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Sivanandan MS: It is said that the UN Security Council should be expanded to reflect the ‘contemporary realities’. What are these 'contemporary realities'?

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  • Saurabh Mishra replies: There has always been a desire for a normative system among the states to conduct international affairs in a manner that promotes co-existence. The system is achieved bilaterally or collectively reflecting the ‘contemporary realities’ which, more or less, means the contemporary ‘power and influence hierarchy’ of the states in the international system. The UN, which we have, is a product or a reflection of the power hierarchy of the world after the Second World War. The UN has a Security Council and a General Assembly. The former comprises of the P5 (victorious allied powers) and 10 other non-permanent members, and the latter contains all the member states. The Security Council, especially the P5 (US, Russian Federation, China, U.K. and France), countries with veto power in the council, take important decisions related to the maintenance of peace and security in the world. The power of veto tacitly given to them by the principle of great power consensus has been institutionalised in the UN Charter as they emerged as the most powerful military and ‘moral’ authority after the Second World War. Initially, the P5 were the only countries that had the military and economic power to enforce any order in the international system just after the Great War. Both the realists and the idealists for their own reasons supported the constitution of the United Nations in the current form as they had seen the failure of the League of Nations because of lack of US support. Both agree on the point that an international organisation should have the powerful countries in the core decision-making and executive organs as only their participation and support can enforce any order in the international system. After the Great War, the axis powers (Japan, Germany, and Italy) were destroyed and most of the Asian, African and Latin American states were colonies of the victorious powers or some other European countries. So, the primacy of allied and other powers in the United Nations system was in tandem with the ‘contemporary realities’.
    The world has seen changes and many new states have emerged since the end of the Second World War. They vie for a more just and democratic world order. They feel that the United Nations should reflect the following ‘contemporary realities’ which is structured on the basis of the post-Second World War realities:

    • The aspirations for a multilateral world — the rise of other major economic and military powers — India, Brazil, Japan, Germany, South Africa and others.
    • The democratic aspirations of the people—the UN needs to be more democratic.
    • Rise of regionalism—each region wants its representation in the system.

    The constitution and composition of the Council has been changed twice in the past to adjust with the ‘contemporary realties’ of the times. The Council was expanded from 11 to 15 members in 1965 and the People’s Republic of China was recognised as successor to the Republic of China in 1971.