For A Rightful Place: UNSC Reforms and Japan

Prof. Mohammed Badrul Alam

As per the UN High-Level Panel report on Threats, Challenges, and Changes, [titled ‘A more secure world: our shared responsibility’], two options were recommended for broadening the current representation of the UN Security Council. This was done primarily with the objective of providing geographical balance and changing power equations since the end of World War II and the creation of the United Nations.

Under Model-A, six permanent members would be added to the Security Council, two each from Asia and Africa, one each from Europe and the Americas. Also, three new non-permanent members are to be added to the existing quota of ten members. In broad terms, countries of G-4 (Japan, India, Germany, Brazil) are in favor of this arrangement whereas the 'coffee club' of 40 mid-size countries led by Argentina, Pakistan, Italy, Mexico, South Korea and Spain are against Model A. China, in recent days, have voiced its opposition to Japan's entry into this exclusive club accusing the latter of being arrogant and insincere in offering apology over Japan's conduct during World War II. The United States, on the other hand, has voiced support for the inclusion of G-4, although it is ambivalent on the veto granting issue.

Model- B provides induction of eight 'semi-permanent' members with a renewable term of four years and one new non-permanent member. Predictably, the G-4 nations are against Model B. Conversely, the countries opposed to Model A are backing Model B. For most countries of Africa and Latin America, Model B provides them an assured stint of a much longer duration at the UNSC.

During the April 2005 visit of Japanese Premier Junichiro Koizumi to India, Japan made a tactical understanding with India in pushing the diplomatic envelope with veto as its ace card. However, an analysis of veto use by P-5 would show that veto is not so much of a positive power as having a negative connotation. Article 27 of the U.N. Charter, which specifies the voting procedure for adopting resolution make provisions on procedural matters to be made by an affirmative vote of nine out of fifteen. Only on non-procedural matters, the affirmative vote of nine must include the concurring votes of the five permanent members. During the Cold war, the United States had used its veto rights most often particularly when it affected its closet ally in the Middle East, Israel.

Under this backdrop it would be of interest to analyze the rationale behind Japan’s interests in pushing for the permanent membership of the expanded Security Council.

First, Japan contributes roughly 20% of total UN budget thus surpassing 15% of contribution provided to UN body by P-4 countries combined - excluding the US. Japan has also made tangible contribution to UN Peace Keeping Operations (PKO) that is 20% and in actual figures is around 4.5 billion US dollars. Apart from financial contribution, Japan dispatched 1,220 military personnel to Cambodia; 2,300 military staff to East Timor and over 1,000 S.D.F units to Iraq and Afghanistan in the recent past.

Second, when the UN was created in 1945, there were only 51 member states, whereas that number has now quadrupled to 191 states. In order for proper governance and democratic legitimacy in a transparent way, Japan feels there should be a fair level of representational balance. In 1945, one member in the Security Council represented about 5 countries, whereas in 2005, one member country in Security Council represents 13 countries, thus causing a serious, asymmetrical balance. To add to their muscle, Japan and Germany since 1945 have emerged in the last sixty years as world's No.2 and No.3 largest economic super powers. Similarly, Japan feels that developing countries such as India and Brazil have carved a nice for itself by being upper tier economies on their own merits and possessing immense reservoir of manpower and skilled resources.

Third, the end of the Cold War has paved way for new issues such as international terrorism and weapons of mass destruction to come to the fore. Other sources of threat emanate from non- military threats like HIV/AIDS, poverty, environment degradation, etc and the changed global geopolitics demands concerted action and formulation of well represented deliberative decision making system in the UNSC. An enhanced permanent membership of this body, as Japan feels, will generate vigorous debate that will ultimately lead to viable solutions within the spirit of consensus building.

While the UN General Assembly is scheduled to start a debate on a draft resolution submitted by the G-4 in mid July, Japan strongly asserts that it has come out of the shadow of the past- notwithstanding the opposition to its candidacy by China and South Korea- in leading the charge from the front as the UNGA takes up the much needed reform package proposal in September and in insuring Japan's rightful place in the world's most powerful body.

Author Note
Dr. Mohammed Badrul Alam is Professor of Area Studies, Miyazaki International College, Japan