To assert that the United Nations — the Security Council (SC), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank, and the whole set of global governing institutions established after the Second World War — have become obsolete is an understatement. They still reflect the global realities of the Cold War era that has disappeared into history half a century ago. They are obsolete and are no longer legitimate. History tells us that all institutions go through phases of origin, utility, and abuse. They are created to meet the exigencies and challenges of the times. Unless they are reformed, from time to time, to reflect the ever-changing ground realities of power and purpose, they will lose their relevance and legitimacy. However, those in command refuse to yield place and do all that is in their power to preserve and perpetuate their domination and rule. Persuasion and diplomacy do not go far enough to make them bend to the march of history.
Assertion of credentials and reiteration of entitlement ad nauseum will not work. Those seeking reform and re-alignment of the internal power structure of institutions must be willing and able to play hard ball. India, Japan, Germany, Brazil, and other countries must force the change through hard headed political strategies. It is high time India recognizes that “hope” is not a policy!
The UNSC reforms debate has been going on for a long time. In the beginning, the SC had five permanent members with the right to veto all decisions and six members elected for a two year term. In 1965, the number of the elected and non-permanent members was increased from six to ten. This has remained unaltered since then. The SC is the only institution in the UN system whose decisions are mandatory and legally binding on all member states.
Notwithstanding the obvious and universally acknowledged need for change, the reform process did not go forward. However, there was no dearth of proposals for reform. They ranged far and wide with a variety of permutations and combinations depending on the perspectives and interests of the sponsoring countries and regional groups. Three leading Plans deserve special attention: (1) G-4 Plan advocated by India, Japan, Germany, and Brazil envisages a UNSC comprising a total of 25 members including 6 new permanent members (G-4 plus 2 countries from Africa) and an additional 3 or 4 elected seats; (2) UN for Consensus Plan which calls for a 25 member SC without any new permanent members. But, the Plan provides for new “permanent seats” for each geographical region, leaving it to the group to decide which member states should occupy the seats, for how long, etc. (3) Ezulwin Consensus Plan representing the African group proposes 2 permanent and 2 elected members from the content. The new permanent members will enjoy all the prerogatives and privileges on par with the P-5 members including the right to veto.
At this stage it is pertinent to take a brief look at the Budget contributions and size of the population of the P-5 members, the G-4 countries and the 2 African aspirants:
Country Budget Contribution & Rank Population & Rank
USA 22 % 1st 318 millions 3rd
UK 5.17% 5th 64 millions 22nd
China 5-14% 6th 1.36 billions 1st
France 5.59% 4th 66 millions 21st
Russia 2.43% 8th 144 millions 9th
Contenders and Aspirants:
Japan 10.83% 2nd 127 millions 10th
India 0.66% 10th 1241 billions 2nd
Germany 7.14% 3rd 81 millions 16th
Brazil 2.93% 7th 201 millions 5th
Nigeria 0.09% 37th 1754 millions 7th
South Africa 0.37% NA 53 millions 25th
Japan and Germany, which are not members of the SC, are second and third respectively in terms of their contribution to the regular budget of the United Nations. Brazil comes 7th after France, UK, and China. Russia, a P-5 member, ranks lower than Brazil.
It is crystal clear from the above data on the budget contributions and size of their population that the G-4 countries should be in the Security Council. Meaningful reforms will make it more representative and democratic so as to enable it to tackle the challenges confronting the changing world more effectively. The recent crises in Iraq, Iran, Libya and Syria are the latest examples of the failure of the SC as currently constituted. A more inclusive, representative, and legitimate SC would have handled the international conflict situations with greater dexterity and wisdom. UN’s membership has grown from 113 in the 1960s to 193 today. But, the membership and the composition of the SC remain frozen in time. There is no permanent member from Africa though most of its work is focused on the continent. Latin America is excluded and a large number of small island states has no voice in the highest decision making body of the UN.
India’s case for the permanent membership of the SC is exemplary by any objective criteria. Its contribution to world peace in the Cold War era and after and to the maintenance of international peace and security are monumental. In terms of the size of its population and territory, GDP, civilization and legacy, cultural diversity, democratic political system, India’s claim for inclusion in the SC is unimpeachable. Its role in the UN’s peace keeping operations around the world is unequalled. India was elected to the SC seven times so far and is once again a candidate for the 2021-2022 term. India is hopeful, like many other member states, that the year 2015 marking the 70th anniversary of the founding of the UN and the 10th anniversary of 2005 World Leaders Forum which strongly urged the reform of the SC would see the light of the day.
