UNSC Reforms
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Baljit Dhaka

UNSC Reforms

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UNSC Reforms

Why in news?

  • India has criticized the slow pace of the UN Security Council reform process and opaque methodologies, non-attribution of assertions, and obfuscation of references by the member states which are blocking the early reform of the UN.

  More about the news

  • Since 1993, the UN General Assembly has hotly debated Council reform but has not been able to reach an agreement, primarily due to “institutional inertia”. 

What constitutes the UNSC reform agenda?

Five sets of issues have been identified by the General Assembly.

  1. Categories of membership
  2. The question of the veto
  3. Regional representation
  4. Size of an enlarged Council and its working methods and
  5. The Security Council-General Assembly relationship.  

Why reforms?

Changed Geopolitics: The Security Council's membership and working methods reflect a bygone era. Though geopolitics have changed drastically, the Council has changed relatively little since 1945, when wartime victors crafted a Charter in their interest and awarded "permanent" veto-wielding Council seats for themselves. 

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 no change in the composition of the UNSC happened.  

Inequitable economic and geographical representation: While Europe is over-represented, Asia is underrepresented. Africa and South America have no representation at all.  

Crisis of legitimacy and credibility: Stalled reform agenda and various issues including its Interventions in Libya and Syria in the name of responsibility have put the credibility of the institution in jeopardy.

North-South Divide: The permanent UNSC membership portrays the big North-South divide in the decision making of security measures. For instance, there is no permanent member from Africa, even though 75% of its work is focused on Africa.  

Emerging issues: Issues such as transnational threats, deepening economic interdependence, worsening environmental degradation also call for effective multilateral negotiations based on consensus yet all critical decisions are still being taken by the veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council.

Credentials for India’s bid for membership

  • Founding member of the UN.
  • World’s largest democracy and both demographically and geographically hold a significant position.
  • One of the fastest-growing large economies in the world.
  • One of the largest contributors to UN peacekeeping missions and India suffered the highest number of fatalities over the years, which is acknowledged time and again.
  • India is seen as a responsible power, which adheres to rule of law, global norms. India’s elevation will make UNSC more credible, representative.  

India and UNSC reforms

  • India has adopted a multi-layered strategy to assume the long-awaited permanent seat in the Security Council consisting of two components: Maximising support in the UN General Assembly and Minimising resistance in the UN Security Council.
  • India hopes that its continued engagement at various Global South forums such as G 77 and NAM, African Union would garner much-needed numbers in the UNGA. This is reflected in India’s strong defense of the principle of sovereignty and the constant voluble criticism of the “Responsibility to Protect.”  
  • India’s growing strategic partnerships with the P5, growing economic strength, including the nuclear deals with the US, Russia, rapprochement with China paints a favorable picture for Indian Explicit public declarations supporting India’s candidature as a permanent member in the Council are reiterated by countries like France, UK.
  • India has also formed the G4 with Brazil, Germany, and Japan, its “coalition of the willing”, and a “collaborative strategy” to negotiate reforms of the Council. The four nations support each other's bids for permanent seats on an expanded Security Council.  

Why delay in reforms?

  • Lack of Political will- 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 and consensus among them.
  • Lack of consensus among member States and regional groups like G-4, L-69, African Union, Uniting for Consensus, Organization of Islamic Conference, and also divergent demands of various groups.
  • Use of Veto power- Various countries and groups are demanding permanent membership and veto power, which the P5 are not ready to accede.  

Way forward

  • In the current circumstances, it has become crucial for the UNSC to reform itself and uphold its legitimacy and representativeness in the world. However, for that to happen political will, especially of P-5 nations and strong consensus among all the nations is the need of the hour.