New world order and Old Fashioned UN: Is it Sustainable

Undoubtedly, international politics remains determined by great powers. Depending on their potentials of military, economic and political power, a uni-polar, bipolar or multi-polar structure of the World political system is formed. However, the important role played by international organizations should be highlighted. First of all, the United Nations. But, the role of international organizations should not be overestimated. The UN simply did not respond adequately or were blocked during the crises in Hungary and Czechoslovakia after Soviet intervention, as well as during numerous crises in Latin America, when the United States intervened. But the role of the UN should not be underestimated. Not only because they organized many successful missions. It is also because they can become even more significant player in the multi-polar world.

Author: Prof. Dr Dušan Proroković – executive director, Center for Strategic Alternatives, Serbia

Until now, the UN existed within the bipolar order, until the beginning of the 1990s and within the framework of a uni-polar order, until 2008. Since 2008, there has been an obvious transformation of the structure of the World political system to multi-polar order. Interestingly, the key forces have anticipated these developments and supported the creation of the G-20. Instead of the G-8, we got a new multilateral configuration that includes the most important world countries.  However, the G-20 will not replace the UN. Simply, the mechanism within the UN has been developed for more than 60 years, it is based on consensus and some worldwide accepted principles, the UN has created a rich legal heritage, and, which is also important – members of UN are regional powers and small states significant for regional security in different parts of the World. Great Powers are the most responsible for global security, but they are not, nor will they be, actors who can determine the regional security dynamics without the involvement of regional powers and small states.

Changing World: Share in World GDP PPP from 1989 to 2014

state 2014/1989 (А)/(R) 2014 (%) 2009 (%) 2004 (%) 1989 (%)
USA – 6,14 (27,56) 16,14 16,98 19,64 22,28
China +12,25 (+300,98) 16,32 13,71 9,68 4,07
Japan –4,39 (49,94) 4,40 4,90 5,79 8,79
Germany 2,65 (43,44) 3,45 3,72 4,20 6,10
France –1,75 (42,27) 2,39 2,65 3,07 4,14
Brazil –0,72 (19,25) 3,02 3,18 3,08 3,74
UK –1,29 (35,34) 2,36 2,53 2,96 3,65
Italy –2,26 (53,42) 1,97 2,36 2,88 4,23
Russia –0,17 (4,89) 3,30 3,44 3,47
India +3,11 (+83,60) 6,83 6,09 4,91 3,72
Canada –0,60 (28,84) 1,48 1,54 1,73 2,08
Australia –0,19 (–15,83) 1,01 1,04 1,09 1,20
Spain –0,78 (34,98) 1,45 1,70 1,94 2,23
Мexico –0,65 (24,71) 1,98 2,03 2,21 2,63
South Korea +0,45 (+37,50) 1,65 1,67 1,64 1,20
Indonesia +0,56 (+28,57) 2,48 2,27 2,03 1,96
Тurkey +0,01 (+0,72) 1,40 1,34 1,38 1,39
Saudi Arabia +0,10 (+7,19) 1,49 1,38 1,28 1,39
Аrgentina +0,01 (+1,15) 0,88 0,89 0,81 0,87
South Africa –0,23 (26,14) 0,65 0,68 0,70 0,88
  • – absolute change; (R) – relative change

Therefore, the UN has no alternative. However, because of its internal structure, the UN, as it is, has no great future. Fundamental reforms and structural changes are needed to make it more efficient, and to help the transformation of the structure of the world political system as calm as possible. First of all, this concerns the reforms within the UN Security Council. Today’s structure reflects the outcome of the Second World War. The winning forces have created a system in which 5 states are permanent members and have veto power. Sure, it made sense. Nevertheless, one should bear in mind that the world we live in, no longer follows the dynamics of international relations created after the Second World War. The changes are huge – whether we talk about economic indicators, state’s military power or demographic indicators. Five permanent members of the Security Council are now participating in the global GDP with 47.8%. In addition, the US and China are participating with 39.4%, while UK, France and Russia with 8.4%. Observing economic parameters, the question is, of course, why the permanent members are not Japan and Germany, for example.

Also, five permanent members now encompass 26.3% of the world’s population. Of this percent, 18.3% belongs to China, while the remaining 8% are in another four countries. Looking at this indicator, India should be a permanent member as well. India should be a permanent member also because of its military power. India is on its way to become the fourth nuclear power force, responsible not only for regional security in South Asia, but for global security as well. The country with rising military power is also Brazil, a country that is also an indispensable factor in the regional security of the entire Latin America. Brazil is candidate for a permanent member of the UN Security Council as well. Because of future events in Africa, it is important that a country from this continent gets a permanent seat in the UN Security Council. If Nigeria became a permanent member of the UN Security Council, there would be significantly less chances of its disintegration or destabilization.

