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  • Nilesh Chopra

United Nations Security Reforms: An Unavoidable Imperative

This article is authored by Nilesh Chopra, a fourth year student pursuing law at Jindal Global Law School.

Introduction United Nations Security Reforms has been a contemporary topic of discussion in the landscape of international relations and policies.[1] Throughout the years, there have been several initiatives to expand and reform the structure of the Security Council (hereinafter, ‘Council’) but none of them were ever successful. In 2005, two models of expansions, i.e., Model A and Model B, were proposed to reform the structure of the Council.[2] Model A suggested the creation of six new permanent members and three new non-permanent members, which would increase the membership of the Council to 24.[3] Model B suggested the creation of eight new permanent members, who would be elected for a four-year renewable term, and a non-permanent member.[4] However, these Models were never adopted and proved to be a squandered exercise. Later, in 2008, Inter-Governmental Negotiations (IGN) helped to cumulate the opinions of all the countries.[5] Accordingly, in 2014, they enumerated ten possible versions of expansion to enhance the effectiveness of the Security Council. This proposal included: (i) inclusion of new permanent members with veto or (ii) with veto frozen until a review; (iii) permanent seats without veto; (iv) long term seats that can become permanent after a review; (v) long term seats that be renewed many times or (vi) renewable only once; (vii) long term seats that cannot be renewed; (viii) non-permanent seats that can be renewed; (ix) additional two-year non-permanent seats beside the permanent seats; and (x) only new non-permanent seats.[6] However, none of the suggestions were adopted, and yet again, these efforts proved to be futile. Nevertheless, in 2015, text-based negotiations were considered to be a significant development, but none of the points were ever considered or discussed amongst the nations.[7] Currently, the need for Security Council Reforms is being firmly demanded by many world leaders. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his speech in the United Nations General Assembly 2020, appealed to the United Nations to include India in their decision-making process and firmly advocated for urgent reform of the Security Council.[8] Moreover, Japanese Foreign Minister, Toshimitsu Motegi, opined that the old structure of the Security Council is ineffective today as it does not fulfil the purposes of the Charter. He too urged the United Nations to introduce Security Council reforms and include Japan as a permanent member.[9] Additionally, the delegates of all the current permanent members (hereinafter, ‘P5’) of the Security Council have also advocated for the expansion and reformation of the current structure in the Seventy-Fifth Plenary Session of the General Assembly.[10] Issues with the Current Structure: One of the primary issues with the current structure is the power of veto bestowed upon the permanent members (P5) of the Council, i.e., United States of America, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom. This power has been granted under Article 27 of the United Nations Charter which empowers them to reject any resolution proposed in the Security Council.[11] Surprisingly, this power has been granted to the P5 since the very inception of the United Nations, without any logical premise, despite repeated disapprovals of other member nations. Undoubtedly, the power of veto is excessive and arbitrary in nature.[12] It directly prevents the Security Council to act on urgent international issues that might be against the national or political interests of the P5.[13] For instance, Russia vetoed a resolution on the 2014 Crimean crisis;[14] China and Russia vetoed a resolution on the Venezuela crisis, the Syrian crisis;[15] and China vetoed the Guatemalan Peace resolution [16] to protect their national and political intentions.[17] Additionally, in 1963, four out of five members of the P5 had disagreed with expanding the Council which was later ratified after the General Assembly voted in favour of the proposal.[18] Lastly, the reluctance of the permanent members and the divided opinions of the remaining member nations are the supplementary reasons for non-initiation of Security Council reforms. Essentially, the debate on Security Council reforms[19] is divided into five broad categories: the right to veto, the level of extension of membership, working methods, categories of members, and its relationship to the General Assembly. Reforms Proposed by International Groups: To redress the aforementioned issues, numerous groups have proposed reforms for the Security Council. The Group of 4 (G4), which consists of Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan, proposes increasing the number of members in the Council by adding 6 new permanent members (G4 members and 2 African Countries) and 4 new elected members, thereby, increasing the membership of the Council from 15 to 25.[20] The Group of Uniting for Consensus (UFC) consists of Italy, Argentina, Pakistan, South Korea, Canada, Spain, Mexico, Turkey, and Malta. This group proposes adding a new category of members or expanding the membership of the Council to 25.[21] Additionally, the African Union (AU) proposes increasing the membership to 26 members which shall include 2 countries of the AU which would become permanent members with the right to veto and an additional 2 non-permanent members.[22] Lastly, a transregional group of 21 states formed under the banner of Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT), advocates for the need to review the working methods of the Council in order to increase the responsibility of the members and their transparency of work.[23] The 8+8+8 Model as the Appropriate Reform: To fairly incorporate the aforementioned suggestions, the suitable option would be the 8+8+8 model which also encompasses the ideas put forth by Model A and Model B proposed in 2005. The 8+8+8 model proposes increasing the number of members for the Security Council from 15 to 24.[24] These 24 members would be divided into three distinct categories: 8 permanent members who would have renewable terms; 8 non-permanent members with renewable terms; and 8 non-permanent members with non-renewable terms.