UN Security Council reform is a song in a loop – The Need for Reform at the United Nations Security Council | 12 October 2023 | UPSC Daily Editorial Analysis

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What's the article about?

  • It talks about the ongoing debate over the need for fundamental reforms at the United Nations (UN), particularly at the Security Council.


  • GS2: Important International Institutions, agencies and fora – their Structure, Mandate
  • Essay


  • The article discusses the ongoing debate over the need for fundamental reforms at the United Nations (UN), particularly at the Security Council.
  • The article highlights the views of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Türkiye and the UN’s Secretary-General, António Guterres, who both agree that the Security Council has become a battleground for the political strategies of only five countries.
  • The article argues that the current composition of the Security Council is unjust and does not reflect the geopolitical realities of today.


  • Diagnosis:
    • The Security Council reflects the geopolitical realities of 1945 and not of today.
    • The Council consisted of 11 members out of a total UN membership of 51 countries when the UN was founded in 1945. Today, there are 193 member-states of the UN, and only 15 members of the Council.
    • The composition of the Council also gives undue weightage to the balance of power of those days.
    • Europe, for instance, which accounts for barely 5% of the world’s population, still controls 33% of the seats in any given year. In terms of simple considerations of equity, this situation is unjust.
  • Prescription:
    • The Security Council is clearly ripe for reform to bring it into the second quarter of the 21st century.
    • However, the bar to amending the UN Charter has been set rather high. Any amendment requires a two-thirds majority of the overall membership, in other words 129 of the 193 states in the General Assembly, and would further have to be ratified by two-thirds of the member states.
    • Ratification is usually a parliamentary procedure, so, in other words, the only ‘prescription’ that has any chance of passing is one that will both persuade two-thirds of the UN member-states to support it and not attract the opposition of the existing permanent five.
    • The author suggests creating a second category of “semi-permanent members” to accommodate such states for, say, 10-year electable terms.
  • Stances by Countries:
    • While the debate keeps going round in circles for decades, gridlock continues in the Security Council.
    • Small countries that make up more than half the UN’s membership accept the reality of the current situation and are content to compete occasionally for a two-year non-permanent seat on the Council.
    • However, the medium-sized and large countries, which are the rivals of the prospective beneficiaries, deeply resent the prospect of a select few breaking frees of their current second-rank status in the world body.
    • Many are openly animated by a spirit of competition, historical grievance, or simple envy.

Way Forward:

  • Similar obstructionism by the West has affected proposals to reform the financial institutions established at Bretton Woods in 1944, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. And yet this is the only global system we have got that brings all countries together on a common platform. Can we afford to let it fade into ineffectiveness and irrelevance?

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