Small, but positive, step on UN reform

Small, but positive, step on UN reform

The United Nations (UN) has finally initiated the process for negotiating reform of the UN Security Council (UNSC). On Monday, the General Assembly adopted text that sets in motion negotiations on the matter. Although this is just the first, small step in what is likely to be a very long and arduous journey ahead, it is historic. Reform of the UNSC is long overdue, with several of its permanent members at the forefront of fierce resistance to any changes in the composition of the UNSC’s permanent membership or their powers. That the General Assembly is finally acting to jump-start negotiations on reforms is heartening. Some have described the move as more significant in technical terms than substantially. Still, its importance cannot be dismissed. This is after all the first time that a decision on the question of refo-rms is included in an official UN document.

The need to reform the UNSC cannot be overstated. Today’s UN with 193 member-states is vastly different from the 51-member organisation that came into being in 1945. The permanent membership of the UNSC reflected the geopolitical realities of the world post-World War II. The world has undergone a sea-change since with countries like India, Japan, Brazil, Germany, etc emerging as major powers in a multi-polar world. Veto power in the hands of a handful of countries flies in the face of the founding principles of the UN. There is no doubt that the UNSC needs to be democratised, expanded and reformed. Its permanent membership needs the infusion of fresh blood and of countries that can inspire the UN to play a more relevant and effective role in the 21st century. Importantly, reforms will have to move beyond expansion of the UNSC’s permanent membership to make it more democratic in its decision making. 

The General Assembly decision provides a shot in the arm to India’s long-standing quest for inclusion in the UNSC as a veto-wielding permanent member. Delhi must co-ordinate its strategy with other countries. Its previous efforts to kick-start reform of the UNSC failed to bear fruit. It needs to craft a more canny strategy this time around. It must be prepared for a long-drawn campaign. Although it has been assured of support for its candidature as a permanent member from a large number of member-states, key permanent members such as China and the US have been rather ambiguous and their confirmed support remains elusive. Member-states keen to democratise the UNSC need to join hands as the reform process will be an uphill task.
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