Panel Recommends Security Council Changes, Sweeping Reform of UN

By Patrick Goodenough | July 7, 2008 | 8:15 PM EDT

( - A panel of prominent figures has recommended a range of reforms to reshape the United Nations for the way the world looks 60 years after the global body was established.

The report, due to be delivered to Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday, recommends transforming a Security Council that reflects the state of the international community as it was at the end of World War II.

The panel proposes expanding the Security Council from the existing five permanent and 10 temporary members serving two-year terms to 11 permanent and 13 non-permanent members.

Of the six new permanent members, two each should come from Africa and Asia, with one each from the Americas and Europe, the panel said. The new members would not have the powers of veto currently enjoyed by the U.S., Britain, France, China and Russia.

An optional proposal would add no permanent seats but instead establish a new category of eight seats, each occupied for a renewable four-year term. They would be shared equally between the four world regions.

Countries that have made bids for permanent seats on the Council include Japan, Germany, Brazil and India, while among African nations, South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt have also expressed interest.

Japanese foreign ministry spokesman Hatsuhisa Takashima said that while Japan would accept the majority view, it considered it "unfavorable to have permanent Security Council members that have veto power and those that don't."

Japan is the second-largest contributor to U.N. coffers after the U.S., providing almost 20 times more than permanent members China and Russia. Tokyo has been pressing for a permanent seat for the past 11 years.

Japan's is the only bid Washington has publicly endorsed so far, a State Department spokesman confirmed this week.

Britain, France and Russia have all given the nod to Japan, Germany, Brazil and India, but the final member of the Big Five, China, opposes Japan's bid.

The panel said reform of the body should "increase the involvement" of member states that contribute the most financially, militarily and diplomatically.

It should also be made "more representative of the broader membership, especially of the developing world."

Other issues tackled by the panel included the question of pre-emptive strikes. It said the international community should have a "responsibility to protect" countries' populations in cases of genocide or other humanitarian law violations.

While not offering a verdict on the U.S.-led war on Iraq, it recommended that the Security Council have the final say before pre-emptive action is taken. In reaching a position, the council should consider various criteria, including the seriousness of the threat, proportionality and the "last resort" factor.

The panel also criticized the U.N. Human Rights Commission (UNHRC), which it said suffered from "eroding credibility and professionalism."

The presence on the 53-member body of some of the world's worst abusers of human rights has long drawn flak from the U.S. and other governments, as well as from human rights campaigners. Current members include Zimbabwe, Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Cuba, all considered severe violators.

The panel proposed that every U.N. member-state have a seat on an expanded UNHRC, rather than the current situation, where the members are elected to the commission for three-year terms, based on nominations by regional blocs.

It recommended further that member-states be represented at the UNHRC by experts in human rights, rather than by diplomats.

The panel's report also dealt with issues of terrorism, weapons of mass destruction proliferation, organized crime and ways to combat poverty and AIDS.

The 16-member panel included former U.S. National Security Advisor Brent Scowcroft, former Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa. It was chaired by former Thai Foreign Minister Anand Panyarachun.

See Earlier Story:
Terrorism Is Terrorism, UN Reform Panel Says
(Nov. 30, 2004)

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Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow