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Mission Impossible - Chances for a reform of the Security Council

Essay 2008 11 Seiten

Politik - Internationale Politik - Thema: Int. Organisationen u. Verbände


Table of contents


Brief overview of the United Nations’ history

About the Security Council

Modernizing the United Nations

Focus on the reform of the Security Council

The theory of Political Realism

The blockade of the reform




The community of states in the world is facing an important century. After the East-West conflict and the end of bipolar foreign politics, a wide range of new alliances construct the international political system. At the same time it gets clear that today’s challenges ask for a new kind of international cooperation. The United Nations organization (UN) offers an arena for collective work on the big topics of the modern world. Peacekeeping around the globe and the fight against terrorism are two of the major points of the agenda that are treated in the organization’s most important board, the Security Council. But the organization suffers from a loss of influence on the big players of the international competition.

In my work I will present shortly the history of the United Nations before I go into the functions and the composition of the Security Council. I will explain the critical points and focus on the debate concerning a reform of the board. After presenting different resolutions out of the current international debates, I will bring the discussion and the attitude of the five permanent members of the Security Council in relation to the theory of political realism.

Brief overview of the United Nations’ history

The history of the United Nations started in summer 1941 during World War 2 when US- president Theodor Roosevelt suggested founding a security organization to the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in order to supervise the big enemy powers. This idea followed on from theLeague of Nationsthat was founded after the horrors of World War 1 but never gained the strength to avoid the new aggressions of the axis powers (Germany, Japan and Italy). In October 1941 Churchill and Roosevelt presented a first paper (“Atlantic-Charter”) that described the approximate functions of a future peacekeeping-regulation but did not really give any detailed ideas of the corresponding organization. When the USA joined the war, 26 further states adopted theDeclaration By United Nationson January 1st 1942 which was a commitment to the war alliance against Germany, Japan and Italy at the same time. Nearly two years later after some disagreements between Churchill and Roosevelt, China was co-opted officially into the circle of the few main countries responsible for the world peace project at a conference of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs in Moscow. After another meeting in Teheran in November 1943, the US-government developed an outline plan for the structure of the world peace organization, which included the implementation of anExecutive Councilin its center; today’sSecurity Council. During several further conferences and meetings until the year 1945 structural questions and the distribution of power within the organization were discussed. In direct negotiations between Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin in Jalta during February 1945 last points were clarified, especially the composition of the General Assembly and the Security Council as well as the veto-order. After the agreements of this conference, four of the current five permanent members of the Security Council (USA, Great Britain, China, Russia – France was displeased by its not-invitation to Jalta) asked the 45 detractors of the three axis states assponsoring powersto the foundation ceremony in San Francisco between April 25th and June 26th 1945. The important Charter of the newly founded United Nations with its 19 chapters and altogether 111 articles came into force on October 24th 1945 with the hand over of the Soviet ratification document.

About the Security Council

The Security Council“has primary responsibility, under the Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security.[…]When a complaint concerning a threat to peace is brought before it, the Council's first action is usually to recommend to the parties to try to reach agreement by peaceful means.[…]When a dispute leads to fighting, the Council's first concern is to bring it to an end as soon as possible.”( The most important board of the United Nations has 15 members that are set together out of the five permanent members (see above) and ten non-permanent members. Those ten are elected by the General Assembly for two-year terms and not eligible for immediate reelection. The number of non-permanent members was increased from six to ten by an amendment of the Charter which came into force in 1965. The distribution-scheme of the non-permanent seats follows the unwritten rule of aregional keywhich envisions that always three African states, two Asian and Latin-American states, one state out of the East-European region and two states out of the rest, respectively from Western Europe are holders of the temporary membership.

Resolutions of the Security Council need the agreement of nine of the 15 members. In this context the Charter of the UN differentiates betweentechnical questionsand all miscellaneous questions(Art. 27, paragraph 3). Especially the latter category asks for the agreement of all of the five permanent members of the committee. This gives the permanent members the possibility of the veto against decisions of the Security Council. Within the framework of the UN-Charter, the Security Council can examine any situation and give recommendations for its peaceful solution (Art. 36ff). Moreover it is empowered to give orders that include the exertion of force to assert its resolutions. In the first step this would be mainly economical sanctions (Art. 41), in a second stage of the conflict the Security Council can also array military measures in order to enforce peace (Art. 42).

Modernizing the United Nations

The dramatic changes in international politics as well as the evident debilities and inadequacies of the United Nations themselves made the topic of the reform of the world organization become an important and omnipresent point on the international agendas. If the international community would found the United Nations once again tomorrow“so it would certainly look different as our today’s organization.”writes former Secretary General Kofi Annan in his Millennium report (Annan, K.: 2000).

Shortly after he started working as the successor of Boutros Boutros-Ghali in 1997 he modernized the UN-secretariat by dividing the structure of the office into special departments responsible for the five key tasks of the organization. Further administrative reforms in the management department and a finance reform that was approved in the General Assembly in 2000 were important steps towards a modernized United Nations organization.

Focus on the reform of the Security Council 5

More than sixty years after the foundation of the United Nations its central board, the Security Council, is not representing the actual political situation in the world anymore. Since 1945, when 51 states firstly ratified the UN-Charter, international politics and also the look of the world organization have changed in different ways. Already in the year 1965 the General Assembly increased the number of non-permanent members of the Security Council from 6 up to 10 by changing Art. 23 of the Charter. This step was caused by the doubling of memberships in the UN since 1945 and was supposed to adjust the relation between the total number of UN-members and the composition of the Security Council. While the United Nations were joined by 76 new members since 1965, a further modernization of the Security Council is missing until today.

Besides this point of criticism, another important factor is discussed permanently in context with a reform. As comprehensible and reasonable the privileging position of the five permanent members of the Security Council was in the historic situation at the end of the Second World War it is not adequate under today’s circumstances. Not long after the handshake between the big powers that stopped Germany and its allies in World War 2, the United Nations had to suffer under the East-West conflict which caused a blockade of the Security Council.



ISBN (eBook)
1.4 MB
Institution / Hochschule
Hochschule Bremen
Mission Impossible Chances Security Council Inter- Transnational Relations



Titel: Mission Impossible - Chances for a reform of the Security Council