kw/ArticleDetails.aspx?id=2658596&language=en.