UNITED NATIONS (TIP): “The Security Council is, undoubtedly, one of the most important institutions of global governance,” Sumitra Mahajan, speaker of Lok Sabha, the lower house of India’s parliament, stated. “If its legitimacy is in doubt then so would be the legitimacy of the United Nations. And, in fact, of the notion of global governance itself.” Mahajan was speaking Tuesday, November 18, at a session of the Preparatory Committee for the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliaments on the subject of key challenges to world peace and democracy.
She pointed out that the Council’s composition was based on UN’s structure in 1945 and she asked in a series of rhetorical questions to drive her point home, “Is that composition still representative of the international community? The United Nations then had 51 members. The figure now is 193.” At the founding of the UN, there were only three African members, including South African apartheid regime, Mahajan pointed out. “Today it has 54,” she said.
The delegates at the Fourth World Conference of Speakers of Parliaments. Sumitra Mahajan is seated fourth from the right.
“How many permanent members of the Security Council are from Africa?” After a briefing by Liechtenstein Ambassador Christian Wenaweser on the work of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency Group, which brings together 22 nations working on UN reform, Mahajan said she would like to know what it proposes to do to “bring more legitimacy to the permanent membership of the Council.” Pressing the case for changing the composition of the Council, she asked, “While improvement in working methods, or a code of conduct on use of the veto, are important, can they substitute for reform of the composition? Can improvement in working methods legitimize a structure that is not legitimate? To say that is anachronistic is only an understatement.”
In 2010 during the 65th Anniversary of the United Nations, world leaders had committed themselves to the early reform of the Council. She asked, “When would early be?” Although the membership of the Council was increased from 11 to 15 in 1965 with addition of four elected members, permanent membership continues to be restricted to the original five who wield veto powers. In any expansion of the permanent membership, India, Germany, Brazil, Japan and an African nation would be the top contenders.