Third World Nations Press for UN Security Council Changes

By Justin Torres | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

( - The world has changed dramatically since 1945, but many developing nations are increasingly angry that the United Nations Security Council has not changed with it.

The Security Council was set up in 1945 with five permanent members with veto power - the U.S., Britain, France, the U.S.S.R., and nationalist China - and 10 other member nations elected to two-year terms.

Since that time, Taiwan has been replaced by mainland China, Communism has fallen, and the two European powers have became less dominant on the world scene. And yet the basic structure of the Council has remained intact, a fact that nations in Africa, Asia, and Europe want changed - including removing veto power from permanent members.

Recently, India and Hungary have called for expansion of the Security Council, with Indian President Kocheril Raman Narayanan saying last Friday to the newspaper Indian Express that the UN should be "democratized" and made "more responsive" to the concerns of developing nations.

Narayanan also told foreign ambassadors in New Delhi, "The Security Council needs to be made more representative of the present membership of the UN and today's political realities."

Nigeria's minister of state for foreign affairs, Dubem Onyia, told Panafrican News Agency last weekend that the continent should be given a permanent slot on the Security Council, a seat that would rotate between various African nations.

"Until we get a permanent seat in the Security Council, we will never get our problems properly addressed," he said, adding that "conflicts like those in Sierra Leone and Rwanda were there before Kosovo, but the speed and determination with which [the UN] went into Kosovo showed that we have two different human beings in the world."

Also, at a meeting in Tokyo Monday, Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder agreed to take joint steps to win permanent seats for their countries on the UN Security Council.

Hampering efforts to reform the Security Council is competition among many member states, and the desire of the present permanent members to retain their control over Council votes. Many nations have even called for removing veto power from the permanent members.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan favors reforming the Security Council, but his spokesperson told, "he has zero control over how it happens."

"It has to be decided by member states," said Jessica Jiji, Annan's spokesperson. "It's incredibly complex. For example, Africa wants increased representation, and Egypt, Nigeria, and South Africa will all say that they deserve a seat. So the question is, what kind of formula can be arrived at that will be acceptable to all countries?"

Jiji called Security Council reform "one of the most important issues facing the UN today."

According to a statement released to by the U.S. mission to the UN, the U.S. supports reform, including the granting of permanent seats to Germany and Japan, and three seats to be rotated between Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

However, the U.S. is "firmly opposed" to stripping the present permanent members of their seats or veto power.

A September 23rd letter signed by ambassadors from all five permanent members of the Council "reaffirmed their support for reforming the Security Council, with a view to broadening its representation and preserving and enhancing and effectiveness," but claimed that "any attempt to restrict or curtail their veto rights would not be conducive to the reform process."