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Road to UN Reform to Be Winding

The reform of the UN, especially the expansion of its powerful Security Council, is of overwhelming importance to the international community. 

With a UN summit meeting scheduled for September fast approaching, the contention between member states on the reform of the 15-member Security Council has become increasingly intense.


On July 13, the African Union (AU) formally presented its own draft resolution to the UN General Assembly, and by then various political forces within the world body had expressed their positions on reform of the council.


International efforts to reform the UN Security Council have strengthened and relevant debates have become more heated than ever before.


Realignment and reorganization of world power are expected to occur with the deepening of the reform.


So far four main reform packages have been proposed. "United for Consensus," which is composed of countries such as Italy, Argentina, Pakistan and South Korea, suggests adding 10 non-permanent Security Council members that can be re-elected. The US proposes two permanent members without veto power and two to three non-permanent members be added.


Meanwhile the G4, Brazil, Germany, India and Japan, favors adding six permanent members without claiming veto power for 15 years as well as four non-permanent members. The AU believes six veto power-wielding permanent and five non-permanent members should be added, with two seats in each category granted to African countries.


On July 17, foreign ministers of the G4, the main advocates of expansion, and representatives from the AU failed to reach a consensus in talks on a joint strategy to reform the council.


The G4, to reach a compromise, has agreed to modify its reform proposal to include another member.


In 1965, four non-permanent members were added to the then 11-member council.


Compared to that change, the current intense desire for reform demonstrates that the international community has fully acknowledged the inevitability of updating the decision-making body to reflect today's world.


However, the wide divisions among member states show different views about how and to what extent global relations have been changing.


As a leading force campaigning for Security Council reform, the G4 has chosen this year, the 60th anniversary of the world body's creation, as the optimum opportunity to be admitted to the exclusive club open only to the most powerful nations.


To this end they have mobilized colossal diplomatic and economic resources. To win support from the AU, the four council membership-seekers have promised US$16 billion in development aid for the impoverished continent of Africa.


Facing strong opposition from the "United for Consensus," the four countries have launched a strong counter-attack.


Even though they have met a joint front of opposition from permanent Security Council members the US, Russia and China the G4 has shown no sign of backing down.


The differences between the main political forces arguing for reform of the UN Security Council are a huge dilemma facing the world.


On the one hand, having been founded on the post-World War II international power structure, the UN, after 60 years of development, has seen earth-shaking changes in international relations since then.


The number of developing countries has radically increased and their strength has grown. Defeated countries have developed into economic powers, and non-traditional security threats have emerged.


The Security Council must adapt to the current international political climate.


On the other hand, reforming the council, a decision-making organ, essentially means redistributing power. Due to different ideas among members about changes in international politics, it is very difficult to reach a consensus on what measures should be taken accordingly.


Without a consensus, any reform could lead to a weak or divided Security Council.


International order is usually established as a result of war, with the world's structure being designed by the victors, as can be seen in the establishment of the European coordination mechanism, the League of Nations and the UN.


In times of peace, to set up a new international order through discussion, consensus is certainly needed among at least a majority of members.


With 191 member states, it is hugely difficult for the UN to reach a consensus on any matter. The more sensitive it is, the harder it is.


How the latest round of Security Council reform campaigning will end is unknown. But a look at the history of its reforms may give a hint as to its future direction.


Its 60-year history is one of gradual development and reform.


The essence of the world body has not changed. The principles and aims of the UN Charter and its basic structure remain unchanged. Also the core of the UN collective security mechanism the granting of veto power remains intact, although some changes have been made.


UN history also shows most reform measures have been carried out through extensive consultation. The principle of discussion and consensus has always been emphasized in decision-making.


These days the principles and aims of the UN Charter still hold sway, which is why many member states do not want radical measures to be taken that will fundamentally change the direction of the world body.


With a direct claim to veto power, the AU draft proposal on the reform of the Security Council, which is not in accordance with the principle of gradual reform, has little hope of being passed.


The package put forward by the G4 has also led to disputes between member states. The measures have been opposed by permanent council members of the US, China and Russia, which could kill it off.


Both history and today's reality show this round of UN Security Council reform may end in stalemate if broad consensus is not reached, and any reform of the world body in the future may be slow.


(China Daily August 2, 2005)

G4 Fails to Win AU Support for UNSC Expansion
Ministers to Discuss UN Reform
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