Reforming the United Nations Security Council: Challenges and Prospects

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Addis Ababa University


This study examines the prospects for and challenges against reforming the UN Security Council based on the 2005 Reform Proposal and the three main reactions that followed (the G4, the UFC and the AU Proposals). The findings are based on review and analysis of relevant secondary sources in the main. The study found that the Security Council is in need of reform since it lacks representativeness in its membership, accountability, transparency and democracy in its working methods compounded by the anachronistic nature of veto power. Almost all member states of the UN agreed on the need for reform so as to enable the Council to reflect the 21st century realties rather than the period right after the end of the WWII. However, they could not come up with one common proposal to this end. Countries give precedence to their national interests rather than genuinely striving to bring about changes in the Council’s mode of operation. It is due to this that three major proposals came to the fore following the 2005 Reform Proposal. All the proposals examined by this study advanced their respective positions on how to reform the membership and working methods of the Council and veto power. This lack of unanimity greatly hampers the effort of reforming the Council. The study showed that bringing changes in the membership and veto power of the Council require amending the UN Charter, which is really impossible even to go beyond the first step of gaining two-thirds majority in the General Assembly (128 out of the current 192 UN member states) under a condition in which member states are divided on the issue. In addition, the position of the Permanent Five is an insurmountable impediment in the attempt to amend the Charter since the opposition of one permanent member curtails the effort. This indicates that the position of the permanent members is a cornerstone in reforming the Security Council. Even if the permanent members support to reform the Council, it is nominal since they put various criteria on how to bring about reform so as to keep their own interests. In this respect, the feasibility of the proposals which call for reforming membership category and veto power is farfetched. Meanwhile, there is the possibility to effect changes in the working methods of the Council since doing so does not require the awkward process of amending the UN Charter. Finally, the study comes up with the conclusion that it is unlikely to reform the membership of the Council particularly the permanent category and veto power in the near future



International Relation