The reform of the United Nations: another injustice?

Anand Panyarachum

The Pearson Report on the subject of the reform of the United Nations, despite having provoked commotion since the 1960s, has become in recent days the main subject of discussion in the Organization.Anand Panyarachum
The recommendations, announced by the Secretary-General on 20 March 2005 are the result of deliberations by a High-Level Group, presided over by the Prime-Minister of Thailand, H.E. Mr. Anand Panyarachum, lending increased importance to the debate.
One aspect that was discussed among the core members of the Group is the process of restructuring the Organization and adapting it to today’s world, taking into consideration a group of measures designed to shape the much-needed reform of the Charter, which has already been in force for sixty years. Time is needed to consider substantive amendments to the Charter to bring it into line with the new international reality that is very different from the world of forty years ago. Most specifically, this concerns the restructuring of the Security Council.
If we accept that the United Nations reflects the development of international relations at each stage in the development of civilization, we must also accept the need for a process of reforms of the Organization to adjust it to actual circumstances. We need to adapt it to the “new world order”.
The fundamental problem is rooted in a clear definition of what we mean by the so-called “new world order.”
Unfortunately, within the United Nations, one of the most difficult barriers to overcome is the fact that each country or group of countries struggles with “reforming” the Organization in such a way that the new changes favour their individual needs.
The current process of restructuring the United Nations is unfolding against this backdrop, and it will be very difficult to presume that this process will not become contaminated from the start by a lack of consensus about the definition of the “new world order” to which the Organization should respond.
In order to make an objective and transparent evaluation of the United Nations, as well as a reform of the Security Council—central to its authority—one also needs to go back to the days of its creation. We cannot forget that the principal founders of the United Nations were the victors of the Second World War. It would be false to overlook that, perhaps, in the euphoria of their victory, they forgot to take into consideration the basic principles of balance and equitable international distribution. Evidence of this is the existence of paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 53 of the Charter, in which it declares as an “Enemy State” those countries that during the Second World War were enemies of any of the signatories of the Charter—i.e. Germany, Japan and Italy—nowadays, major contributors to the Organization.
It would be pretentious to think that the five Permanent Members of the Security Council with the right of vote would, for example, accept a change that goes against the present hegemony. On the contrary, they exert pressure to bring in new “powerful” countries from the developed world and “large” developing countries, without the right of veto, making only cosmetic changes and no true reforms.
If we examine the most significant changes to the Charter of the United Nations since its founding, we find that : on 17 December 1963, the General Assembly approved amendments to Articles 23, 27 and 61 that entered into force on 31 August 1965 ; on 20 December 1971, the General Assembly approved another amendment to Article 61 that entered into force on 24 September 1973 ; an amendment to Article 109 was approved on 20 December 1965 and entered into force on 12 June 1968.
In its report, the High-Level Group recommends the expansion of the Security Council by means of two options “clearly defined” as Models A and B. In both models, the members of the High-Level Group have distributed the seats between four major regions : Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Europe and America.
According to Model A, there would be six new Permanent Member seats, without any new veto power, and three new Non-Permanent Member seats with two-year terms, dividing them among the four major regions indicated above.
In Model B, no new Permanent Member seat would be created, but a new category of eight seats with a renewable mandate of four years and one new Non-Permanent Member seat with a mandate of two-years (non-renewable) would be created and divided among the four major regions.
It is obvious that, regardless of the complications that would result from these innovations, the members of the High-Level Group have set out to preserve the current status quo of maintaining the obsolete and anti-democratic right of veto to those Members that already enjoy it—simply making cosmetic changes.
Nevertheless, in paragraph 256 of its Report, this same High-Level Group refers to the veto saying : “…as a whole, the institution of the veto has an anachronistic character that is unsuitable for the institution of an increasingly democratic age.”
If the objective is to make a just and substantial reform, the veto should be abolished in favour of a more democratic Organization.
In the event that the veto should be retained, an acceptable solution could be for one or two Permanent Members of the Security Council to represent the four major groups already existing within the UN system, namely : Europe, USA, Canada, Japan, Australia and New Zealand ; Africa ; Asia ; and Latin America and the Caribbean. Those Member States, in permanent consultations with the other members of their respective groups, could represent them in the Security Council, being authorized to use the veto in defending the interest of all members of their respective groups.
Unfortunately, while everything could appear as an illusion, the contrary would be another injustice.
The process of restructuring of the United Nations, both politically and administratively, should be undertaken by means of preserving the dialogue among all its Member States, who are exclusively responsible for and the beneficiaries of the Organization.
There is a group of themes to which one has effectively to find an answer, and only one consensual answer. Otherwise the exercise of restructuring of the United Nations will continue to suffer from bias and injustice.
It falls on the shoulders of all Member States, in the spirit of political will, to maintain a permanent and transparent dialogue on the needs and urgent changes that are to be imposed on the Organization in order for it to meet today’s challenges.
The author is His Excellency Homero L. Hernandez, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Dominican Republic to the Office of the United Nations in Geneva

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