Monday 8 November 2010

The U.N. Security Council: Reform and India

Should India be granted a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council? The answer to that question lies in history and how history has changed since the United Nations was founded just after the end of World War II.

The United Nations was formed in 1945 after WWII to replace the League of Nations. The Security Council held its first session on January 17, 1946 in London, England.

The 15 members of the Council consist of 5 permanent members, the P5 or Big 5 which are the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom. It is of note that Russia is the legal successor to the Soviet Union and inherited the originally Soviet held seat. Also of note is that after the Chinese civil war of 1949, Taiwan and mainland China battled over representation in the U.N. as "China". In 1971, the U.N. adopted a resolution whereby the U.N. recognized mainland China as the Republic of China and Taiwan to be still a part of that China. Taiwan since then has attempted to be reinstated as a separate country called Taiwan but has so far failed.

The 10 non permanent members are elected by the general Assembly for 2 year terms starting on January 1 with five replaced each year. India is starting a 2 year term January 1, 2011. Canada, by the way has been elected to the council 6 times since the council was formed for a track record of 6 out of 6. However, this past election (Oct 2010) saw Canada rejected by the General Assembly, a first for Canada. Pundits have clearly put the blame on the Harper government for its broken promises to the world community and its rejection of international initiatives.

The Need for Reform
While the world has changed quite a bit over the years, the Security Council has changed very little from its inception in 1945. The only significant reform came in 1965 when the non-permanent membership increased from 6 to 10.

In 1992 with the election of Boutros Boutros-Ghali, reform discussions of the Security Council were once again launched and various countries and groups have been jockeying for position in this call for an expanded council.

Germany and Japan became in 1992 the second and third largest contributor to the U.N. The top 10 contributors by order of percentages are:

United States22.0%
United Kingdom6.6%
all other member states24%

Note: Funding by individual countries is based on their ability to pay. This is determined by their GNI, Gross National Income.

Brazil, the fifth largest country in terms of territory wants a permanent seat. Here is a list of countries by land mass:

United States6.5%

India, the 2nd largest country in terms of population also demanded a permanent seat. Here is a list of countries by population:

United States4.5%

Canada is #36 by population with approximately 34 million.

These four countries, Germany, Japan, Brazil and India became known as the G4.

However regional rivals were opposed to the G4 becoming permanent members. An interest group called the "Coffee Club" and later "Uniting for Consensus" made up of Italy, Spain, Argentina, Canada, Mexico, South Korea and Pakistan favoured expansion of the non permanent seats.

Also, the African Group started to demand 2 permanent seats for themselves.

The current permanent members have supported change even if somewhat reluctantly. They recognize that change is needed but just what that change should be and how to implement it remains to be decided.

One more list: GDP
In the above lists, we looked at contributions to the U.N., size by land mass and size by population. Here's a list based on GDP, Gross Domestic Product, a measure of a country's economy, here measured in billions of US dollars:

United States14,120
United Kingdom2,179

It is important to note that the economy of the United States is bigger than the next 3 countries: Japan, China and Germany. The U.S. is almost 3 times larger than the next on the list, Japan. Recently a news report stated that the latest figures show China may have now overtaken Japan for the number 2 spot.

There seems no doubt about it; India should become a permanent member of the Security Council. Based on its population, its GDP and its advanced status as a member of the so called nuclear club, India is now coming into its own on the world stage. It is a world power and also the largest democracy in the world. However in saying that, one must recognize that others also merit a seat if one recognizes how much the world has changed since the Security Council was first formed.

The G4, Germany, Japan, Brazil and India are an important group of countries in the world, politically, economically and strategically. Their contribution, their influence on the world stage is substantial and reflects how much individual countries have changed since the end of the Second World War. The United Nations and its Security Council need to reflect those changes.

In light of other regions of the globe including Africa and the Middle East, the U.N. must also take into consideration other areas of significance and mirror the growing importance of these nations.

Update: Mon Nov 8/2010
President Barack Obama on a 3 day visit to India has publicly endorsed India's bid for a seat on the Security Council. It was reported that at a press conference, the American president said, "As I said yesterday, I don't think India is emerging, it has emerged. India is a key actor on the world stage."

It is only a matter of time.


Wikipedia: United Nations Security Council

Wikipedia: Reform of the United Nations Security Council

Wikipedia: Uniting for Consensus

Wikipedia: United Nations

Wikipedia: Criticism of the United Nations

The U.N. Security Council
The official web site of the Council.

Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations

India and the United Nations: U.N. Reform
India's official message about reform of the Security Council and its arguments for being given a permanent seat.

Member States Portal

"int" is a sponsored top-level domain in the Domain Name System of the Internet. It is derived from the word international and is granted to those organizations who can demonstrate they are subject to international law such as the U.N. itself or international treaty based entities.

The above tables look at various numbers describing the countries. Let's not forget where Canada ranks in the world.
Canada: We're #1! Er...30? 10? 9? 6?


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