Friday, August 05, 2005

UN Reform Failing?

For reasons not immediately obvious to me, a change in the composition of the Security Council has been put at the very centre of the efforts to reform the United Nations at the upcoming session of the General Assembly in September.

There are of course reasons for doing so. The present set-up with the five permanent members was decided in 1945 and reflects the realities of the world of those days.

The so called G4 group has been launching itself with great diplomatic energy in order to become new permanent members, although without the veto powers of the original five. It’s Japan, Germany, India and Brazil.

But these things don’t come easily. Each has neighbours campaigning against them. Italy is doing whatever it can to block Germany, China is doing even more to block Japan, Argentina is up in arms over the prospect of Brazil entering the exclusive club etc, etc, etc…

In order to get sufficient support the G4 group has rather desperately been seeking the support of the sizeable block of African votes. But at the end of the day the African nations failed to reach agreement within themselves on any sort of solution that could fit into what the G4 was trying to win broad support for.

And in the meantime the United States and China has formed an alliance of convenience in order to prevent any new permanent members of the Security Council. They are, in short, not unhappy with the present state of affairs, and fears that any enlargement, even one with friends, will bring a more messy Council from their point of view.

That seems to be were we are at the moment. The G4 are running into difficulties due to the divisions of Africa. Washington and Beijing are seeking to mobilize against them as well. It all looks rather messy, and on present trends will result in masses of diplomatic smoke but not very much more.

It might be just as well. In Europe, there are more solid reasons for waiting for the day when it becomes realistic to ask that the European Union gets a permanent seat on the Security Council than to now seat Germany alongside Britain and France.

In the meantime, the rest of the UN reform efforts risks being neglected. A curious proposal to set up a so called Peace Building Commission is likely to get through, not the least because no one seems to have been thinking through the issue enough. It’s not really more of open commissions that the UN need for its future complicated state building missions.

We certainly need the United Nations for many of the future challenges.

But then we need a UN reform effort of a different quality than what it looks as if we are going to get now.