When considering global
governance in the year 2020, there seems to be little opportunity for great
changes or big developments to be undertaken in such a short period. Changes
and developments need time and
unfortunately, an enormous bureaucracy. The United Nations has been discussing the
prospect of a change to their Security Council policies since 1979 and until
now, there is still no reform. But an ever-changing world requires new ideas
and structural reforms in the United Nations. New global problems and new
global powers are emerging and an adequate framework is needed to integrate these
powers into the global political system.
When the UN was founded in 1945 it was a peacekeeping project designed to curb military activity, particularly that of Germany and Japan. Now, more than 60 years later, Germany and Japan are the second and third leading contributors to the United Nations respectively; both have increased their global influence and power in the last few decades and both share the desire to become permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. Brazil and India also share this wish, and with five countries holding all the power in the UN for the past 60 years, reform looks to many to be long overdue.
So how to solve the problem? Abolish the United Nations Security Council? Well, it would be very complicated to find solutions in the General Assembly instead, with over 190 states from different parts of the world participating, each with different political systems, cultures and ambitions. In the interests of an efficient UN, it is reasonable that there be a small institution within the larger one to deal with the final decision making. But at the same time, it is obvious that the global system has changed and that it is not plausible to try and preserve the status quo to satisfy power ambitions alone. At the same time, it would be an equally complicated task to find a single voice from a round of permanent Security Council members that are twice as many as now. And how to deal with other states after that, when they also want permanent membership? A rotating system in the Security Council of all members of the General Assembly who meet particular criteria and the abolishment of permanent membership is one possibility. But it would be equally difficult to induce the current permanent members to give up their privileges.
Perhaps there should be one common European representation in the UN. This seems to throw up questions about national power interest once again. But that EU member states took the decision to be part of the European Community, or later the European Union, in the first place denotes a willingness to have a powerful EU that presents a common position on questions of international affairs. A common European representation in the UN and the abandonment of national European representation at the same time could strengthen Europe's position. But reaching this point requires more European integration first, which includes a European constitution and a common foreign policy with a common European ambassador.
These all are aspects that must be considered in constructing a new Security Council and through this, a new United Nations. It is perhaps unrealistic to aim to implement some of these changes by 2020; nonetheless, first steps towards reform should be taken, particularly in view of the fact that the UN has been talking about doing so for 30 years. If Europe makes the first move toward further integration from now until 2020, this may pave the way for possibly the first major reform of the United Nations.
Christina Stober is studying Political Science at the University of Salzburg.
This article has been shortlisted for the Atlantic Community's "Global Governance in 2020" student competition.
Related material from the Atlantic Community:
- Tobias Weise: Global Governance in 2020: The Return of the State
- Soyen Park: The Legacy of the Financial Crisis Awaits Us in 2020
- Yam Ki Chan: Unipolarity's Days Are Numbered