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Fair representation must influence the reformation of UN Security Council

World peace remains a major priority to many world leaders, particularly the major economies—superpowers, so to speak. This partly necessitated the formation of the United Nations (UN). The United Nations was established after World War II in an attempt to maintain international peace and security and to achieve cooperation among nations on economic, social, and humanitarian problems.

The United Nations Charter therefore established the Security Council as one of its six major organs charged with the responsibility of maintaining international peace and security. Thus, the Security Council takes the lead in determining the existence of a threat to the peace or act of aggression.

Similarly, the Security Council calls upon the parties in dispute to settle it by peaceful means and recommends methods of adjustment or terms of settlement. In some cases, the Security Council can resort to imposing sanctions or even authorise the use of force to maintain or restore international peace and security.

Composition of the Security Council

Currently, the UN Security Council consists of 15 countries, of which five—Russia, Great Britain, China, the USA and France are permanent members, and 10 are non-permanent, elected to its membership for two years. The Security Council held its first session on January 17, 1946, at Church House, Westminster, London.

Even though the UN Security Council has lived up to its mandate to some large extent, many nations have raised concern over the composition of the Security Council’s membership. Many believe that the Security Council has been skewed to favour Western nations at the expense of Africa, Asia and Latin America.

It for this reason that many have called for the reformation of the composition of the Security Council. The Secretary General of the UN, Antonio Guterres, has for example stated that most UN countries recognise the need for Security Council reform.

Russia, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council has, for instance, been one of the lone voices fighting for the expansion of the Security Council composition to include African nations, Asian nations and Latin American nations into the Council.

The Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, in an interview with TASS (Russian News Agency) recently said the UN countries, when reforming the Security Council, must prevent the skewing of the numerical composition of this body towards Western countries, as well as the erosion of the prerogatives of the permanent members of the Security Council.

“Painstaking intergovernmental negotiations on the rapprochement of the positions of states are continuing at the UN site. As we can see, the views of the negotiating groups continue to differ diametrically in a number of aspects. This applies to the number of members of the Security Council, and the length of their stay in the body, and other parameters of the work of the Security Council. At the same time, it is important to prevent a further increase in the quantitative bias in the composition of the Security Council in favor of representatives of the West, as well as the erosion of the exclusive prerogatives of the permanent members, including the right of veto,” he said.

Nebenzia expressed the hope that the reform will be carried out as soon as possible, while hasty decisions on this issue should not be taken. “I want to believe that we will be able to overcome all differences and reach the desired consensus. The sooner the better. However, setting some artificial deadlines for completing the reform is extremely counterproductive. Making a hasty unbalanced decision will not contribute to improving the effectiveness of the work of the Security Council,” he said.

The diplomat further indicated that Russia had consistently supported the strengthening of Africa’s representation in the UN Security Council and the elimination of historical injustice committed against it. But also believes that African countries should decide for themselves who exactly will represent the continent in the Security Council.

“We always listen carefully to their opinions on issues affecting their fundamental interests. Undoubtedly, we will do the same this time,” Nebenzia noted, adding that “We always listen carefully to their [African] opinions on issues affecting their fundamental interests. Undoubtedly, we will do the same this time.”

For him, the creation of a “truly multipolar world” is impossible without the inclusion of African states, pointing out that “Africa’s current position in the body does not correspond either to the total number of states on the continent or to its contemporary role in international affairs.”

The diplomat however said a unified position of the African continent on specific candidates has not yet been formed, adding that as for the decision on the parameters of the reform, including categories of membership, it must be made by the vast majority of UN member countries.

Nebenzya also expressed the hope that the reform will be implemented as soon as possible but added that hasty decisions in this matter should not be made, since the adoption of “an unbalanced decision will not contribute to increasing the efficiency of the council.”

He said “painstaking” intergovernmental negotiations are continuing at the UN to bring states’ positions closer together, but on some issues the positions of countries are “polar opposite.” This applies in particular to the number of Security Council members and their length of service in the body.

BRICS and UN Security Council reformation

Similarly, BRICS member countries have also added their voices to the composition of the Security Council. BRICS is an intergovernmental organisation comprising Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, and the United Arab Emirates.

For instance, Brazil, India and South Africa, have made their intentions of seeking to obtain permanent “registration” in the UN Security Council public. Thus, the Johannesburg Declaration II on the results of the XV Unification Summit of August 23, 2023 expresses support for the reform of the United Nations, including the Security Council.

At the same time, for the first time, the BRICS document recorded support for the reform of the Security Council through the expansion of the representation of developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America (including Brazil, India and South Africa) in all categories of membership, which implies permanent membership.

What it means is that new member countries of the association (BRICS) will also try to document their desire to join the UN Security Council, or they will lead the case to depersonalise the applicants, limiting themselves to listing the regions whose countries can apply for prestigious status.

More importantly, BRICS is gradually expanding its membership with more countries expressing their interest to join the bloc.  In 2024 alone, countries such as Egypt, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Ethiopia were accepted to the bloc. What it means is that the voice of the bloc will become much stronger.

Also in 2005, African countries, including Egypt, Ethiopia and South Africa, submitted their own draft resolution of the UN General Assembly, which provided for an increase in the composition of the UN Security Council to 26 members, granting this regional group two non-permanent and two permanent seats, as well as giving the latter all the prerogatives of the current “five” permanent members, including the right of veto. The draft also proposed the creation of two permanent seats and one non-permanent seat for Asian States, one permanent and one non-permanent seat for Latin American States, one permanent seat for Western European States and one non-permanent seat for Eastern European States.

Reforming the composition of the Security Council will make it more representative, considering the fact that the Council in its current form leaves much to be desired.

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