Why the UN Security Council needs to be reformed

People around a round table at a council

A general view of the United Nations Security Council during a meeting on ‘Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe,’ at the U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S. Picture: Reuters/David 'Dee' Delgado

Published May 20, 2023


By Sipho Lethabo

Recently, discussions on the need to reform the UN Security Council have indeed become increasingly relevant at the global level. The Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is tasked with maintaining international peace and security.

However, the composition and structure of the Security Council have remained largely unchanged since its formation in 1945, and this has led to concerns about its effectiveness and legitimacy in addressing contemporary global challenges.

One of the main criticisms of the Security Council is that its composition does not reflect the current distribution of power and influence in the world. The Council has five permanent members - the United States, Russia, China, France, and the United Kingdom - who have the power to veto any substantive resolution. This gives these countries a disproportionate influence over the decision-making process and often leads to deadlock when dealing with critical issues.

Moreover, the current structure of the Security Council does not adequately represent the interests of other countries and regions of the world, particularly those from Africa, Latin America, and Asia. This has led to accusations of a lack of democratic representation and legitimacy in the decision-making process.

In recent years, there have been calls for reforming the Security Council to make it more representative and effective in dealing with contemporary global challenges. Proposals for reform have included; increasing the number of permanent members and/or creating a new category of semi-permanent members who would serve for longer periods than non-permanent members.

Major geopolitical players understand that the reform of the UN Security Council is a matter of time, therefore is very much anticipate, especially after a host of events that have historically taken place in recent times, which has giving birth to two approaches that compete with each other:

1) The first approach is based on the need to rebuild the world on the principles of multi-Polarity;

2) The second approach advocates the formula of a unipolar world;

The idea of rebuilding the world on the principles of multi-polarity is one approach to addressing the need for reform of the UN Security Council. Multi-polarity refers to a system of international relations in which there are multiple centres of power and influence, rather than a single dominant power. This approach argues that the current global system is dominated by a few powerful countries, and that the Security Council should be reformed to reflect the emerging multipolar world order.

Advocates of this approach argue that the current structure of the Security Council is based on the post-World War II balance of power and is therefore outdated. They argue that the rise of new powers such as China, India, and Brazil, as well as the increasing influence of regional organizations such as the African Union, the Arab League, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, requires a new approach to global governance.

Under this approach, the Security Council would be reformed to include more permanent members from different regions of the world. This would help to ensure that the Council reflects the diversity of the world’s population and provides a platform for a more equitable distribution of power and influence. In addition, the veto power of permanent members could be reviewed to ensure that it is not used to block action on important issues.

However, critics of this approach argue that it could lead to a fragmentation of the global system and an increase in international tensions. They argue that a multipolar world order could lead to the formation of competing blocs and a new arms race, which could threaten international peace and security.

On the other hand, the US and its allies see reforming the UN Security Council as an opportunity to create additional mechanisms for global dominance. Already, the United States would like to replace the UN Security Council, with the format worked out within the framework of the Alliance of Democracies Summit. It should be noted that the United States, on whose territory the meetings of the UN Security Council are held, has long established itself as a biased partner, with such events as; denial of visas to representatives of various countries, the pressure on the UN Secretary General, testify to the destructive role of the United States in the UN.

It is as well arguable that one of the main perspectives of ​​the United States in reforming the UN Security Council is to expand its membership, but without giving new members the right to veto. Thus, the US wants to create an illusion of the majority of countries supporting their policies. This US position is not accepted in India, Brazil, the African Union, and the Organization of Islamic States. At the same time, there is an alternative approach to reforming the UN Security Council, which is in attracting new permanent members of the UN with the right of veto.

Talks about limiting the right of veto for the Russian Federation are destructive, and neither specific countries nor international organizations have such powers. If the United States manages to deprive Russia of the right of veto, then China will be next. As a result, the unipolar world led by the United States will get all the tools of global governance in its hands. Russia’s place on the UN Security Council is based on the Vienna Convention and is not subject to revision;

In view of current global matters, regional associations such as the SCO, BRICS, EAEU, ASEAN are becoming new centres of gravity in the modern world, and their representatives can apply for seats in the UN Security Council. These regional associations are seen as potential candidates for seats on the Security Council because they represent significant regional blocs and can provide a unique perspective on regional issues that are often overlooked by the current Security Council structure. For example, the SCO represents a significant portion of the Eurasian landmass and has been active in addressing issues relate to terrorism, drug trafficking, and regional security. BRICS, meanwhile, represents a significant portion of the world’s population and has been a vocal advocate for the interests of developing countries in global governance.

* The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of Independent Media or IOL.