, Staff Writer

UNITED NATIONS–The newly-elected government in Australia hit the ground running, saying it would seek a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2013-2014 term, after an absence of 27 years. Not only was there an announcement concerning the seeking of a seat, but there was also mention of the need for Security Council reform.

“The United Nations needs to be modern,” said Foreign Minister Stephen Smith in an interview with a news program. Australia would be speaking up for India and Japan as new permanent members with no veto power, he added. In 2003, Australian Prime Minister John Howard proposed revamping the Security Council to include a permanent seat for Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim nation. Mr. Howard’s plan would have added India, Japan, Germany and Brazil, giving them permanent seats but no veto rights. The veto is currently held by China, Britain, United States, France and Russia, also known as the “P5.”

The debate on Security Council reform has been ongoing over the past decade and observers say it is questionable whether expansion will take place any time soon. No proposed plan has the two-thirds majority vote needed in the UN’s 192-member General Assembly to approve additional Security Council membership.


Efforts began in 1979 to enlarge the Security Council, the most powerful UN body, which has the ability to make binding decisions about war and peace.

“It has been a frustrating process,” said Professor Clovis Maksoud, director for the Center for the Global South at American University. “Everyone agrees that the council, as it exists, is undemocratic and that its effectiveness and legitimacy cannot be sustained unless it responds to the needs and demands of today’s world,” Mr. Maksoud told The Final Call.

Steven Dimoff, vice president of the UN Association of the USA, wrote: “Expanding the Security Council would give its actions more credibility–that as a result of expansion–which is more reflective of the world and more inclusive of all the regions, that in fact the council’s decrees will carry more weight, they’ll be more legitimate.”

An analyst at the conservative American Enterprise Institute, in Washington, D.C. recently wrote that “the thing that is most surprising and disturbing is that none of the reforms on the table go to the question of what would make the Security Council function better. They all go to I want my piece of the pie; and so people are dividing up the pie, and no one’s asking how can we bake a better pie.”

The present Security Council was established after World War II, with the African, Latin American and Western European blocs selecting two members each. The Arab, Asian and Eastern European blocs select one member each. The last seat alternates between Asian and African nations.

A proposal submitted March 20 to General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim calls for two additional seats for Africa, two for Asia, one for Latin America, one for Western Europe, and one for Eastern Europe.

The proposal also seeks to improve other functions of the Security Council. It outlines new working methods for the council aimed at promoting better communications and transparency for its operations and debates.

In the corridors of the UN, African delegates say the African Union still stands by its proposal, which was submitted in 2005, that Africa needs two permanent seats–with veto power.

“One thing is for sure, the ‘P5’ cannot possibly hold on to their monopoly in the Security Council,” said James Paul of the New York-based Global Policy Forum, a UN-watchdog group. “But, he said, “expanding to 25 members makes the council too large, and nothing will ever get done.”

Mr. Paul argues for electing members strictly from a regional bloc system. The paradigm in the world today is based on regional issues, such as food and water, Mr. Paul noted.

Analysts say if permanent seats are allotted based on region it would be unlikely that Italy of Pakistan would receive seats over Germany and India.

Mr. Maksoud said the veto issue will remain the stumbling block to achieving reform. “What I propose is an immediate change in only one of the P5 having the power to stop Security Council resolutions with their sole veto. I say expand the veto on any issue to a mandate that two nations must carry the veto for the resolution to be stopped,” he said.

The debate rages on, but out of sight of the media. “We believe there will be a sound proposal submitted to the General Assembly before December, but I cannot reveal what we are talking about,” Ambassador Alpha Ibrahima Sow of Guinea told The Final Call. Guinea is serving as the African Group chair for the month of September at the United Nations.

Observers say if negotiations succeed and the General Assembly agrees to expand the council within the year, it would take up to three years for member states to ratify the plan.

“Reform of the Security Council anytime soon has as much chance as a snowball in hell,” said Mr. Paul.