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Considerations for Security Council Expansion

Should the Security Council be expanded? Is it conceivable? Why was it created as it is in the first place?

After the end of World War II, the United Nations was founded as a succeeding body of international dialogue to the League of Nations. Its primary purposes was, and still is, to assist in the development of international law, international security, human rights, economic development, social progress, and ultimately to achieve peace and prosperity on a global level1). These too, were many of the similar goals that its predecessor had, but were unable to be realized, due to the lack of authority given to powerful states. Under paralleling conditions and circumstances to the signing of the Treaty of Versailles and the creation of the League of Nations, the UN was established in 1945, in San Francisco by signatories from fifty countries, with many alterations.

The United Nations structure and organization was set-up as two distinct bodies that drew to a countries national representation as well as authority in the international arena. Thus, the UN Charter created a body, the General Assembly, to represent all recognized countries of the world, and the Security Council, including the United States, the United Kingdom, the Republic of China, the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and France, to attend to the mightier and influential powers. These five dominant world powers were chosen not because of their economic brawn, but because of their triumph in the Second World War.

Today this dichotomy in authority still exists, but discussions have grown over the issue of the Security Council. Currently the Security Council consists of these five powers, but in addition to these permanently seated countries, ten rotating members representing different members hold seats on the Security Council for a period of two years. In recent years countries have made extended efforts to bring themselves to become permanent members and among them include India, Brazil, Germany, Japan. Each of these countries offer another well-founded reason to support their case to the members of the Security Council. Following the United States, Japan and Germany, are the second and third largest funders of the UN likewise have the world’s largest economies. Brazil has in the past several decades, become an economic powerhouse in South America as the world’s 10th largest economy and 5th largest democracy and country by landmass. India’s economy too, is steadily rising in ranks, as its economic indicators show that it will likely continue to grow fruitfully at an exponential rate. India and Brazil are also the two largest suppliers of troops to UN forces.

The likelihood of a Security Council expansion as increased in years, as talks have inflated the idea that there will possibly be 5 additional permanent members to the council. However, to bring this change to fruition, it would require an amendment to the UN Charter, by two-thirds of the General Assembly, totaling 128 votes in the affirmative2). But beyond this what would be the criteria for acquiring a permanent seat to the Security Council? Problems also arise, most significantly, from the irreversible nature of the move. Once a country gains permanence, it would be impossible to unseat the country. Additionally, a permanent member of the Security Council is given the privilege to veto bills. During the Cold War, the U.S. and Soviet Union habitually reached stalemates. Deadlocking and continual disagreement by a veto-wielding member of the Security Council meant that resolutions were regularly vetoed down. Although the Cold War is certainly over, viewpoints still differ between the U.S. and Russia on a number of issues.

The introduction of five extra permanent members allows for the increased possibility of a country taking issue with specific resolutions and thereby deadlocking proceedings. An impasse in the Security Council would, as in the Cold War, result in varying inaction and remedial action to situations that were not able to be resolved sooner. A protest-turned-mass murder, for example, in a Pakistani province would likely make India refuse to support moves that goes against its national interest. The probability that an event occurs and a draft resolution is written that goes against at least one member, or one of its allies, nevertheless increases with each addition to the Security Council.

The argument, that the world’s new central powers are not represented adequately is one that has gained acceptance and will in due course distend the size of the Security Council. Stalemates are likely on hot-button issues, but the need for increased recognition for supreme economical, political, and social powers outweighs the likelihood for standoffs on topics. This may be the single-most important reason for supporting expansion. The underlying reason for the failure of the League of Nations was this lack of recognition and special privilege for global superpowers. So long as expansion is kept to a minimum, and global powers retain their status and influence to shape decision making in the UN bodies, expansion is a good thing.

How long could it be until the Security Council does need to add more seats around its table? It could be ten, fifteen, or fifty years, but it is very likely to happen.


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