NEW DELHI: History has shown that serious attempts to establish forwardlooking, liberal, global governance mechanisms are only made after grave crises such as the world wars. Even then they might fail, like the League of Nations after the First World War.
The United Nations, established in 1945 and dedicated to ensuring global peace and security, was the next serious attempt to create a global governance institution. It was similarly established in the aftermath of the Second World War.
The victors of the Second World War built a structure because they wanted to avoid a repetition of what they had just endured. The UN was never designed as a truly global governance institution to which member states are accountable but as an inter-governmental institution that is accountable to its member states.
Therefore, the Allied victors became the Permanent 5 (P5) in the UN Security Council (UNSC), limiting veto powers to themselves and ensuring that their national interests would never be jeopardised.
No structural changes
Since its inception, there has been no structural change in the UN system, though the People’s Republic of China (known as mainland China) has replaced the Republic of China as a permanent member of UNSC following a “consensus” to which India under Jawaharlal Nehru acquiesced.
The UNSC’s initial design has become an increasing liability in today’s vastly different world – an era of intensifying challenges which need truly global solutions amidst a landscape of increasing illiberal nationalism in almost every continent However, any serious structural reform will only be possible if preceded by serious rethinking within large, powerful UN member states, especially the P5. In the current global conjuncture, particularly the United States (US), China, and Russia.
In the post-Cold War world, the international community has been placing ever greater expectations on the United Nations and particularly on the Security Council, which has the primary responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. Today, the international situation has changed than it was in the postCold War era. There has been a dramatic increase in the number of UN Member States. New powers have attained levels of global influence equal to those of the current permanent members.
Legitimacy & credibility
Under the circumstances, the legitimacy and credibility of the Security Council cannot be ensured unless it is composed in such a way that it reflects the general will of the member states. Consequential emerging countries such as India, Brazil, Japan and South Africa with aspirations to become UNSC permanent members are pushing for urgent reforms in the UN system.
A very frequently-discussed change to the UN structure is to change the permanent membership of the UNSC, which reflects the outdated structure of the world as it was in 1945.
India continued to push strongly for a reformed UN-led multilateral system during the UNGA’s 77th session in September2022, where it issued a ‘Call to Action’ joint statement by a reform oriented group of developing countries.
“We reaffirm that adapting the United Nations to the contemporary world realities necessarily requires urgent and comprehensive reform of the Security Council, the principal organ for international peace and security,” the statement said.
The countries said they recognised that the “lack of progress” in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) reform had “serious implications” not just for the relevance of such institutions but also for global peace and security.