At a lunch seminar arranged by the International Peace Academy (IPA), former Permanent Representative of Singapore to the United Nations Kishore Mahbubani stressed that the United Nations had reached a critical moment when a "grand bargain" needs to be finally crafted to pull together an agreement on UN reform.
At the IPA forum, I had been asked to speak on a formula for Security Council reform (see page 6), which I had been working on since mid-1995 when Yale University launched a major report entitled "The United Nations in its Second Half-Century". For about two years following the report's release, it was my responsibility to organize a series of seminars on UN reform, several of which focused on the Security Council. I often spoke informally during coffee breaks with some of the ambassadors attending the workshops. The following ideas are a result of those conversations.
There have been some insurmountable obstacles which have prevented reform. UN Charter amendment requires the affirmative concurrence of the five permanent members of the Security Council, which in practicality means that none of the five will approve anything that removes them from the Council or takes away their veto-power privilege. So any reform will have to maintain the status quo of these members. Suggestions on adding new permanent seats for geographic regions have fallen short of support. Giving permanent seats, for example, to India to represent Asia, Brazil for Latin America, or South Africa for Africa, sounded good initially but was challenged by other countries in the region, claiming that these continental giants did not necessarily represent the interests of others in the region and in fact might solidify their local hegemony. Yet, Germany and Japan, which contribute a substantial portion to the UN budget, feel that since they are paying for much of the Council work, they should have more say in the decision-making process.
It is time to overcome these stumbling blocks, and I would like to propose some ideas for a revised structure of the Council that might overcome these obstacles and still meet the needs of an effective Security Council.
First is enlargement. To be more representative of the 191 UN Member States, the Council could be enlarged to 20 or 23 members, while maintaining the permanent members. A larger membership might make reaching a decision more cumbersome, but it does not have to be unanimous as it depends on the number of votes needed to...