Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Reforming the United Nations Security Council

Written by johnleemk on 1:15:51 pm Jun 7, 2007.
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After the end of World War I, the League of Nations was formed to ensure that the world would never undergo such a devastating conflict again. The League, of course, was for the most part a dismal failure, as anyone who remembers World War II can tell you.

After World War II, though, the world decided to give the idea of an international body for the promotion of peace another try. The result was the United Nations, which, if measured in terms of how far we've prevented another world war, has been pretty successful so far.

However, the UN suffers from some structural problems its creators did not contemplate when they drew up its structure. The most significant internal body of the UN is the Security Council, which, as the name might suggest, handles important matters of security.

The Security Council has a number of rotating seats, which are allocated to a variety of countries. No problem there. The problem lies with the permanent members of the Security Council.

In the first place, instituting permanent members of the Security Council was a rather bad idea. Of the countries currently sitting on the Security Council as permanent members, it is likely that only the United States and China would still be there if the Security Council were reconstituted today.

Worse still, all permanent members of the Security Council can veto any resolution before the UN General Assembly — meaning these superpowers (and ex-superpowers) can effectively overrule the will of the over one hundred other UN members.

Of course, there are sensible explanations for this state of things. The stalemate after World War II, and the impending Cold War, necessitated measures to ensure a balance of power between the "free world" and the communist countries. The Security Council's structure provided such a balance.

There could have been fairer ways of drawing up the Security Council without lending excessive power to the superpowers. For example, it could have been required that all members of the nuclear club — countries which have detonated a nuclear weapon — automatically become permanent members of the Security Council.

(Of course, this is just a hypothetical. In reality, the superpowers would not have wanted their veto power diluted, and who the heck wants Pervez Musharraf or Kim Jong-Il to be able to veto a UN resolution anyway?)

Regardless of the reasons for why the UN was constituted in such an undemocratic and unfair way, it is very clear that it has to be reformed. A Cold War institution must be restructured in a new era without the free world poised against communism.

Of course, any reform attempts will be stalled by the Security Council's permanent members — especially those who don't particularly deserve to be on the Security Council any longer, and those with personal vendettas (e.g. China would not want to give Japan more power).

Despite the drastic need for reform, it seems that the status quo will prevail. And unfortunately, this can only mean one thing — that it will take a third world war for the world to build a new international organisation that will be able to accomplish the goals of the League and UN in a new time.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.


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