Ambassadors SHINYO and HOSHINO of Japan Advocate a Realistic Approach to UN Security Council Reform (17/09/2022)

Towards realistic reform of the UN Security Council
Prof. Takahiro Shinyo, Kwansei Gakuin University
Former Japanese Ambassador to the U.N. and Germany

September 8, 2022

 The Security Council became dysfunctional after Russia exercised its veto against its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, and an Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly was held based on the “Uniting for Peace Resolution” of 1950.

 At its Session on March 2, the General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the “immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Russian forces” and also for withdrawal of recognition of the independence of the pro-Russian-held areas of eastern Ukraine. The resolution was adopted by a majority of 141 countries, far more than two-thirds of the member states.

 Such dysfunction of the Security Council is also the case with the North Korean Missile and Nuclear program. The Security Council failed to adopt a resolution on May 26 due to the exercise of veto by China and Russia and has not taken any responsibility for the missile launch that violated the Security Council resolution.

 In order to prevent the emergence of a second or third Ukraine or another North Korea in the future, reforming the Security Council and the veto right is an urgent task.
Recognition of current situation

 Since Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa proposed the necessity of reform at the Security Council Summit in January 1992, Japan has actively worked toward reforming the UN Security Council over the 30 years. However, reform has been slow, and the Security Council has deteriorated in the meantime, becoming more and more obsolete.

 In particular, in the recent war in Ukraine, the permanent member of the Security Council, which bears greater responsibility than any other member state of the United Nations, carried out aggression by force which is prohibited by the Charter of the United Nations. The Security Council is facing a crisis of credibility, as it has become morally depraved.

 Japan will assume its 12th non-permanent seat on the Security Council for two years from January next year. In the international community, where the international order is undergoing dramatic changes and confrontation and division are deepening, the Government of Japan should exercise leadership to realize international peace and security, reform the Security Council, and strengthen the United Nations system, which has suffered a marked decline in credibility. I am convinced that this is the wish of many Japanese people and citizens of the world.
Purpose of Security Council Reform

 The purpose of Security Council reform is to upgrade the collective security system of the United Nations so that it can effectively ensure international peace and security in the geopolitical environment of the 21st century, where new conflicts and divisions are advancing. There should be a common understanding among UN member states that the reform of the Security Council should not be done to improve the status of a specific country or realize its vested interests.

 In reviewing the composition of the Security Council, each country should not focus solely on securing its national interests but should approach it with the determination to rebuild the Security Council to ensure peace and security of the world today and in the future.
In carrying out such a Security Council reform, it is important to consider the qualities and capabilities that each member of the Security Council should have, whether permanent or non-permanent. The members of the Security Council must demonstrate their contributions to the three objectives of the United Nations: peace, development, and human rights.

Security Council Reform Methodology: Review of Negotiation Format

 Security Council reform is mainly discussed and negotiated at the UN General Assembly by the provisions of the UN Charter. Reforms will be divided into two parts; those that require amendments to the Charter of the United Nations and those that do not. However, it is urgent to restrain the permanent members’ behavior over the use of veto rights to a considerable extent.
The performance of the Security Council’s permanent members can be improved if they so wish. Japan should cooperate with other like-minded members, including Switzerland, who will also serve as a non-permanent member of the Security Council during its two-year term starting next year, to prevent further dysfunction of the Security Council from within.

 At the same time, it is necessary to immediately begin negotiations at the United Nations General Assembly to draw up a concrete draft resolution for matters that require charter revisions, such as the expansion of the number of members of the Security Council and the improvement of its representativeness.

 Since February 2009, the UN General Assembly’s informal Plenary Session has been carrying out so-called negotiations on Security Council reform. But in reality, only discussions and debates were made there, and no negotiations were made based on draft resolutions. This kind of thing will not lead to reform even if it is continued for many years.

 Therefore, it should be terminated immediately and move to real negotiations to create a concrete Security Council resolution. Reference should be made to the SDGs intergovernmental negotiation process. Negotiations on the SDGs were held in an Open Working Group consisting of 30 members (one seat shared by several countries) nominated by five regional groups. There is an urgent need to build a consensus to change the current method of negotiation in the informal Plenary Session of the General Assembly to something like this SDGs negotiation format if you want to achieve results.

Need to change Japan’s goals and negotiating strategy
 There is strong resistance from permanent members and the “Uniting for Consensus Group” to the proposed reform of the Security Council, which aims to increase the number of permanent members. The possibility to increase the number of permanent members is extremely limited, and the use of the veto by P5 at the stage of ratification of the Charter amendment is also expected. It can be said that there is almost no possibility of reforming the Security Council with this idea of G4 countries.

 Therefore, without adhering to the expansion of the number of the permanent members, we should create 6 to 8 Semi-permanent members or Non-permanent members with longer terms of 4 to 8 years (re-election possible), which have a strong will to contribute to international peace and security from among middle power countries, including Turkey and Japan that can do so.
In addition, regarding Semi-permanent members, the possibility of a joint seat in which two countries can jointly run as candidates can be examined. For these reasons, Japan should decisively change its Security Council reform strategy and negotiation tactics, aiming to form a majority of the will of more than two-thirds of the member states and to promote feasible reforms.

Conditions for successful reform
Procedures and Recommendations for Future Reforms

1. Japan will become a non-permanent member of the Security Council in January next year. Japan should cooperate with the ACT Group (Accountability, Coherence and Transparency), centered on Switzerland and other like-minded countries, and work out resolutions of the General Assembly (e.g., strict application of the abstention obligation of the parties to the dispute concerning the peaceful settlement of disputes under Article 27.3 of the Charter or no use of the veto in cases of genocide, etc.). thus, actively engaging in the work at the General Assembly.

2. About reform proposals concerning the expansion of the Security Council and the review of its composition, etc., which require amendments to the Charter, establish a new negotiation method (Open Working Group for the above-mentioned SDGs, etc.) for conducting intergovernmental negotiations. In consultation with existing negotiating groups (such as the Uniting for Consensus Group and the African Group) and the P5, submit a draft General Assembly resolution to establish a new negotiating framework within the Assembly as soon as possible.

3. On top of that, Security Council reform should proceed in two stages. The first stage is a short-term reform until around 2025, with the creation of Semi-permanent members (or Non-permanent members with longer terms). The second stage is mid and long-term reforms to be implemented by around 2045, the 100th anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. In addition to the review of the composition of the permanent members of the Security Council, amendments, and changes to other provisions of the Charter may also be made according to Articles 108 and 109 of the Charter. A consensus should be reached on how to proceed with such reforms.

4. Since the status of a permanent member of the Security Council is not subject to election, it is less likely to be affected by the wishes of other member states, and the use or non-use of veto unnecessarily reflects the expectations of the international community. To change this behavior of the permanent members, the General Assembly shall periodically (for example, every three years) evaluate the permanent members’ actions and adopt General Assembly resolutions on this. This could function as a political pressure to the arbitrary use of the veto rights by permanent members.