United Nations Security Council Reform and India

During the 71st session of the UN general assembly, 2016, meeting of intergovernmental negotiations on Security Council reform was held, where member state rose to acknowledge the urgent need for reform.

Timeline of UNSC Reform

1. Increase in the non-permanent members: In 1965, their number in UNSC increased from six to ten.

2. General Assembly Resolution 67/62 (1992): It highlighted the three major criticisms raised as regards the Council: Lack of equitable representation, Unresponsiveness towards new political realities, Domination of Western states.

2. General Assembly resolution 48/26 (1993): It established an Open-ended Working Group (OEWG) to discuss SC reform, which led to the formation of a Working Group to Inter-Governmental Negotiation (IGN) in 2009, and the Group of Friends on Security Council Reform.

3. Group of four [G4]: India, Brazil, Germany and Japan constitute the G4, which support each other’s bids for permanent seats on the United Nations security council.

4. Razali reform plan: Under the plan, the UNSC would have five new permanent members without veto powers, besides four more non-permanent members taking the council’s strength to 24.

Reason behind the demand for UNSC Reform

1. The UNSC, created in the post-war context, doesn’t actually reflect the changes that have occurred in the international system after the end of the cold war.

2. The world has witnessed a redistribution of power and emergence of new power centres, along with a transformation from the era of colonialism to that of post-colonial independent states

3. The geopolitical rivalry among the permanent members has prevented the UNSC from coming up with effective mechanisms to deal with global crises.

4. The Indian position is that this “democracy deficit in the UN prevents effective multilateralism” in the global arena.

5. Complex global scenario: modern peace and security considerations stretch far beyond inter-state armed conflicts now, which a greater participation and coordination among member states.

6. Lack of representation: there is no permanent member from Africa continent.

India’s Claim for Permanent Membership

1. India is among the founding members of United Nations.

2. It is the world’s largest democracy and Asia’s third largest economy.

3. The Indian army is the largest contributor to the UN peacekeeping mission since the inception of the mission.

4. India is also among the highest financial contributors to the UN, with the country making regular donations to several un organs like the United Nations Democracy Fund (UNDEF).

5. With its initiatives like Non Aligned movement, historically India’s foreign policy has been aligned with world peace, and not with conflicts.

6. It’s relatively trusted by the Muslim states, and the Security Council could probably use someone other than China that can negotiate in the Middle East.

What are the Challenges?

1. Uniting for consensus (UFC): nicknamed as coffee club, it is a 13-member group that, opposed expanding permanent membership, fearing that their regional rivals would be selected to the new permanent seats.

2. It suggested the creation of a new category of elected membership with longer terms than the current two years as their opposition to Razali plan.

3. UN losing its legitimacy: many of the policy makers in the country still entertain doubts about the wisdom of India seeking greater space in an institution that is losing its legitimacy.

4. India performance at multilateral institution: India has been accused as stumbling block by many during negotiation in multilateral institutions

5. Status-quo of P-5 member: they are opposed to any major changes in their respective position.

What can be done?

1. Speeding reform process: G4 have offered to initially forgo veto powers as permanent members in a reformed security council as a bargaining chip to get the reform process moving.

2. Expanding only the non-permanent categories, as suggested by UFC, would only worsen “the imbalance of influence” in the council and does “grave injustice to Africa’s aspirations for equality”

3. The permanent members should realise that a more democratic and representative security council would be better-equipped to address global challenges.

4. Meaningful reform of the council to make it more representative and democratic is inevitable to enable it to take a comprehensive, coordinated and coherent approach to peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights challenges.

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