[25] The 8 permanent members shall include a member of the European Union (EU) and the AU, Brazil, China, India, Russia, Japan, and the USA. Additionally, in the second category, countries that commit to contributing higher amounts to the UN Budget and actively participate in UN Peacekeeping missions could qualify as non-permanent members.[26] For example, Germany, Britain, France, South Korea, etc. Since the developed and developing countries would occupy the first two categories, it would be easier for the smaller countries to be a part of the Security Council under the third category of members with reduced competition, unlike the current system.[27] The reason for incorporating the aforementioned countries as permanent members is to ensure adequate worldwide representation in the Security Council. However, the stipulation for the inclusion of new members is to forego their power of veto in order to set an example to the old members. Other countries like Britain, France, South Africa, Italy and Egypt would continue enjoying a strong influence in the Council as members of the second category with a renewable term. The inclusion of Britain and France under this category is because these countries have been permanent members since the inception of the United Nations and have openly advocated for Security Council reforms. Additionally, the members in this category also enjoy renewable terms and are not restricted to the current two-year term. Therefore, their transfer to non-permanent members would not affect their influence or voice in the Council. Lastly, other smaller nations who have never been a part of the Council could be elected easily without much competition with the larger countries.[28] Collectively, this model proves to be beneficial for all countries as it ensures wide representation and significantly removes competition and the restriction of non-renewable terms. It not only benefits the G4 (allowing India, Brazil and Japan to become permanent members) but also expands the influence of the EU and fulfils the long time ask of the AU by integrating smaller nations into the Council under the third category. The 8+8+8 model also ensures wide continental representation which shall avoid competition and tiffs between countries of the same continent. Under this model, two countries from Asia become permanent members and the remaining countries get renewable seats which also fulfils the demand of ASEAN countries. Additionally, it incorporates sufficient representation of Latin America by including Brazil as a permanent member and opening opportunities for countries like Argentina and Mexico to be elected to the Council. Moreover, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation is also promised adequate representation by allowing countries like Turkey, Egypt and Indonesia to be elected in the Council under the second and third category of members. Lastly, this model ensures no loss to the current permanent members, i.e., the USA, China and Russia who would not lose any power or influence but instead would have to make smaller financial and logistical contributions due to the expansion of members in the Council. Conclusion: The need for Security Council reforms has now become an exigent issue that requires adequate reflection of the twenty-first-century realities.[29] Additionally, never in the history of international relations, have the world leaders, including the P5, openly advocated for the need for Security Council reforms. Moreover, in the Seventy-Fifth Plenary session of the General Assembly, almost all delegates of member countries advocated for the urgent need for initiating plans to reform the framework of the Council. The membership of the United Nations currently is 193, and despite the availability of such significant representation, all Security Council resolutions are at the prerogative of the P5.[30] This proves that there is a considerable absence of representation and equality of other member states due to which the activities of the Security Council should not be permitted to continue.[31] The United Nations cannot ensure the maintenance and protection of international peace and security under this obsolete and ineffective structure of the Security Council. ​ References: [1] Albrecht Schnabel, ‘Security Sector Reform and Post-Conflict Peacebuilding’ (2005) United Nations University Press [2] Amber Fitzgeral, ‘Security Council Reform: Creating a More Representative Body of the Entire UN Membership’ (2000) 12 Pace International Law Review [3] ibid [4] ibid [5] UNGA Res 60/1 (24 October 2005) UN Doc A/RES/60/1 [6] Vesselin Popovski, ‘Model 8+8+8: Innovating the Security Council’s Composition’ (2016) Academic Council on the United Nations System [7] Security Council Report, ‘In Hindsight: Security Council Reform’, (2019) [8] Ministry of External Affairs of India, ‘Prime Minister’s address at 75th United Nations General Assembly’ (2020) [9] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, ‘Statement by Foreign Minister Motegi at the High-level Meeting to Commemorate the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the United Nations’ (2020) <> [10] “Security Council Must Reflect Twenty-First Century Realities, Delegates Tell General Assembly, with Many Calling for Urgent Expansion of Permanent Seats | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases”(United Nations) <> [11] Charter of the United Nations, art. 27, 1945 [12] Ian Hurd, ‘International Organizations: Politics, Law and Practice (2nd edn 2014) [13] Simon Chesterman and David Malone, ‘Law and Practice of the United Nations’ (2nd edn 2016) [14] UNSC Verbatim Record (29 July 2015) UN Doc S/PV.7498 [15] UNSC Verbatim Record (28 February 2019) UN Doc S/PV.8476 [16] UNSC Verbatim Record (10 January 1997) UN Doc S/PV.3730 [17] Amber Fitzgeral, ‘Security Council Reform: Creating a More Representative Body of the Entire UN Membership’ (2000) 12 Pace International Law Review [18] Nadia Sarwar, ‘Expansions of the United Nations Security Council’ (2011) 31 Institute of Strategic Studies [19] Vesselin Popovski, ‘Model 8+8+8: Innovating the Security Council’s Composition’ (2016) Academic Council on the United Nations System [20] Peter Nadin, ‘United Nations Security Council Reform’ (2014) United Nations University <>

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