Main UN body in question: Peace and security for all?

As the UN Security Council's inaction continues to erode its credit, G4 nations support each other in their joint push for a major overhaul in UN's permanent board of superpowers

Main UN body in question: Peace and security for all?

The United Nations Security Council's (UNSC) recurrent failings as an office for maintaining global peace and security have led to a questioning of its effectiveness in its current state, a sentiment most clearly represented in the form of a competing elite club of nations, the G4. Germany, Japan, Brazil and India have unleashed a steady barrage of criticism over the last decade against the status quo, and as they delivered on the promises of progress as rising actors on the global stage, the G4 members have expressed increasing confidence in their worthiness to share the same table with the permanent members (P5) of the UN Security Council, on the merit of their emerging economic and military might.

"The G4 was formed as a group of influential nations from four continents that were determined to bring the reform discussion ahead - and to present themselves as promising candidates," explains Sven Bernhard Gareis, professor of political science at University of Munster, Germany. "The basic idea was to combine the prestige and power the four nations enjoy in the countries and societies in their regions and beyond, in order to herald the issue of reform and to seek support for their model."

The G4 has carried the torch for the cause of ushering a new era in UNSC since the US went without UN authorization for a full-scale military operation in Iraq in 2003.

After former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's plan for the addition of six permanent - including the G4 - and three non-permanent members to the UNSC fell by the wayside, the four countries took the matter in their own hands, submitting a draft resolution at the UN in 2005 for expanding the Security Council to accommodate ten new seats, six of them permanent, counting in the G4 and two African nations. The resolution won the backing of Britain and France from the P5 but failed to sway the other three.

"New international configuration"

 As befits their ambitious bid, G4 nations bring strong economic and military capabilities to the table. Japan and Germany are among the biggest economies in the world, and make the highest financial contribution to the UN following the United States. Given Germany's economic and political stability that easily matches that of Britain or France, its ‘loser’ status in the wake of World War II is frequently cited as the only reason for the European country's absence at the UNSC.

"Germany and its governments for the last two decades have been thinking that reform of the Security Council is necessary, because in its current composition, the Council reflects a world order that no longer exists," says Gareis.

"New relevant players that are representative for today's world should be integrated in the Council. Germany wants to be part of this group of states and justifies that claim with its multilateral orientation, its reliability as a partner of the UN and its significant contributions to the work of the organization."

On the other hand, Brazil and India come to the fore with their dynamic populations and prominent roles in UN peace-keeping operations worldwide. India's nuclear capacity is considered as giving it a slight edge, while Brazil's well-regarded economic model and its being only the second state from the Americas help make its case for more say at the UN.

Leonardo Paz from the Brazilian Center for International Relations says that the South American nation shares Germany's concerns about the UNSC's ability to represent the state-of-the-art in world politics.

"Basically, Brazil believes that the UNSC is no more a legitimate forum to determine international security and peace. Its structure reflects the international scenario of 60 years ago," Paz says.

"The international environment has changed greatly, with the inclusion of dozens of countries and the emergency of several others. Therefore, a comprehensive reform is paramount to not only “avoid” stalemates, but also give more legitimacy for the decisions."

"Pragmatic"

 The G4 sales pitch has not impressed everyone, though, as each member of the group has economic or political rivals that have aired discontent about their bid for UNSC candidacy, in addition to a lack of steam on the P5's part to drive the proposed reforms.

Enter Uniting for Consensus, a group of countries that act in unison to counterbalance the G4's aspirations. They maintain that rather than more permanent members, there should be more non-permanent and semi-permanent ones, the latter complete with longer durations in post and a regular redistribution of non-permanent seating by region.

Robert Muggah, Research Director at Igarape Institute in Rio de Janeiro, believes the G4 is a "pragmatic coalition," making it likely to fall apart under internal pressures.

"[The G4] was formed to pursue a very specific agenda. Of course, [it] is also competing with other groupings, not least its rival 'Uniting for Consensus' - led by Italy, Mexico, Pakistan and South Korea."

According to Muggah, "in the unlikely event that all of them are somehow awarded permanent seats, then the G4 will be no more. Likewise, by definition, if only one of them is eventually granted a seat (most likely Brazil or Germany) then the G4 will also most likely cease to exist. There would simply be no more point for it to exist."

One point of contention, therefore, about the G4's leverage to bring about real change is whether existing differences of opinion and interest between members might cause the group to disintegrate.

The group is "no longer coherent,” Gareis thinks.

"Germany prefers a reform model that includes new permanent seats - without the right to veto." he says. "India and Brazil start to follow the model of the African Union that favors permanent seats with the right to veto - which is no viable solution at all. It will not be accepted by the sitting P5 nor by a two-third majority of the UN membership."

Clearly, the P5's willingness to make room around the table is a critical factor, and in what might pull the G4’s ambitions further under the surface, Stewart Patrick of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) says that the US, which he hails as the only P5 member capable of moving G4's agenda forward, has been "disappointed" at several group members' performance, wondering whether sharing political power with them is a truly meaningful idea.

"The composition of the UNSC must surely change sometime, but in the absence of a major international cataclysm and/or a collapse in the legitimacy of the current council, it is hard to see change occurring," Patrick says.

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Last Mod: 27 Eylül 2013, 09:45
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