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Security Council Reform: Not a Quick Fix

Global Policy Forum on Democratic Reform

Global Policy Forum has published a paper on Security Council reform that sharply criticizes current reform proposals and argues in favor of regional representation as a future path to Council renovation. The paper, written by GPF staff members James Paul and Céline Nahory, reflects a decade of study of the Security Council and private conversations with dozens of diplomats who have served on Council delegations.

* Multiplying the privileges of permanency?
Paul and Nahory argue that “a Council loaded with more permanent members would suffer from gridlock and political sclerosis.” The authors also warn that such reforms would multiply the privileges of permanency – claims on high Secretariat posts, World Court seats, and even private lounges at UN headquarters.

The paper, entitled Theses Towards a Democratic Reform of the Security Council, predicts that the Council reform proposals by the Group of Four and the African Union have little chance for success, due to opposition from the P-5 and a “complex political geometry” that “assures broad opposition and guarantees defeat.”

The authors oppose any expansion of the Council’s membership, even additional elected members, arguing that a larger Council would be only marginally more representative and that enlargement would make the Council “cumbersome and ineffective” and only strengthen the informal P-5 “executive committee.”

* Towards future regional seats
Paul and Nahory believe regional representation could pave the way for a more democratic, effective and representative Security Council. As a pathway towards future regional seats, they suggest informal steps not subject to Charter change. Regional organizations could set up secretariats in New York to strengthen the work of their elected members and promote common regional policies. The authors also call for substantial change in the Council’s outdated working methods.

Warning that reform of the Security Council is “not a quick fix,” the authors urge all parties to consider “ideas for a more democratic global future, not outworn concepts from the past like permanency and great power oligarchies.”

(Posted: 15 July 2005)

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