Academic journal article Global Governance

Entitlement Quotients as a Vehicle for United Nations Reform

Academic journal article Global Governance

Entitlement Quotients as a Vehicle for United Nations Reform

Article excerpt

The ability to create order is no less important to human survival than the ability to overcome famine, construct great edifices, write great books, or compose great symphonies.

Norman Cousins, The Human Adventure

The ability of the United Nations to function effectively is limited by several serious structural deficiencies. First, the one nation-one vote system of decisionmaking in the General Assembly (GA) is unrealistic, bearing no relationship to the actual distribution of power in the world. Hence, it is hardly surprising that its decisions are only recommendatory rather than binding. Second, the method of allocating seats in the more powerful Security Council is neither fair nor representative. Finally, the Security Council's legitimacy in dealing with many important issues is compromised by the anachronistic special status of the five permanent members and, in particular, by their being endowed with the veto power. The fact that so many nations consider themselves marginalized by the present system contributes significantly to anti-Western and, in particular, anti-U.S. sentiment.

All of the foregoing deficiencies can and should be corrected by appropriate revisions of the UN Charter. In this article, I detail the case for the needed reforms, quantify and explain their likely systemic effects, discuss obstacles in the way of their acceptance, and suggest appropriate charter amendments. The key to the proposed reforms is to adopt a coherent system of weighted voting, by nations in the GA and/or by individual nations or caucuses of nations in the Security Council. Weighting would be according to objectively calibrated "entitlement quotients" (EQs), based on simultaneous consideration of three principles for representation: (1) the present legal principle of the sovereign equality of nations, (2) a population-based democratic/demographic principle, and (3) a capability principle based on contributions to the regular UN budget, which are essentially a function of national wealth. Ideally, the concept of EQs would be applied to both the GA and the Security Council, but it could be used for either of those two bodies alone should there be insufficient support for its application to the other. As regards the Security Council, in place of permanent membership, seats would be allocated to certain powers with EQs in excess of a stipulated threshold value and also to self-formed caucuses of nations whose combined EQs exceeded that threshold. The veto would be terminated or gradually phased out. The proposed system would be not only objective but also nuanced and flexible, thereby maximizing fairness and enabling changes consistent with changing demographic and economic realities. (1)

While any radical shift in power within the UN would meet with vigorous initial opposition from certain nations, transitional arrangements are suggested that would preclude excessive shocks to the existing system. Moreover, because of demonstrably desirable trade-offs to which the use of EQs would lead, the global system as a whole would greatly benefit, leading to a more orderly and more democratic international order. In this anticipated outcome lies the hope that the suggested reforms will eventually receive the requisite support for their adoption.

Reform of the General Assembly

The Growing Need for Voting Reform

The profound changes in the General Assembly since the founding of the UN were clearly not anticipated by those who drafted the UN Charter. By the year 2000, to which all figures used in this article relate (unless otherwise specified), the UN had become a virtually universal body, encompassing some 99.7 percent of the world's people (99.3 percent if Taiwan is excluded). (2) The number of members has almost quadrupled, and their geographic redistribution has shifted radically (see Figure 1 and Maps 1 and 2). Africa, for example, which accounted for a mere four members in 1945 (7. …

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