Reform of the Security Council: The long road to a more democratic UN

Term Paper, 2006

18 Pages, Grade: 1,0


Table of Content

1 The Security Council and its rejection of the G4 UN reform bill
1.1 The G4 UN reform bill and the present pursuit of a reform of the Security Council
1.2 Functions of the Security Council
1.3 Veto and main problems of the Security Council

2 Previous reform attempts and initiatives

3 Present Reform Initiatives and Proposals
3.1 The Grand Bargain of a 23 member Council
3.2 A total democratization of the Council
3.3 Weighted voting reform
3.4 Extension of the veto powers to other member states
3.5 Critical reflection on proposed reform initiatives

4 Conclusion:
a long road to a more democratic Security Council – the survival instinct of the member states of the council

5 Bibliography:

1 The Security Council and its rejection of the G4 UN reform bill

Germany and Japan have “increasingly stressed their ‘willingness’ to become permanent members of the Security Council”[1] for almost thirteen years. Their latest common endeavour occurred just a few months ago, when Germany, Japan, Brazil and India seeked an opportunity to increase the Security Council by ten new seats. In the end, their common reform bill was rejected by the Security Council – and it has not been the first attempt to be rejected. In fact, a further attempt to reform the Security Council has been destroyed by the council itself. A further proposal to democratize the council and to increase its efficiency – no matter to which degree - has been blasted. Over the last decades the members of the Security Council used to oppose efforts of non-council members that focused on a reform of the so far sacrosanct council.

This paper deals with the question why a reform of the Security Council is overdue, which types of future faces of the council could be possible and why the Security Council undercuts all attempts of reform. Do the members of the Security Council really serve national interests by trying to maintain their power in the current Security Council and by blocking every reform attempt? Or has the time for a reform not come yet?

The first section will include the failed G4 reform bill and an explanation of the main problems of the Security Council. Section two will explore previous reform attempts and section three will show possible and current reform proposals. Finally, section four contains a conclusion to this topic.

1.1 The G4 UN reform bill and the present pursuit of a reform of the Security Council

As I mentioned above, the so-called G4 reform bill has been proposed by Germany, India, Brazil and Japan. It included an increase by six permanent and four non-permanent seats to the Security Council. The African States and the Asian states were entitled to each two new permanent seats, and each one would have belonged to Latin America and Caribbean States, and to Western Europe and Other States. The bill stated that “the new permanent members should have the same responsibilites and obligations as the current permanent members”[2], whereas they should not exercise the right of veto until a decision upon this had been made within the framework of the UN. After a dozen years of discussion, the council “still reflects the balance of power in 1945”[3]. Even the reform bill of the G4 could not change this Security Council stalemate, as the legislatures of the council did not approve the resolution. While Japan failed to win support from its neighbor countries in East Asia, Germany had to face a strong opposition of its EU neighbor Italy.

China suggested a gradually reform process, stating that Japan’s attitude towards its own violent history is the main reason for China opposing a permanent seat for Japan in the council. Instead, China “called for increased representation of developing countries, which (…) should be given more opportunities to enter the council on a rotating basis”[4]. The G4 nations have been lobbying hard for support of their reform bill that would have had to be approved by two-thirds of the 191-member General Assemby. India gained support by the United States, but its permanent seat was opposed by its regional rival Pakistan and other Muslim states. While Brazil faced a strong opposition with Argentina and other Latin American states, Germany’s endeavours were stopped by Italy “that has lobbied against Germany’s inclusion and in favour of a single seat for Europe.”[5] Italy tries to avoid becoming a second-rank European member state behind Great Britan, France and Germany. To avoid being demoted, Italy proposed its own reform proposal already in 1998. It suggested enlarging the council by 8-10 new members that should be “assigned to 24-30 countries, from every region, on a rotational basis.”[6]

Although Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that a Security Council reform should take place before the world summit in September 2005, not a single reform discussion – be it the G4 reform bill or the similar reform proposal by the African states – had a chance to be approved neither by the General Assembly nor the Security Council so far.

A reform of the council has never been and will never be an easy process for the UN. It will be a milestone and it has to be shaped with the approval of all five member states of the current Security Council. The council has never been a democratic institution and it was never meant to be one. Chapter 5 of the UN Charter “set up a Council dominated by the five Great Powers that were the victors in World War II”[7], i.e. the United States, Great Britan, China, Russia and France. A reform of the Council is not only necessary, but also overdue.

