It's time to expand the UN Security Council. But who gets a seat?
Nigeria and South Africa are potential African members. Japan and India would serve as democratic counters to China. Brazil and Mexico are potential Latin American representatives. Italy and Germany argue they deserve seats. The decision will be challenging, but it is long overdue.
During his Asian trip last November, President Obama expressed support for installing India as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), the power center of the international body. It was an intelligent proposal for enlarging a critical UN institution whose membership (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, and France) has remained unchanged for decades. But it is not a question of adding one worthy nation. It must come as part of a major rearrangement.Skip to next paragraph
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This will not be easy or quick. It will require deft diplomacy from the US, which must seek support for new Security Council members favorable to its global interests. However, the US cannot be seen to be imposing its will upon a membership of more than 190 nations with diverse agendas. Africa and Latin America, unrepresented in the permanent five, will demand seats. Europe (with Britain, France, and Russia) will be declared over-represented.
Though the five original members might agree to enlarging the permanent membership to more realistically represent today’s world, they are unlikely to extend to newcomers the rite of veto bestowed on them at the time of the UN’s creation. When all the politicking and jousting is over, enlargement of the Security Council would have to be approved unanimously by the five original members, and by two-thirds of the UN membership, let alone the US Senate.
Origins of the Security Council
The UN was born in 1945, a creation of Britain, France, the US, China, and the Soviet Union, who saw themselves as guardians of the post-World War II peace, with dominance of the new international entity. Beyond the Security Council’s five permanent, veto-bearing nations, there are 10 elected, nonpermanent members with two-year terms.