Changes are necessary. This was pointed out in previous years.

In 1993, the UN set up an Open-ended Working Group on the Equitable Representation on and Increase in Membership of the Security Council. However, after 25 years of the existence and work of this body, there are almost no results. In 2005, Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for an extension of the SB to 24 members. He presented two alternative suggestions on how this body can be transformed.

Koffi Annanʼs Prorposal

Current Structure Model A Model B
Permanent Seats 5 11 5
Elected on 2 years 10 13 11
Elected on 4 years 8

The first scenario – Model A – implies that the number of permanent members is increased by six states and the number of non-permanent by three. Thus, the number of states with veto power would rise to 11. The second scenario – Model B – is that permanent members with veto power remain five, increasing the number of present non-permanent members which are elected for two years by one, and introducing a new category – eight non-permanent states which are elected for four years. Also, Annan proposes the abolition of the existing groups and the formation of new ones exclusively according to the principle of belonging to a particular continent.

Kishor Mahbubaniʼs Prorposal

Status Members (States)
Permanent 7 USA, China, Russia, India, Brazil, Nigeria and EU




Semi-Permanent 7 Asia-Pacific: Japan, Pakistan, South Korea, Bangladesh, Philippines, Iran, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia


West/East Europe: Germany, France, UK, Spain, Italy, Turkey, Poland, Canada


Latin America/Caribbean: Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela


Africa: South Africa, Ethiopia, Kenya, Algeria,  DR Congo, Tanzania, Egypt
Non-Permanent 7 All other states (UN members) 158

Kishore Mahbubani put forward a compromised proposal: Security Council would be expanded to 21 members divided into three groups: permanent members, semi-permanent members and and non-permanent members. Each of these groups will be consisted by seven States. Permanent members would be: USA, China, Russia, India, Brazil and Nigeria. Another place will be allocated for the EU. Semi-permanent members would be elected on a regional basis. These seats would be reserved for regional powers. This would allow to some countries, such as Japan, Pakistan, Germany and Mexico – to become members every four years. This is very important, because, as Mahbubani noticed, India was not represented in Security Council for two decades, between 1992. and 2011.

Countries that explicitly and openly support India for UNSC permanent seat

It should be noted that the current permanent members officially support the reform of the United Nations, but unofficially, their attitude is different. Thanks to the “Wikileaks” the public received a correspondence between the American Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, which states: “the expansion of the Security Council in accordance with the models that are now being considered would decrease US influence in this body. The introduction of new permanent members with veto power would present an exponentially increased risk for American interests“.More States with veto power means the dissipation of power and consequently weakening of the existing five permanent member countries in the global political system.

Most consistent in their demand for the reform of the UN are four states: Brazil, India, Japan and Germany. They formed within the UN, the so-called G-4, which actively lobby for change. In a number of arguments why this is necessary, Japan and Germany, in particular, point out the fact that they are among the countries which contribute mostly to the UN budget. (21) The aspiration of India to become a permanent member was supported by 82 countries.

Uniting for Consensus (UfC)

Uniting for Consensus (UfC) is a movement created in the 1990s as an opposition to the possible expansion of permanent seats in the United Nations Security Council. This movement, under the leadership of Italy, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, South Korea, and Pakistan came up with a more modest proposal – the number of seats in SC to be increased to 25, while the existing permanent members retained their veto power, 10 new members would be given the non permanent status.

These countries are not inclined to support the idea that G-4 should become permanent members of SC. They believe that the existing regional relations would be endangered if this should happen.

Pakistan is against India getting a permanent seat in SC, South Korea is against Japan, Mexico and Argentina are against Brazil. China also has large reservations for the aspirations of Japan in this direction. The permanent seat of Germany, apparently, is undesirable in certain European countries, but also for the rest of the world, as they are already two countries from this region among the permanent members – Great Britain and France. As Paul Kennedy writes, “Everyone agrees that the present structure is flawed. But consensus on how to fix it remains out of reach.”

Despite all the shortcomings, the world needs the UN. This is and this will remain the only institution of collective security for a long time. Therefore, quick reforms are needed.  The current structure does not reflect the real conditions in international relations.


Author: Prof. Dr Dušan Proroković – executive director, Center for Strategic Alternatives, Serbia

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: