Skip to main content

Enhancing diversity and representation within the United Nations Security Council: the dilemmas of reform

Abstract

There is a broad consensus upon the need for reform to the composition of the United Nations Security Council, largely driven by perceptions of its unrepresentative nature and domination by a small group of permanent members whose status stems from the geopolitical realities which existed in 1945. However, there is little agreement upon the exact form which such reform should take, evidenced by the numerous reform proposals advanced over several decades without any resulting change. This paper considers some options for enhancing diversity and representation within the Council and suggests that the principal reason for failure to advance these objectives lies in the very diversity of the international community. Thus, Security Council reform is likely to remain a problem that can never be resolved with any lasting success to the satisfaction of the international community at large. It is suggested that efforts to enhance perceptions of the Council’s legitimacy instead focus upon more realistic means of effecting change to its working methods and broadening opportunities for more states to contribute to its decision-making processes through alternative mechanisms.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Notes

  1. 1.

    This was a consequence of the League’s Assembly and Council enjoying equal powers (Articles 3–4, Covenant of the League of Nations) and unanimity being required for decisions to be taken (Article 5).

  2. 2.

    UNCIO XI Pt. I, para. 9. For discussion, see Gross (1953: 259–170).

  3. 3.

    GA Res 1991 (XVIII).

  4. 4.

    GA Res 1991. The Council’s non-permanent membership was to comprise five African or Asian states, two Latin American states, two Western European or other states and one Eastern European state.

  5. 5.

    For such a treatment, see Franck (1990).

  6. 6.

    See, for example, UN Doc. GA/11450, of 7 November 2013.

  7. 7.

    UN Doc. GA/11450.

  8. 8.

    GA Res 47/62 (11 December 1992).

  9. 9.

    GA Res 48/264 (29 July 1994), Add.1, Add.2, Add.2/Corr.1, Add.3–10.

  10. 10.

    GA Res 48/26 (1993). The group was given the convoluted title of the ‘Open-Ended Working group on the Question of Equitable Representation on and Increase in the Membership of the Security Council and Other Matters Related to the Security Council’.

  11. 11.

    See, for example, the Working Group’s 1996, 2001, 2004 and 2008 reports, UN Docs. A/50/47, A/55/47, A/58/47, and A/62/47.

  12. 12.

    GA Res 55/2 (2000), para. 30.

  13. 13.

    UN Doc. GA/11450.

  14. 14.

    UN Doc. GA/11854, 7 November 2016.

  15. 15.

    UN Doc. A/AC.247/2001/CRP.2/Add.2.

  16. 16.

    See, for example, UN Doc. A/AC.247/2001/CRP.2/Add.3.

  17. 17.

    See UN Doc. A/62/47, pp. 10–12. Among the various proposals advanced in the Working Group’s 2008 deliberations, there was considerable support for the addition of two permanent members from Africa and Asia.

  18. 18.

    See UN Doc. A/62/47, at 13.

  19. 19.

    UN Doc. A/AC.247/2001/CRP.2. However, in 2008 African states argued for the extension of the veto to new permanent members. See UN Doc. A/60/L.41, para. 10.

  20. 20.

    UN Doc. GA/11450.

  21. 21.

    UN Doc. GA/11450.

  22. 22.

    On current contributions to peacekeeping operations by state, see http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/contributors/2017/jun17_1.pdf. As of 30 June 2017, the current P5 contributions were, respectively: China: 2515 personnel, France 804, Russia 95, UK 700, USA 74. Germany contributed 804 personnel, while Japan contributed a mere 4.

  23. 23.

    For 2016 spending figures, see http://www.sipri.org/research/armaments/milex/milex_database.

  24. 24.

    UN Doc. GA/11450.

  25. 25.

    See, for example, the proposals of the Uniting for Consensus group, UN Doc. A/59/L.68.

  26. 26.

    UN Doc. GA/11450.

  27. 27.

    For example, UN Doc. A/AC.247/2001/CRP.2/Add.5.

  28. 28.

    Article 109. See the Razali paper, UN Doc. GA/9228. 20 March 1997, para. 8.

  29. 29.

    See, for example, UN Doc. A/55/47, Cluster II, which considered issues related to the Council’s working methods and transparency, such as the use of public meetings, participation of non-members, meetings with troop contributors, consultations pursuant to Article 50 and relations with other UN organs.

  30. 30.

    Essentially, these concern the fact that UN membership is only open to states, which such organisations are not; regional organisations, unlike member states, do not contribute to the UN budget; only some regional organisations actually have a security remit; and there is little political support such a move.

  31. 31.

    UN Doc. S/2006/507, of 19 July 2006.

  32. 32.

    UN Doc. A/62/47, para. 8.

  33. 33.

    UN Doc. A/62/47, para. 23.

References

  1. Bailey, S.D. 1988. The Procedure of the UN Security Council, 2nd ed. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

    Google Scholar 

  2. Bourantonis, D. 1998. Reform of the UN Security Council and the Non-Aligned States. International Peacekeeping 5 (1): 89–109.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Bourantonis, D. 2005. The History and Politics of UN Security Council Reform. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  4. Caron, D.D. 1993. The Legitimacy of the Collective Authority of the Security Council. American Journal of International Law 87: 552–588.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Claude, I.L. 1964. Swords Into Plowshares, 3rd ed. London: University of London Press.

    Google Scholar 

  6. Dolzer, R., and C. Kreuter-Kirchhof. 2012. Article 31. In The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary, 3rd ed, ed. B. Simma, et al., 1050–1063. Oxford: OUP.

    Google Scholar 

  7. Fassbender, B. 2003. All Illusions Shattered? Looking Back on a Decade of Failed Attempts to Reform the UN Security Council. Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law 7: 183–218.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Fitzgerald, A. 2000. Security Council Reform: Creating a More Representative Body of the Entire U.N. Membership. Pace International Law Review 12 (2): 319–365.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Fox, G., and B. Roth. 2000. Democratic Governance and International Law. Cambridge: CUP.

    Book  Google Scholar 

  10. Franck, T.M. 1990. The Power of Legitimacy Among Nations. Oxford: OUP.

    Google Scholar 

  11. Geiger, R. 2012. Article 23. In The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary, 3rd ed, ed. B. Simma, et al., 751–760. Oxford: OUP.

    Google Scholar 

  12. Gross, L. 1953. The Double Veto and the Four-Power Statement on Voting in the Security Council. Harvard Law Review 67 (2): 251–280.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Hassler, S. 2013. Reforming the UN Security Council Membership: The Illusion of Representativeness. London: Routledge.

    Google Scholar 

  14. High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. 2004. A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, UN Doc. A/59/565.

  15. Kennedy, P., and B. Russett. 1995. Reforming the United Nations. Foreign Affairs 74 (5) (September/October): 56–71.

  16. Krisch, N. 2011. Informal Reform in the Security Council. In United Nations Reform Through Practice: Report of the International Law Association Study Group on United Nations Reform, ed. R. Wilde. http://ssrn.com/abstract=1971008.

  17. Padelford, N.J. 1960. Politics and Change in the Security Council. International Organization 14 (3): 381–401.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Panda, J.P. 2011. Beijing’s Perspective on UN Security Council Reform: Identity, Activism and Strategy. Portuguese Journal of International Affairs 5: 24–36.

    Google Scholar 

  19. Pew Research Center. 2012. The Global Religious Landscape: A Report on the Size and Distribution of the World’s Major Religious Groups as of 2010. http://www.pewforum.org/files/2014/01/global-religion-full.pdf.

  20. Qiu, J. 2006. The Politics of History and Historical Memory in China–Japan Relations. Journal of Chinese Political Science 11 (1): 25–53.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Schlichtmann, K. 1999. A Draft on Security Council Reform. Peace and Change 24 (4): 505–535.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Schrijver, N. 2007. Reforming the UN Security Council in Pursuance of Collective Security. Journal of Conflict and Security Law 12 (1): 127–138.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Stedman, S.J. 2007. UN Transformation in an Era of Soft Balancing. International Affairs 83 (5): 933–944.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. Thakur, R. 2004. United Nations Security Council Reform. African Security Review 13 (3): 66–74.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. UNFPA. 2015. State of World Population 2015. New York: United Nations Population Fund.

    Google Scholar 

  26. Weiss, T.G. 2003. The Illusion of UN Security Council Reform. The Washington Quarterly 26 (4): 147–161.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  27. Weiss, T.G. 2005. Overcoming the Security Council Reform Impasse: The Implausible Versus the Plausible. Dialogue on Globalization Occasional Paper No. 14. https://d-nb.info/974472948/04.

  28. Weiss, T.G., and K.E. Young. 2003. Compromise and Credibility: Security Council Reform? Security Dialogue 36 (2): 131–154.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  29. White, N.D. 2004. The Security Council: An impediment to international justice? Amicus Curae 51 (Jan/Feb): 11–15.

    Google Scholar 

  30. Winkelmann, I. 1997. Bringing the Security Council into a New Era—Recent Developments in the Discussion on the Reform of the Security Council. Max Planck Yearbook of United Nations Law 1: 35–90.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  31. Witshcel, G. 2012. Article 108. In The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary, 3rd ed, ed. B. Simma, et al., 2199–2231. Oxford: OUP.

    Google Scholar 

  32. Wouters, J., and T. Ruys. 2005. Security Council Reform: A New Veto for a New Century?. Brussels: Royal Institute for International Relations.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Zimmermann, A. 2012. Article 27. In The Charter of the United Nations: A Commentary, 3rd ed, ed. B. Simma, et al., 871–938. Oxford: OUP.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gary Wilson.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wilson, G. Enhancing diversity and representation within the United Nations Security Council: the dilemmas of reform. Int Polit 56, 495–513 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41311-018-0148-y

Download citation

Keywords

  • Security Council reform
  • Representation
  • Permanent membership