However, it is high time that India, Japan, Germany, Brazil and others seeking reforms realize that “hope” and “wish” do not add up to a strategy. In the real world of global politics credentials do not go far. The active candidates for entry into the SC should have a political strategy to force the gatekeepers open the doors of entry. They should join hands and fight for their rights in a combined and coordinated manner. Since India and Japan regard permanent membership of the Security Council to be very important, they should take the lead in mobilizing others for a joint action.
China is as adamant as ever in its opposition to the expansion of the SC. Notwithstanding its long standing public support of the candidacy of India, when the chips are down, the US reversed itself on the issue. Though the US says that membership of the SC should be country specific and its stand on India’s membership of the SC is unchanged, its stand needs clarity. Recent assurance of support by President Barrack Obama himself suddenly seems less than categorical. Russia joined the other two in opposing the reforms; but thought it prudent to reverse its stand in less than a week later. It came out in support of permanent membership of SC for India and Brazil. However, there is no clarity on the veto issue. The distaste and reluctance of the P-5 to lose their primacy and share power with others is understandable. Global politics is a power game and each one of them has their own chestnuts to take out of the fire. Right or wrong, they have used their veto to protect their narrow national interests as they saw them. World peace and international security, wars and internal conflicts in other countries, and hunger and deprivation around the world were secondary to protecting their own interests and catering to their egos. The world is made that way and cribbing about it is of no use. The reality is to be faced with courage. A deliberate and concerted common strategy to alter the situation has to be devised and deployed without any further delay.
In this context, it is pertinent to bring in what Ramesh Thakur articulated in the opinion columns of Japan Times recently. Interestingly, the reference is to the non-cooperation strategy of Mahatma Gandhi, which brought the mighty British Empire to its knees. It is suggested that the G-4 countries should begin by refusing to take part in the elections for the non-permanent seats on the SC. Their combined non-participation in the electoral process for a decade or more would seriously undermine the already shrinking legitimacy of the SC in the eyes of the world. To drive home their conviction that the present SC is illegitimate, the G-4 and other aspirants should refuse to vote in the process of citing any country for bad behaviour (like non-compliance with nuclear proliferation obligations to the UNSC). They should use each and every occasion to remind others that since they do not consider the SC to be legitimate, it would be hypocritical on their part to subject others to the compulsory mandate of the global governing body. Finally, he argues that the G-4 countries should not contribute troops, civilian personnel or funds to the UN’s peace keeping operations since it is the SC that authorizes such initiatives and activities. It is pertinent to add that the US had adopted the very same tactics effectively and it is a good strategy to follow the American precept and practice!
These three steps taken together will throw a monkey wrench in the UN system and effectively undermine the credibility of the SC in global affairs. This will compel the P-5 to sit up and find a solution to the thorny issue of the endless procrastination of the much needed reforms, it is reasoned. China has demonstrated that the reform proof international financial institutions can be circumvented by creating alternate banks! It is good to follow the Chinese example.
I believe that this three-plan peaceful non-cooperation with the UN institutions should be strengthened by an ultimatum. The G-4 countries should declare that they would collectively withdraw from the world body on 31 December 2015, if the P-5 countries do not allow meaningful reform of the SC during the year of the 70th anniversary of the UN. 2015 is also the 10th anniversary of the UN appointed World Leaders’ Forum’s 2005 clarion call for reforms. It is possible that Germany, which is included in almost all key meetings of the ‘world leaders’ by their western cousins, may not go that far in its bid for inclusion in the UNSC. Be that as it may, India and Japan should take lead in mobilizing Brazil and the other aspirants for membership in the SC for concerted collective action. I am sure that this will work. If the P-5 members still persist in their opposition to reforming the SC, they will be responsible for the decline and demise of the UN system.
In the long history of mankind, institutions rise and fall and alternatives emerge from the ashes of the dead and moribund organizations. Nobody needs to shed tears over the death of dysfunctional and illegitimate institutions.
Dr. B. Ramesh Babu is a specialist in International Relations, American Politics and Public affairs. He is the Scholar in Residence, Foundation for Democratic Reforms, Hyderabad. Formerly he was the Sir Pherozeshah Mehta Professor and Head of the Department of Civics and Politics, University of Bombay. He was also associated with the ASRC, ICFAI University, Institute of Public Enterprise, and the Central University at Hyderabad. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
POST SCRIPT (By FF Digital Team)
The UN General Assembly (UNGC) agreed on Monday, 14th September to adopt a negotiating text for Security Council Reforms despite protest from three key members – China, Russia and Pakistan. This is a significant step forward for India’s hopes of a Security Council seat and a historic decision which could change the future of the UN decisively.