UN Reform - Security Council: Top Table Trouble

The United Nations Security Council is charged with maintaining international peace and security, in accordance with the organisation’s principles and purposes. The Council has fifteen members – ten elected for two year terms and five permanent members – essentially the five major powers at the end of the Second World War. Each of the permanent members, China, France, Russia, Britain and the US, has the power to veto ‘substantive’ decisions. The case for reform has been made for decades. When the UN charter was signed in 1945, there were only 51 member states.

The World Today Published 1 August 2005 Updated 15 October 2020 2 minute READ

Dr Gareth Price

Former Senior Research Fellow, Asia-Pacific Programme

Now, there are 191. Only once, in 1963, has the Council expanded to reflect this. This move, which raised the number of non-permanent members from six to ten, was hard-fought. Now, attempts by the so-called Group of Four (G-4) – India, Brazil, Germany and Japan - to push for another change have driven the issue of reform back to the top of the agenda.

The greatest anachronism, to critics, is the veto power held by permanent members, none of whom are from Africa or Latin America and, China apart, none are developing countries. Along with their contribution to peacekeeping forces, the need for representation from south Asia and Latin America have underpinned the claims of India and Brazil.

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