1.2 Functions of the Security Council

Still, the “Security Council reflects the global power structure of 1945”[8]. This has always caused tension between the Security Council “with its unprecedented powers and limited membership (…) and the General Assembly, comprimising all UN members and with the right to recommend”[9]. The Council consists only of a limited number of members, but it acts on behalf of all of them. Furthermore, it has the right “to take decisions which bind not only its own members but all the Members of the Organization”[10]. Besides, every member of the council has the right to veto, i.e. to block “non-procedural proposals in the Security Council and amendments to the Charter.”[11]

The council is the “organ primarily responsible for maintaining international peace and security”[12]. But the Council has also further functions that can be subdivided into three main groups: (1) recommendations to the parties to a dispute, i.e. “call upon the parties’ to a dispute to settle it by peaceful means”[13], (2) recommendations to the General Assembly, e.g. about the admission or suspension of member states, the appointment of the Secretary-General or the election of the members of the International Court of Justice, and (3) mandatory decisions, which means that every member state of the UN has to “accept and carry out the Council’s decisions in accordance to the Charter”[14].

1.3 Veto and main problems of the Security Council

The former World War II allies remain permanent members and have the power to veto any Council proposal and decision. This “makes the Council both undemocratic and ineffective”[15]. The main argument for a reform of the Security Council that has always been used by non-council states is the unbalanced composition regarding the total world population and the right of every single council member to block any attempt, resolution or proposal, even if it had been accepted by all other council members (permanent and non-permanent) or even the whole General Assembly. Such a veto could be “described as the failure of the Council to adopt a resolution due to the negative vote of one or more permanent members.”[16] This also means that the permanent members can block any decision that goes against their interests, e.g. a reform of the Security Council, which could limit their powers and increase the power of other members. Furthermore, as soon as decisions within the council are taken, “they often account for little more than lip service.”[17] Many countries lack the resources and possibilites to enforce resolutions that are not in line with the main powers’ interests.

A further undemocratic element in the composition of the council is the underrepresentation of Asia with only one member state and Africa as well as Latin America without any representation. Besides, Europe and North America seem to be far overrepresentated. From this, reformers

“draw the conclusion that additional permanent seats must be allocated to Asia, Latin America and Africa. This claim is further backed by the explanation that the states of these regions constitute the overwhelming majority of the total membership of the UN, and represent the great bulk of the world’s population.”[18]


[1] Bardo Fassbender, UN security council reform and the right of veto: a constitutional perspective (Boston: Kluwer Law International, c1998), 206.

[2] UN G-4, Tabled G-4 Draft Resolution on Security Council Reform (July 6, 2005) [] (17 September 2005).

[3] China Daily, ‘US, Russia, China rejecting G4 UN reform bill’ [] (15 September 2005).

[4], ‘Position Paper Clarifies China’s Stance on UN Security Council Reform’ [] (15 September 2005).

[5] Deutsche Welle Germany, ‘Security Council Reform: Where It Stands’, [,1564,1618479,00.html] (15 September 2005).

[6] Global Policy Forum, ‘Reforming the Security Council – an Italian View’ [] (15 September 2005)

[7] James A. Paul, ‘Security Council Reform: Arguments about the Future of the United Nations System’ [] (15 September 2005).

[8] Global Policy Forum, ‘Security Council Reform’ [] (15 September 2005).

[9] Sydney D. Bailey and Sam Daws, The procedure of the UN Security Council (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998), 3.

[10] Ibid., 4.

[11] Ibid., 4.

[12] Thomas G. Weiss, David P. Forsythe and Roger A. Coate, The United Nations and Changing World Politics, Fourth Edition (Boulder: Westview Press, 2004), 10.

[13] Sydney D. Bailey and Sam Daws, The procedure of the UN Security Council, 18.

[14] Sydney D. Bailey and Sam Daws, The procedure of the UN Security Council, 19.

[15] Global Policy Forum, ‘Security Council Reform’.

[16] Sydney D. Bailey and Sam Daws, The procedure of the UN Security Council, 228 .

[17] Tasos Papadimitriou, ‘A Radical Vision for the Future of the UN’ [] (18 September 2005).

[18] Sydney D. Bailey and Sam Daws, The procedure of the UN Security Council, 250.

Excerpt out of 18 pages


Reform of the Security Council: The long road to a more democratic UN
Fudan University Shanghai  (Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Canada)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
File size
436 KB
Reform, Security, Council
Quote paper
Sebastian Grasser (Author), 2006, Reform of the Security Council: The long road to a more democratic UN, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


  • No comments yet.
Look inside the ebook
Title: Reform of the Security Council: The long road to a more democratic UN

Upload papers

Your term paper / thesis:

- Publication as eBook and book
- High royalties for the sales
- Completely free - with ISBN
- It only takes five minutes
- Every paper finds readers

Publish now - it's free