Magazine article Insight on the News

Can Germany, Japan Gain Seats on Security Council?

Magazine article Insight on the News

Can Germany, Japan Gain Seats on Security Council?

Article excerpt

The United Nations seems poised to invite Japan and Germany to become permanent members of the Security Council. But developing nations such as Brazil, India and Nigeria want seats as well.

Brazilian President Henrique Cardoso's mid-April proposal to President Clinton that Brazil be made a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council came as no surprise. Clinton himself reopened the question of council membership in 1992 when he formally supported seats for Japan and Germany.

Whether Brazil gets its wish or not, the Security Council is in for reform. New seats -- both permanent and nonpermanent -- appear to be in the offing as the United Nations celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. But how these seats are to be distributed is an unresolved question.

While the U.N.'s General Assembly is a deliberative body that addresses political, social and economic issues, the Security Council is charged with preserving world peace. The council has 15 members: five permanent and 10 nonpermanent elected for two-year terms. The five permanent -- China, France, Great Britain, the Russian Federation and the United States -- hold veto power over U.N. resolutions.

According to a U.S. State Department spokesman, "The U.S. position is that we support Germany and Japan for permanent membership. We believe that the Security Council should not expand beyond 20 members in order to preserve its effectiveness. The U.S. government does not have a position on how seats other than those for Germany and Japan might be filled."

A number of countries have offered suggestions. Some would increase council membership to 25 seats, assuring a more complete international representation based upon geography. Others have suggested that influential members of the General Assembly be designated as ad hoc members of the Security Council to make its decision-making process more accessible.

This is not the first time the United Nations has considered broadening the Security Council; it is, perhaps, the first time that the world body has had to adapt so quickly to a vastly changed world. In 1965, four new Security Council seats were made to nonpermanent members, an attempt to make the council more representative of a body that had grown from 51 to 118 members in 20 years. (U.N. membership stands at 183. "More importantly, with the end of the Cold War, the Security Council has managed to maintain basic consensus among permanent and nonpermanent members on most decisions. …

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