By EDITH M. LEDERER, Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS (AP) – Virtually everyone involved agrees: Nearly eight decades after its birth, the powerful U.N. Security Council must expand, evolve and include more voices. But as with so many things, the central question, and the biggest disagreement, is exactly how.
Five countries that were major powers at the end of World War II have dominated the United Nations and its most important body during its 77-year history. The council remains in its current configuration despite a four-decade clamor for other countries to join this VIP group to reflect the radically changed world of the 21st century.
The council’s failure to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at this month’s meeting of world leaders highlighted another misstep: Consumed by national interests and regional rivalries, the 193 countries members of the UN have blocked the expansion of the body responsible for guaranteeing international security. peace and security
The post-war era in which the United Nations was created reflected the desire to, in the opening words of the UN Charter, “save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.” An updated board with more voices could refocus that premise, advocates say. But disagreements over the size, composition and powers of a revamped council have left generations of UN diplomats wondering if it will ever change.
Political cartoons about world leaders
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted the problem in 2020: “Nations that overcame more than seven decades ago have refused to contemplate the reforms needed to change power relations in international institutions “.
“Inequality starts at the top, in global institutions,” Guterres said at the time. “Addressing inequality must begin by reforming them.” But it hasn’t happened yet.
The 15-member Security Council has 10 non-permanent members from all regions of the world elected for two-year terms without veto power and five permanent members with veto power: the United States, Russia, China, Great Britain and France .
Two of these members are represented by different governments than they were when the United Nations was established in 1945. The Republic of China, now ruled from Taiwan, is excluded from virtually all UN bodies, which are occupied by the People’s Republic governed by the continent. The Soviet Union dissolved in the early 1990s, leaving Russia as the surviving power.
It is Russia’s use, and threat of use, of its veto that has prevented the council from taking action on the seven-month-old war in Ukraine. It is a failure noted by many leaders in their speeches to the General Assembly, along with their perennial complaints that the council is outdated and unrepresentative.
Of particular annoyance to the governments of Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean: they have no permanent members. Can this change? The American president believes that it is necessary.
“The time has come for this institution to be more inclusive so that it can better respond to the needs of today’s world,” Joe Biden told the General Assembly last week.
It called for increasing the number of permanent and non-permanent members, including “permanent seats for those nations that we have long supported and permanent seats for countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.” The United States also supports permanent seats for Germany, Japan, and India.
Peace, French President Emmanuel Macron said, requires an international consensus. “That is why I hope that we can finally commit to reforming the Security Council so that it is more representative, welcomes new permanent members and remains able to play its full role, limiting the use of the veto in cases of mass crimes “, he said. said
And Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, who addressed the assembly on Saturday, called for a “more democratic” council by expanding representation from Africa, Asia and Latin America and adding India and the brazil At a later press conference, he said that adding “hostile” Western countries such as Japan and Germany would bring nothing new to the council: “They are all following orders from the United States.”
Attempts to reform the council began in 1979. In 2005, world leaders called for the council to be “more representative, efficient and transparent”. That year, the General Assembly, which must approve any reform of the council, raised three rival resolutions to expand its membership, a reflection of the deep divisions that continue today.
A resolution by Germany, Japan, Brazil and India would give them permanent, veto-free seats on a 25-member council. A second from a group of middle-ranking countries, including Italy and Pakistan, wants a 25-member council with 10 new non-permanent seats. The now 55-member African Union wanted to add 11 new seats: six permanent seats, including two for Africa with veto power, and five non-permanent.
Senegalese President Macky Sall, chairman of the African Union, reiterated his demand for two permanent seats, saying it is time to stop “confining Africa to the margins of decision-making circles”. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro said the war in Ukraine shows that “UN reform is essential if we want to find world peace.”
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley called for the veto power to be removed from the five permanent members: “A Security Council that keeps the veto in the hands of the few will still lead us to war.” And Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country “will continue to emphasize that ‘the world is bigger than five’.”
Practically all the presidents of the General Assembly in recent years have held negotiations on the reform of the Security Council. Maldivian Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid, who stepped down as president this month, lamented that he was unable to conclude a deal “to reflect the new reality of the world”. His successor, Csaba Kőrösi, promises to continue.
“It is high time that the council represents the world’s population more equitably and reflects the realities of the 21st century,” Kőrösi said.
This year, the General Assembly adopted a reform: any permanent member of the council who vetoes must now appear before the assembly’s 193 nations during a debate to explain why.
David Scheffer, a former US ambassador for war crimes, said Biden’s proposal “goes beyond anything the US government has said before on this issue” and “accepts the reality of the world we live in today, and not the world of 1945 at the end of a transformative war”.
“The United States needs to be the collaborative superpower of the future, and this will be an important step in that direction,” he told The Associated Press.
Richard Gowan, director of the United Nations’ International Crisis Group, called Biden’s remarks on the reform “a clever political maneuver” that created an uproar among diplomats and UN officials. The statements, he said, reflect U.S. concerns that the council’s credibility is waning, and that it serves American interests “to have a more or less functional council as an alternative to anarchy.”
“China particularly hates the idea that Japan and India could take advantage of the reform discussions to secure permanent seats on the council,” Gowen said. “So Beijing may end up blocking the whole process.”
But he said: “Biden has sparked a discussion about reform that will last at least a couple of years.” Whether it ends in real change or just more talk remains to be seen.
Edith M. Lederer is chief UN correspondent for The Associated Press and has covered international affairs for more than half a century. For more AP coverage of the UN General Assembly, visit https://apnews.com/hub/united-nations-general-assembly.
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