Ryan J. Suto's Blog

01 November 2011

Restructuring Two UN Bodies

This post is an excerpt from a paper I have written this semester. The argument is that the structure of the United Nations does violence on groups with little influence among nations. Presently, for a small population to obtain a ceremonial international show of support, the people would have to lobby and convince a majority of the 193 nations of the General Assembly to support their cause. For any group, this is a daunting task. Moreover, to achieve a binding international resolution in their favor, such a group would specifically have to lobby the P-5 and four non-permanent members of the Security Council. Even a rather large and strong nation is often unable to resist the economic and military power of those nations which compose the Security Council.

Without any actual protection of minority rights, the United Nations forces the exploited and downtrodden to rely on the sense of justice of the Security Council, often the very nations which exploited and tread on such groups in the first place. From the point of view of many former and currently colonized people, this structure makes the perpetrators of the worst international offenses the judges and juries of the international system. The structure of the Security Council and General Assembly of the United Nations makes it clear that not all sovereignties are created equal. By giving the P-5 veto power, this structure exacerbates and formalizes the inequalities of power among nations. Indeed one member of the P-5 is at least as powerful as half of the 193 member nations. This structure can hardly be considered democratic or just.

While it is important to maintain the General Assembly as the main body of the U.N., there is also need for the Security Council to make quick decisions. One possible reform would be to allow the General Assembly to have the ability to pass binding resolutions. Then the Security Council and the General Assembly could be able to check the other in some way.
Nonetheless, the Security Council simply must be restructured. The new Security Council should be elected by the General Assembly (as are present non-permanent members of the Security Council) for two-year non-consecutive terms. The electoral system to be used will be Ranked Pairs (a form of Condorcet voting where each voter ranks the candidates in order of preference), which will ensure that the most politically agreeable candidates are seated on the Security Council. Moreover, the Security Council will be increased to 20 and there will be no permanent members.

As the U.N.’s goals, inter alia, are global peace and self-determination, granting sovereignty to a people who wish for independence should require a lower threshold than the approval of military intervention. Thus, while most policy votes will require a simple majority of the General Assembly, approving armed conflict will require 2/3 of the General Assembly and the support of the Security Council. Conversely, granting sovereignty and peacekeeping missions will only require the support of 1/3 of the General Assembly. These changes could eliminate the institutionalized dominance of the P-5 and the decreased threshold for sovereignty will further allow colonized peoples to make their own decisions. This comes from the value of self-determination and the goal of allowing all people to have a real opportunity to hold the key to their own future.

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