A panel discussion on the United Nations (UN) Security Council (SC) in the twenty-first century – held at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy last week – yielded interesting insights, so I have summarised these perspectives from the four panellists, as well as some of their responses during the question-and-answer segment.
Mr. Sebastian von Einsiedel
Director, United Nations University Centre for Policy Research
He spoke of the evolving geo-strategic environment and the achievements of the UN SC:
– The role of UN peacekeeping around the world.
– “Seminal resolutions” on thematic agenda items, on issues such as HIV/AIDS.
– The counter-terrorism agenda, accelerated after the September 11 attacks.
– Despite contestations over its applications, the “Responsibility to Protect” report.
– The creation of the International Criminal Court.
Even though much has been made of the permanent five members (P5) and power of veto in the SC, he highlighted the tensions between the P5 and the rest of the members, explaining that the former has shared interests, with “the ability to compartmentalise”. Some of these interests include the counter-terrorism agenda, crisis management (the crisis in Syria notwithstanding), as well as nuclear non-proliferation around the world.
Professor Francesco Mancini
Adjunct Associate Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
His sharing centred on the promotion of democracy by the UN SC:
– Promotion of democracy has focused on mandates calling for elections, and progressively the SC has taken on more inclusive conflict-management approaches. This is interesting because like “peacekeeping”, the term “democracy” does not exist in the UN Charter.
– Why democracy? There is an acceptance of democratic institutions and regimes, and exit strategies have focused on the accommodation of multiple parties and functions.
– Some of the challenges to democratisation include the time of social transformation, the promotion of democracy from the outside (that is, external presence versus indigenous institutions), and the emphasis on free and fair elections, with unrealistic timelines.
Professor Simon Chesterman
Dean, Faculty of Law, National University of Singapore
In the race to be the next Secretary-General (SG) – a campaign process which used to be frowned upon – he explained how the SG could be the “best friend” or “enemy” of the P5. The next SG is likely to be both an Eastern European and a woman, because of emphasis on the principles of regional representation and gender equality respectively.
And in response to question, the professor highlighted a few characteristics necessary to ensure effective responses by the UN SC, that is: a political plan, a mandate, resources and political capital, as well as the absence of vetoes.
Professor Kishore Mahbubani
Dean, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy
Finally, Professor Kishore Mahbubani spoke of reform of the SC:
– Why has it not happened? There is unanimity among the P5 of the veto privilege, and there are also competing desires of the other aspiring member nations.
– When will it happen? When there is a “realisation of challenges to the credibility of the P5 in the SC”, which he thinks is “inevitable and conceivable”.
– And how will it happen? A 7-7-7 framework was proposed. Seven will go to semi-permanent members, seven to elected members, and the seven permanent members will be the European Union as a regional grouping, the United States, Russia, and China, as well as the most populous nations of the other continents, Brazil, India, and Nigeria.