The United Nations is a global organization that allows countries around the globe to work together to improve the world we live in. It has many bodies that specialize in things from health to cultural heritage, but one of its politically most significant entities is the Security Council. Recently, there have been calls from Africa to improve how the continent is represented in the council.
WHAT IS THE SECURITY COUNCIL?
Established in 1945 after the end of World War Two, the Security Council was formed to maintain peace worldwide. In its existence of over seven decades, it has helped solve international crises, provided support to conflict-ridden regions, and has, on the whole, made the world a safer and better place.
The Security Council has fifteen members, with five permanent and ten non-permanent members. The permanent representatives are China, France, Russia, the UK and the US, and these are the countries with veto powers. This means that even just one of can block a resolution, preventing it from being implemented. The ten non-permanent members usually serve two-year terms, and are chosen by the entire body of the United Nations.
AFRICA ON THE SECURITY COUNCIL
The ten non-permanent members are chosen from five groups that represent continents or regions. African countries are chosen from the Africa Group, and they have three seats on the council. Currently, the three African Group seats are filled by Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia and Ivory Coast.
Africa is underrepresented on the Security Council when comparing the ratio of the number of countries to the number of seats. There are also no permanent African representatives on the Security Council, and none with a veto power.
CALLS FOR REFORM
One of the first significant calls for reform was the Ezulwini Consensus of 2005, agreed by the African Union. It is named after a valley in central Swaziland, where the talks were held. The consensus called for the number of Security Council seats to be expanded. Africa was to have at least two permanent seats (with veto power) as well as five non-permanent seats. The consensus also states that the African Union should choose which African governments get the seats.
African countries are not the only ones calling for Security Council reform. For example, the G4 countries propose expanding the permanent countries on the council to include Brazil, Germany, India and Japan. Other initiatives propose increasing the number of countries on the Security Council, while some suggest getting rid of veto powers.
Still, efficiency is very important for the Security Council. There is a fear that if there are too many countries on the council, it will not discuss issues effectively. Others fear that ending veto powers will let a majority impose its will tyrannically on a minority. These issues must be kept in mind when proposing reform.
The UN Security Council is one of humankind’s best tools for keeping peace, so talks about how to make the organization as effective and representative as possible are sure to continue.