The UN Security Council: From a 20th Century Relic to Effective Security Governance

Jakkie Cilliers
Content Type
Working Paper
Institute for Development and Peace
The United Nations Security Council lies at the heart of the global security architecture. It was established in 1945 to maintain international peace and security, but reform has been stuck for decades. Beyond a nuclear conflagration and the enduring challenge of interstate conflict, future global security challenges include the impact of climate change, the threat of pandemics, dirty bombs, nuclear terrorism and cybercrime. These risks are exacerbated by the rise of new nationalism in the West with countries such as the USA turning away from multilateralism, eschewing collaboration and accelerating change away from a global system hitherto dominated by the West. At a time of great power transitions, mul- tipolarity without sufficient multilateralism is a dan- gerous trend. Without comprehensive change that includes the end of permanent seats and the veto, the Council is fading into irrelevance. Such reform is possible, but requires a very different approach compared to efforts to find a compromise between different negotiating blocks in New York. Instead, detailed proposals should be agreed upon amongst like-minded states outside of the intergovernmental negotiating process and tabled in the General Assembly as a non-negotiable amendment to the Charter of the United Nations (UN). Even then only the threat from key countries to withdraw coopera- tion from the UN is likely to change things.
Security, International Cooperation, United Nations, Multilateralism, UN Security Council
Political Geography
Global Focus