Column by Alex Shaner
While there are many debates centering on the purpose and legitimacy of the United Nations’ action, the topic today is the structure of the United Nations Security Council.
The nature of the debate is a fierce one for many countries. So, I am representing the side of those who oppose any change in the current Security Council structure.
For a little background, the Security Council is the “force” mechanism of the military and peacekeeping operations of the United Nations. The Council’s 15 members are divided into 10 non-permanent members elected by the United Nations General Assembly for two-year rotating terms and five permanent members being the United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia all with a power of the veto.
The debate surrounding the Security Council focuses on the structure and administration of the five permanent members (P5) and their use of the veto, which the other 10 countries do not have.
For the purposes of this article, I suggest that the current structure, while not 100 percent perfect, does suffice for the sporadic and infrequent use of the veto as well as the Security Council in general.
The basis for continuing the current structure should be the practicality and logic of the system. The five permanent members were the “victors” of World War II and founding members of the Security Council — thus, the five members took the permanent status along with the sole power of the veto.
However, the use of the dreaded “veto” is very infrequent. According to UNSC documents, the past 10 years, the veto has only been used 12 times over the course of hundreds of U.N. resolutions. That equals usually one per year. This veto is not the obstinate force as usually described.
The critics of this current structure point to the undemocratic and anachronistic membership of the Council. However, the other 10 members are chosen by vote in the General Assembly by all members of the United Nations.
Furthermore, the Council is divided into separate regions, ensuring that each region of the world is represented on the council.
The 10 members today range from Pakistan, Australia and Morocco. The current critique from the non-permanent members is on the basis of the veto and not the structure, as they would say. The only reason they are opposed to the current system is that while they are chosen “democratically” they simply cannot equal the power of the P5.
The P5 are not outdated powers. In total the combined percentage of total United Nations funding for the U.N. General Budget of the P5 is around 40 percent.
The fund for all activities of the United Nations originates from this total of 40 percent given by just five countries.
Moreover, as a military/security concern, the P5 spend the most on military by any country. They rank from the U.S. at first to France at fifth.
While military spending does not always equate efficiency and power, it is a good composite of overall military strength and most importantly for a “Security Council,” willingness and resources needed for any authorization of force.
The P5 also rank in top-9 for total GDP of all countries on Earth. The P5 in very realist dimensions are five of the most powerful countries on Earth both in terms of economics and military force.
Some argue as the nature and balance of power shifts away from the “West” (meaning the U.S., France, U.K., etc.), the structure of the Security Council should be changed. I would agree with that statement.
However, due to the current infrequent use of the veto and the nature of power among the nations on the Security Council, the current system and structure is sufficient for the minimal tasks assigned to a less-than-powerful Security Council.
Shaner is a senior international relations and politics double major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org