The adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution to use a framework text as the basis of discussions on Security Council reforms is a welcome step forward. As India’s Ambassador to the UN, Asoke Mukerji, said, this is the first time in the history of the intergovernmental negotiation process that a decision on UNSC reform has been adopted by means of an official document. This also indicates that most countries in the General Assembly support a restructuring of the UNSC. Meaningful reform of the Security Council is overdue. The institution, formed to meet the challenges of the post-War world, has struggled to cope with the dynamics of the post-Soviet Union world order. In the past quarter century, the global order has seen massive changes, from American unilateralism to the rise of multilateral institutions such as BRICS. The developing nations, including India, now play a larger role in both the international economy and politics. But these changes are not reflected in the UN, where all critical decisions are still being taken by the veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council. Besides, the geopolitical rivalry among the permanent members has prevented the UNSC from coming up with effective mechanisms to deal with global crises. Syria is a case in point. Even as a humanitarian tragedy is unfolding in Syria, there is no consensus in the Security Council on how to tackle it. Even UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon admitted recently that the UNSC had failed Syria. If the UN still shies away from reforming the Security Council, the possibility of the institution being sidelined by emerging powers cannot be ruled out. The resolution adopted in the General Assembly offers a chance to break the logjam.
But the road ahead is not easy. Three powerful members of the UNSC — Russia, China, and the U.S. — are opposed to any major restructuring of the Council. While Russia and the U.S. have said they would support India’s UNSC bid, when it comes to proceedings at the UN their positions represent a far cry from the promises they make at bilateral meetings. The U.S. favours only a “modest expansion” of the UNSC, while Russia doesn’t want any change in the veto arrangement. Even if the General Assembly members reach a consensus on reform, it could be shot down by the permanent members. The permanent members should realise that a more democratic and representative Security Council would be better-equipped to address global challenges, and that there are more pressing issues to be tackled at the global level than merely preserving their prerogatives. The champions of reforms — India, Japan, Germany and Brazil, or the G4 — should continue their multilateral diplomacy to build a democratically evolved global consensus on restructuring the UNSC.