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Opinion

UN membership needs update

Column by Alec Hamilton

AlecHamilton-w2000-h2000Tying in with last week’s column where I argued the role of the U.N. in humanitarian intervention, this week’s topic is whether or not the U.N. Security Council should be reformed.

Right now the Security Council consists of 15 members — five permanent members that were determined in the aftermath of World War II and 10 non-permanent members who are elected by the U.N. General Assembly to two-year terms.

The five permanent members are the U.S., Russia, China, France and the U.K. These five members hold veto power, which automatically defeats any resolution. The Security Council is responsible for maintaining international peace and has the power to take military action.

There are two glaring issues with the Security Council that greatly hinder its functioning and relevance.

First, it is not representative of the world in a democratic way or the current balance of power. This skews its interests and direction away from areas that badly need a voice and attention.

Second, the existence of veto power handicaps the council’s ability to take action and allows countries to deadlock any decision-making based upon national interests.

This last example can be shown via numerous examples throughout history.

Shortly after its creation, the Security Council was hampered for decades with the outbreak of the Cold War. The U.S. and then the Soviet Union constantly vetoed the other’s resolution and locked the Security Council in gridlock for decades.

Even today, countries that are diametrically opposed (i.e. U.S. and China, or Russia) hamper any decision making. This has prevented action from being taken to address the situation in Darfur and currently with Syria.

Representation is also a grave issue facing the Security Council.

The five permanent members of the council were determined at the end of World War II to prevent such a calamity from happening again, but consisted entirely of the victors.

Europe has two members, the then two superpowers are present and China was then the premier power in Asia.

Entire continents are excluded from permanent status, and the non-permanent members are virtually powerless compared to the other five, though the 10 are at least voted in based upon a regional basis.

The five members who actually decided Security Council policy represent three continents, and none of the members are from regions of the world where there is turmoil or conflict.

My solution/reform is this: First, the veto power is abolished and replaced by a two-thirds threshold which all resolutions must be elected by. The permanent members can stay, but their power is now equal to that of the other elected members. Another five members are democratically elected by the General Assembly.

The last five members are elected by the countries in their region, with those members being elected from South America, Africa, North Africa/Middle East, Europe and Asia.

It can be argued that France and the U.K. are representation enough for Europe, which is a valid point. Another point can be made the Asia should receive more representatives or be split up due to its number of countries. Both are valid alternatives.

These reforms increase representation and relevance to areas of turmoil/conflict, as well as removes the gridlock from the Security Council and makes it much more efficient when making decisions.

Hamilton is a senior international relations and news-Internet double major and can be reached at alec.hamilton@drake.edu

 

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