UN reforms based on democratic principles



Mohammad Jamil

AT the United Nations, Pakistan called for reforms based on democratic principles in the Security Council to increase non-permanent members. Addressing the inter-governmental debate in New York in mid-June 2017, Pakistan’s permanent representatives at the United Nations Dr Maleeha Lodhi said Pakistan belongs to a group of countries — a negotiating group, which favours democratic reforms of Security Council. Maleeha Lodhi categorically said Pakistan supports expansion in non-permanent seats in the Security Council and opposes increase in permanent seats. “Pakistan does not agree with those who want to add permanent members as that will perpetuate centres of privilege,” she said. In April, 2015, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had made a strong pitch for a permanent seat for India in the United Nations Security Council, saying it should get it as a right for its immense contribution to global peace.
But contribution to global peace is not confined to providing troops but in implementing the UN resolutions and also living in peace with its neighbours. In January 2015, Pakistan had said India does not qualify to become a full member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), given its record of violations of UN resolutions, particularly pertaining to Jammu and Kashmir. However, during his visit to India, the then US President Barack Obama had stated that he supported India’s candidature for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council. But the US cannot influence majority of the countries to vote for India to make it permanent member of the UNSC. The G-4 group had lobbied for becoming members of the UNSC, and had held a summit before the session.
After the opposition by the majority of the countries in 2005 against new islands of power by Group Four – Brazil, Germany, Japan and India, the G-4 had gone into hibernation. After a decade, before UNGA meeting, a meeting of G-4 was hosted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which was attended by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. A joint statement was issued by the G-4, which among other things stated: “The leaders noted with concern that no substantial progress had been made since the 2005 World Summit where all the Heads of State and Government had unanimously supported the ‘early reform’ of the Security Council as an essential element of the overall effort to reform the United Nations.” However, the induction of new members in the United Nations Security Council is not easy.
In the past, the US had advocated a “criteria-based approach under which potential members must be supremely well qualified, based on factors such as: economic size, population, military capacity, commitment to democracy and human rights, financial contributions to the UN, contributions to UN peacekeeping, and record on counter-terrorism and non-proliferation”. The position taken by the US had reinforced its desire to see India as permanent member of the UNSC, as otherwise it should have incorporated conditions of showing respect for and implementing UNSC resolutions. It has to be remembered that under Hitler, Nazi Germany too had registered unprecedented economic growth within a short span of time, and look what it did. In fact, with increased production Germany started competing with other industrialized countries, and the struggle for the markets had led to the Second World War that resulted in enormous death and destruction.
In 2005, the group of likeminded members of the UN had held a meeting in the Roosevelt hotel near UN headquarters to chalk out a line of action when the matter came up before the General Assembly in September 2005. In total, 119 member countries including three permanent members of the UNSC had participated in the meeting. The group had resolved that reforms should be made on the basis of unanimous decision and not on the basis of population of a country or any other specific characteristic to accommodate particular countries that did not merit even the membership. Pakistan and Italy had moved the resolution, whereas Angola, Cameroon, Spain, Mexico, Kenya, Latin American countries and host of others supported the move.
Pakistan has all along taken the position for increasing non-permanent members by giving representation to several other regions to help democratise the UN. It has to be said that Muslim countries face crisis, and Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Iraq are still in turmoil. People of Kashmir and Palestine have suffered repression, and they have been denied their right to self-determination acknowledged through Security Council resolutions, which have not been implemented by India and Israel. There is a general perception that prospects of world peace could be further obscured if the veto power was given to the new permanent members of the Security Council, as the misuse of the veto power in the past was the reason for the Security Council’s inability to maintain international peace.
The glaring examples could be found in the use of veto-power on various resolutions on Kashmir and Palestine by former Soviet Russia and the US respectively. During the Cold War era, the veto power was used for advancing the interest of the super-power to the detriment of a nation like Pakistan. Therefore, even if the permanent membership of the Security Council is increased, no country should be given the veto power, as the veto power negates the very concept of democratic approach, and contradicts the principal of equality amongst the members of the United Nations.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.

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