Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his speech focused on two matters related to the UN. First, he criticized the discrimination against some countries, which want to be nuclear states, adding that the nuclear weapons should be either banned for all or be legal for all. The criticism by the Turkish leader comes while all the five permanent members of the UNSC have nuclear arsenals.
Second, he blasted the UN inability to settle international challenges, saying “the world is larger than just five states” in reference to the US, China, Russia, Britain, and France as Security Council permanent members.
What Erdogan seems to say is that nuclear weapons only create a balance of power and immunity for the five powers. He further seems to suggest that these countries either should accept other members’ nuclearization or allow other states to join the UNSC for a fairer balance.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan also called for the UN structural reformation to allow further coordination among its subsections to improve its function. PM Abe demanded structural amendments but his focus was on his country’s 2020 UNSC non-permanent seat as the initiation of a route leading to Tokyo’s permanent membership.
The countries that favor reformation of the UN structurally come in several groups. The first group is the states that since the beginning were members and voiced their objection to five members’ exclusive privilege of veto right and called it unfair and undemocratic. These countries stood away from the Cold War blocs and in 1961 formed non-aligned members (NAM). Many of the UN structure critics are now NAM members. They are now 112 and their main demand is the omission of largely discriminatory veto right.
With the adoption of the veto right, the key principle of the equality of sovereignty in article 2 is violated. If one permanent member violates peace or takes aggressive actions against the other, it can foil others action against it by the veto right. Under Secretary-General Kofi Annan, some members pushed for limitations on use of the veto. In cases of “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity,” they argued that there was no need for a unanimous agreement among the five members.
Another revisionist group includes Germany, India, Japan, and Brazil as New economic powers. With regard to their role in the global economy and the fact that any wrong decision can leave the biggest damage on these economies, these countries in a bid presented to the UN in 2006 called for increasing the UNSC members from 15 members (10 are non-permanent) to 25. They invited for adding six permanent states so that the continents have an equal number of representatives.
The leaders of these countries agreed to support each other’s bid for permanent membership. They argue that the UN came out of the heart of the two world wars and thus its current structure is suitable for the time of world wars. They continue that with the fall of the Soviet Union, no longer there is a need for this order, especially as the wars have changed nature from global to regional and proxy and the UN is far from being able to effectively settle such conflicts.
The third group, dubbed as “unity for agreement,” is consisted of eight countries, including Italy, Turkey, Pakistan, Canada, Mexico, South Korea, Argentina, and Spain fall into this group. They propose that the non-permanent members are increased and their term length is doubled or even quadrupled. “Circulation proposal” is their suggestion. They suggest that every 7 years, the whole of the UN member states choose through a secret vote 5 from 20 candidates with top economic, political, and military powers.
The five members have so far turned a deaf ear to such proposals and calls for reforms. In addition to the criticism against the UN, some countries also blast the US misuse of its hosting the UN. Washington used its territorial rights to set limitations of movement for the Iranian and Venezuelan foreign ministers to keep them from participating in UNGA-related meetings.
What do supporters of the status quo say?
The advocates of the current structure are the five permanent members and their allies, particularly the US allies. They note that the UN and General Assembly lack the executive power and that it is them that take actions to prevent war and violations to peace. Some of them take the veto right as a return for their UN share. The US, for example, claims it pays nearly 20 percent of the UN budget.
The supporters say that the non-permanent seats allow every continent to have its own representation. These countries at the same time do not reject some trivial changes to the UN, including the budget, bureaucracy, and peace-keeping missions. The US once called for small changes under Annan. It accepted a proposal by the current chief Antonio Guterres to downsize the bureaucratic structure of the UN, though after some changes serving its interests. Some countries, including Iran, declined to sign the agreement.
How can it be reformed?
According to the UN charter, any reform should win the approval of the majority of the UNGA members as well as the permanent members. This means that any change will absolutely need veto holders’ agreement.
The big powers’ policy-makers’ pro-interests mentality also hampers environment-saving and climate change-related efforts by the other UN members. Trump, for instance, either accuses others of being the main sources of greenhouse gases emission or rejects the human factor in global warming and environment damages. He in some cases accuses some countries of seeking to undermine the US economy under climate change efforts.
Given the US role in undermining the UN and rejecting the reforms to it, the world countries will gradually move to unilateral and multilateral approaches to address regional and global crises. An example is the Russian-Iranian-Turkish mobilization of influence to push for Syrian war solution amid Western hindrance of pro-peace efforts within the UN framework.