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UN Reform Targets Security Council

DW staff (win)December 2, 2004

Recommendations for reforming the United Nations are due on Thursday: According to early reports, they include two models to expand the Security Council. Germany remains hopeful it will get permanent membership.

Reformers offer two paths to reach the goal of a more efficent UNImage: AP

Expanding the Council, the UN's central decision-making body, from 15 to 24 members is one of the main suggestions included in the reform recommendations, according to German public broadcaster ARD and Reuters news service.

On a more general basis, the high-profile panel charged with drawing up reform plans reportedly suggests that the Council needs to be "more representative of the broader membership, especially of the developing world." It also states that the Council is the UN's body "most capable of organizing action and capable of responding rapidly to new threats."

Two competing models

Veto im UN Sicherheitsrat: USA blockieren UN-Resolution gegen Israel
The Security Council at United Nations Headquarters in New YorkImage: AP

While clear on the need to expand the Council, which currently has five permanent members with veto powers and 10 non-permanent members, the reform panel has drawn up two competing models.

The first one would add six new permanent members without veto powers -- two from Africa, two from Asia and one each from the Americas and Europe. It would also add three non-permanent members with a two-year term like the ones currently elected to sit on the body.

The second option would add eight new seats for semi-permanent members, which would be elected for four years and could have their terms extended. Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas would each get two of these seats and one additional non-permanent member would also be added.

Germany's favorite

UN-Generalsekretär Kofi Annan und Außenminister Joschka Fischer UN-Hauptquartier New York
United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan (right) with German Foreign Minister Joschka FischerImage: AP

Both versions have backers: The first model is supported by German officials, who hope to secure one of the new permanent seats for the country. According to ARD and Reuters, Germany intends to introduce a resolution in support of this model as soon as possible and is working on securing a two-thirds majority in the 191-member nation general assembly that's needed to get it passed.

Japan, Brazil and India support the plan as well as they all hope for permanent seats for themselves. While Britain, France and Russia have indicated support for the aspirations of these four countries, the US has so far refused to give Germany a nod of approval. Bush administration officials have, however, voiced their support for Japan, a supporter of the Iraq war unlike Germany.

According to Reuters, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt would compete for the African seats.

The Italian alternative

Support for the second version comes from countries such as Italy, a US ally in Iraq and a strong opponent of handing a permanent seat to Germany. Italy, which locked heads with Germany and France over Europe's role in Iraq, worries giving a Council seat to Germany, in addition to the two permanent seats already occupied by France and Britain, would weaken its role in the European Union.

Others favoring the plan to introduce eight semi-permanent seats include Pakistan, which rejects India's place on the Council and Mexico and Argentine, which oppose Brazil's claims.

Das UN-Gebäude in New York mit Flaggen
The flags of the United Nations wave in front of the UN headquarters in New YorkImage: AP
The proposed reforms would be the first major revamp of the organization in more than 50 years and would have to be approved by the UN General Assembly next September.